Queen’s Birthday Honour for Christmas Parade organiser

Steve and Rosemary Heywood.'081216M-H081
Steve and Rosemary Heywood.'081216M-H081

A key member of the community who launched a town Christmas parade nearly 30 years ago with one band and a few floats has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Rosemary Heywood, 80, of Moreton Road, Buckingham is to be awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community in Buckingham.

Speaking to Buckingham Today, Mrs Heywood said she had known for a month about the award, but hadn’t been able to tell anybody.

She said: “I was bursting to tell somebody. My husband knew because he was there when I opened the letter. The first person I told was my grandaughter.

“It was absolutely unexpected, right out of the blue. I thought nothing like this would ever happen. I am very happy about it.

“I don’t know who nominated me. I want to make some discrete inquiries so I can thank them.”

Mrs Heywood, who owned a children’s shop in the town called Gingerbread House, launched the Buckingham Christmas Parade in 1984 as a one off in a bid to bring the community together and to promote the town. She was helped by her husband, Steve.

For the parade, Mrs Heywood couldn’t afford to pay to hire a band but was told she could hire a Scout band from Bristol for nothing – provided she arranged transport for them. Mrs Heywood, who owned a coach company, sent a coach to pick them up.

A Guide leader hearing of the event, offered her Guides to make a float and a second Guide troop got involved.

The band finished the first parade in the town’s Bullring. Thousands of bubbles were released to the tune of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.

Mrs Heywood said: “It was going to be a one-off, but the public had a different idea.

“They came to me and asked me when I was going to have the next one. I told them I wasn’t, it was a one-off. They said, ‘You can’t do that.’”

The next Christmas Parade was held in 1986 and nearly 30 years on, it has grown to 45 entries and raised thousands of pounds for charity.

The parade provides the means for organisations in the region, including Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance and Bucks Fire and Rescue Service to collect donations.

Mrs Heywood has also been recognised for her work with the Samaritans’ Purse, which involves filling up shoe boxes which are then sent out to families in Africa. She is also an active member of Buckingham Inner Wheel.

She will be invited to attend one of the Queen’s garden parties and will receive her medal at a later date.

The British Empire Medal, which was scrapped by John Major in 1993 was reinstated by Prime Minister David Cameron.