Audrey Newsome (1928-2020)
Jenny Muddimer writes:
I had wanted to set up Adbaston Community Group for some time but it was only when Audrey heard and developed my initial ideas that it began in 1998. Under her enthusiastic guidance the Group flourished with Coffee Time, Christmas Lunches, Computer Classes and much more. She suggested that we have some concerts to bring music into the community at reasonable prices, which would be held in the Church.
It was two or three years before the first Community Concert was organised, with a local choir group. The success of the first few concerts fired Audrey's imagination and she began to look around for ways to extend and expand what we could offer. At this point, I must make it clear that I was only helping to provide the refreshments and Audrey was doing all the real work. The Adbaston Community Concert Society grew out of that Community Group initiative.
Audrey began talking to people at concerts that she attended, notably at Manchester Camerata, the Royal Welsh College in Cardiff, and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). This was beginning to show results and it was obvious that help was needed to plan the programmes. That is when Audrey ‘invited’ some local people to form a committee and the progress towards what we have now really began, as Audrey wrote letters, emailed and made numerous phone calls. Audrey's enthusiasm and powers of persuasion worked wonders.
On a personal level, knowing Audrey over 30 years made a tremendous difference to me and her support through some very difficult times was amazing. She was a remarkable woman, who gave so much to so many all through her life, and was a steadfast friend.
Roger Savage adds:
I first learnt about the Adbaston concerts when I saw a poster that Audrey had put up in Eccleshall Post Office. It was a performance by Harry Hitchen (organ) and Paul Nevins (trumpet). Since I knew Harry through Stone Choral Society, Pauline and I went along. During the concert, Harry had some trouble with his music which kept slipping off the stand and eventually fell to the floor, bringing proceedings to a stop. Prompted by Pam Trafford (who eventually became Chair of the concert society), I found myself acting as page turner, holding the music in place with one hand. After the concert, Audrey came up and thanked me and I asked her whether the Society received any grants from Stafford & District Arts Council. She did not know about that organisation, so I introduced her to the application system and the Society soon benefitted from SDAC's funds as we still do today. Soon, Pauline joined the committee and I followed some time later. The committee meetings at that time were always held at Audrey's house, and always with cakes specially baked for the occasion.
One thing led to another and we soon found ourselves invited to join Audrey and some friends at dinner at the Old Post Office, Audrey's charming cottage in Bishops Offley. We discovered we shared many interests with her, and our friendship blossomed. In particular, we shared her interest in gardening and admired the trickling stream she had created at the back of the house. We learnt of the croquet parties held on her lawn when she was at Keele. and soon realised that Audrey had played a key part in introducing student counselling to the university and had gone on to play a role nationally, and eventually internationally in the developing of counselling nationally and worldwide. Not that Audrey ever boasted about such achievements, to her it was just a natural part of her life.
Audrey was also instrumental in nurturing the link with Fiona Carr and the Friends of Kampala Music School. She had a close contact with Ivan Kiwuwa, who went on to become a concert pianist after attending the School. This led to him performing for us at Adbaston several times. On her ninetieth birthday, Audrey was delighted when Ivan gave a surprise concert at her care home.
Like Jenny, we found her support valuable at a time when we had some family difficulties. Her counselling experience meant she quickly analysed the problem and suggested a strategy to take us forward . Audrey inspired others to achieve beyond their normal expectations – a case in point being the work by a local artisan in creating a wrought-iron gate for her cottage, incorporating her initials and plants from her garden. You can see it in the photo accompanying Gerry Northam's interview with her when she was 87 which can be found on the University of Keele web site – Audrey at her best despite her age then. In the same place is a later interview when she attended the naming of the University's counselling Centre as 'Newsome House' in her honour.
When her health deteriorated, Audrey took the difficult decision to move into Heyfields House, a residential care home in Tittensor. We visited her from time to time and always enjoyed an hour of her company and realised that she had a lively sometimes acerbic sense of humour. She continued her interest in the concerts right up to the end. She always had a special interest in the Manchester Camerata concerts, and the performances of the young virtuoso pianists from the Keyboard Trust. She particularly enjoyed it when her friends Jenny and Guy Morton brought her to these, even though she could only manage half the programme latterly.
At Heyfields, Audrey continued to befriend people whom she realised were worse off than her. She admired their fortitude and enjoyed her talks with her neighbour Pauline. She found the circumstances of lock-down particularly trying – she maintained an interest in world affairs and being confined to one room was especially difficult. Her twice-daily phone calls with her sister-in-law Ann were her lifeline.
Audrey was a great ambassador for the Concert Society. We will miss her.
(former Chair of ACCS) writes:
Audrey Newsome conceived, inspired and drove the Adbaston Community Concert Society onwards and upwards, which was how I became more acquainted with her. I'd met Audrey previously at village garden parties and events which she always supported. Audrey contacted me when forming a committee to run the concert society, and I was invited to her lovely home for an evening planning. These meetings took place regularly at Audrey's and were always generously fuelled with homemade cake, tea in china cups and saucers, always surrounded by books, CDs and evidence of her full and busy life!
Audrey inspired the Committee to raise the concert standard ever higher, using her many musical contacts, her persuasiveness, and her determination to give the audience quality. This was achieved whilst also respecting the musicians with good planning and communication, the fine venue we had in St Michael and all Angels Church in Adbaston, sociable hours to accommodate their travel arrangements and always hosting them comfortably during their rehearsal time and in concert intervals The audience were catered for too with interval nibbles and wine, making it a very sociable event, with Audrey always alert to a possible 'up and coming' musician to whom we could give an opportunity to perform at our concerts. She was unstoppable!
Annually, the charity closest to her heart, the Kampala Music School was remembered and concert donations made to its funds. These caring and personal touches made it an infallible recipe for success, and will continue even though Audrey has sadly gone. Her memory and her lead will live on in the concerts which will restart when the current pandemic, which has changed so many plans, allows.
Audrey Newsome –
A couple of reflections
from Dr Andrew Brooks
When we moved to Bishop’s Offley in 1984 Audrey was the first villager to welcome us and invite us over for tea at her house across the road. We quickly found we had an area of common interest in that her focus was career counselling and I had recently completed a post graduate qualification in this area. She of course had much of her career at Keele University and where I was destined to continue my education a few years later. Keele was a topic we often wandered on to.
I remember one afternoon she invited me over to meet a friend of hers who was staying with her. I had no idea who it might be but it turned out to be Donald Super, one of the international giants in careers guidance, over from America. It was a bit daunting! She certainly had first division associates.
Croquet on her back lawn is one of the most pleasant memories. Cakes, drinks, sunshine and good company. An archetypical English countryside activity.
In 1999, she introduced the idea of a village green to mark the turn of the century. This was duly set up and still is thriving two decades later. It was the catalyst that brought our village together and now acts as the focal point for village activities and communications
Very early on we found that both of us had a great love of classical music. I was heavily committed with work and family commitments when the Adbaston Community Concert Society first began but Audrey always made a point of personally keeping me up to date with concerts and I was a regular attendee. After retiring I joined the organising committee which I am still a member of today.
Introductory note by ACCS Chairman, Clive Kerridge
We were all deeply saddened by the recent death of our founder, guiding light and ACCS President, Audrey Newsome.
As in her impressive contributions to the development of professional counselling services in higher education, despite ‘retirement’ Audrey brought a similarly level of commitment to supporting and enhancing the cultural life of our local community.
In the case of ACCS, this combined her knowledge and