As part of 2016's Fair theme of "Kith, Kin and Community" we wanted to change the way we chose our Fair Queen. Instead of the old beauty pageant style selection process where people would put themselves forward for voting, we decided to change it to a nomination process where candidates were nominated based on good deeds and as role models for our community.

We ended up with four candidates and as they all represented the theme of the fair so perfectly we decided to celebrate them all and retitle them to be the Ditchling Village Gems!

On Saturday the 5th March we had a Celebration Evening where we introduced the Village Gems to Ditchling Village and interviewed both them and the people who nominated them. Below are the interviews...

Fiona Hughes interviewed by Olivia Broadbent Smith

Olivia: What is your favourite part of Fair Day?
Fiona: When Malcolm plays the music in the evening and we are all dancing, all generations together and we get totally into it!

What do you think makes our community so special?
I think what makes our community so special is that the people of Ditchling give love. People love Ditchling, it’s a wonderful community where if I need cakes for the Fair, hundreds of people say, “I’ll make you one!”. And at the pre-school I sent out an email to the parents to say we want a mud kitchen for the children and within ten minutes a Dad came back, “I’ll make you one Fiona!” and we have a lovely mud kitchen in the pre-school now… It’s fantastic, outside, healthy. They love it!

Where is you’re favourite place in Ditchling?
My favourite place in Ditchling is my home! My home in Ditchling is my favourite place, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say that but I do love it. I also love walking my dog up Lodge Hill and looking at the Beacon and looking at the whole of Ditchling Village, with it’s church and all the buildings, looking very much as they would have done hundreds of years ago, because there is nothing to spoil the fantastic view and it looks different everyday, but always beautiful.

Do you have anything else you would like to say about the Village?
Ditchling is a very arty place and love the fact that it is arty. It has art in it’s history and it’s got lots of artists living here now who open their houses. We have a wonderful museum and it’s a fantastic place to live!

Deborah nominated Fiona.

Can you tell us a little bit about why you nominated Fiona?
I nominated Fiona because for many, many years Fiona has spent nearly all of Fair Day and the preceding week doing nothing but preparing the teas and serving the teas and at the end of the day she’s exhausted. The only bit that she does get to join in with is when Malcolm does the music at night and I thought this year I’d actually like her to be part of the procession and it may be the first time she’s been part of the procession.

The second reason I nominated her really fits into the first reason and that is a big part of the pre-school and she’s part of doing the floats and she’s very, very important to the young people of the village and I think sometimes our little tots take a lot of energy and a lot of organisation on Fair Day and I would like Fiona to be part of the day, rather than just slaving away with her lovely Cath Kinston pinny on.

One more thing is that she is sweet and generous and that she will do anything for anyone and I think she said herself why she loves Ditchling. She really is a Gem of Ditchling.

Josephine Leggett interviewed by Olivia Broadbent Smith

What is your favourite part of Fair Day?
I like the fact that everyone comes together and everyone really enjoys having a day celebrating the village and what it’s all about.

Do you like the Theme that we’ve chosen this year of "Kith, Kin and Community"?
I think it’s really interesting and there are lot’s different ways that you can look at it and do things with it.

What do you think makes out community so special?
Everyone is really close, I know most of the Village, if I don’t know their names then I know their faces. It’s really close and you can go to anyone for help and they’ll instantly say “OK, I’ll come and help you.”

Where is your favourite place in the Village?
I really like the primary school, I spent seven years there and it’s a place where I really grew up. I learnt a lot of things

What does this nomination mean to you?
It’s a nice thing, because it’s someone that believes in you and someone appreciating how much work you put into things.

Do you have anything else you would like to say about Ditchling?
It’s a really beautiful place and I love the buildings and all the people that are there to help.

Olivia Broadbent Smith nominated Josephine.

I nominated Josephine because I work at the school that she goes to and I wanted her to be celebrated on Fair Day and I felt that she works really hard on her creative and academic skills. She is definitely someone I notice who is sociable in her school and she gets along well with everyone I’ve ever seen her work with.

I just think that is something that should be celebrated on Fair day and I know how much Ditchling means to her - last year she won the scarecrow competition as well.

Millie Wilkinson interviewed by Olivia Broadbent Smith

What is your favourite bit of Fair Day?
My favourite part of Fair Day is the fact that everyone is the in the village and everyone turns out. I like how everyone watches the procession through the village.

What do you think makes our community so special?
The fact that [as a community] we all come out and there are different days throughout the year where the whole village comes together, like seeing the Mummers on Boxing Day.

Where is your favourite place in Ditchling?
I like all of it. I spend a lot of time in the Church because I’m a bell ringer, so I spend quite a lot of time 'round there and it’s really pretty with the old stone work and everything. I also walk through the village a lot to get to my school so I see the scenery most days and I like the change in seasons.

What does this nomination mean to you?
It means a lot to know that people in the village recognise that I do like being part of the village, that I like living here and everything about it really.

Did you have anything else you’d like to say about Ditchling?
I just think that it’s a really nice place to live and everyone is so friendly.

David Cragg nominated Millie

You nominated Millie and you said in your nomination it was because of her commitment as a bell ringer for the Church. Can you tell us a bit about why you think this is something to be celebrated on Fair Day?
We normally ring the Fair in about 8 o’clock in the morning and Millie would be there. When we have an open day, Millie has volunteered to help show people 'round; on quiz nights she’s helped with serving at the table; in the Museum she’s helped there, washing up when Friends of the Museum have open evenings. So she likes to get involved

Ella Rose Peck interviewed by Olivia Broadbent Smith

What is your favourite part of Fair Day?
My favourite part of Fair Day is probably when they do the procession because everybody is cheering for the Brownies and and the floats. When they all come together on the Village Green and everyone is cheering, I really like that.

What do you think makes our community so special?
Well I think it’s that there are so many people, of so many different ages, who are always there for each other and they are all so friendly.

Where is your favourite place in Ditchling?
Probably the centre, because there’s the post office and the cafe’s and I walk through there a lot if I’m going to my friend’s house. It’s a nice little place with everything there.

What does this nomination mean to you?
It means a lot, because it means I know there are people who recognise what I do. It’s a nice feeling to feel special.

Do you have anything else you would like to say about Ditchling?
I think that we’re really, really lucky to have such a good community, because we are all there for each other and there are a lot of people who don’t have a community like ours.

Pam Murray nominated Ella Rose

Tell us a little bit about why you nominated Ella Rose?
Ella Rose attends school with my daughter, she has a very good group of social friends that she attends mass with as well. Ella was part of orchestrating the food bank collection just before Christmas. It was lovely, because it was the children’s idea and they put together a speech to talk to the congregation before each of the mass services in the weeks running up to Christmas to ask for donations to the food bank. It’s a very brave thing to do, to stand up in front of a lot of people and talk.

The children then collected the stuff at the end of mass every Saturday and then we had to sort it. We thought we’d only get a few donations, but actually we had so much stuff as a group, the children were able to donate not just to the food bank, but also to two homeless charities in Brighton and to the Burgess Hill homeless breakfast and shower that runs in the church. So it was a small act of kindness that ended up being a very, very big, powerful thing for the community.

I think what Ella was saying about the lovely sense of community there is in Ditchling, what we were seeing was there are people who don’t have that. So it’s lovely, as a community, to collectively do something to support others, which Ella and her friends thoroughly enjoyed.

I think that in this day and age we live in a world full of technology and social media and this idea of having everything. To be part of Ditchling Fair and that community is actually very special and lots of people are isolated out there. I think it’s important to show that young people, like Ella, aren’t just about having the latest stuff and that collectively can support people who have nothing, have no families and don’t have a community like Ditchling. And Ella was right there doing it, so that’s really important. Action speaks louder than words.

Village Gems Celebration Evening Gallery

Click an image for a slideshow

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About Ditchling Fair

In 1312 King Edward II granted John de Warenne, Lord of the Manor, the right to run a Fair in Ditchling 'in the eve and in the day and in the morrow of St Margaret the Virgin' and thus was to be celebrated on July 20th.

More information is on The Ditchling History Project website...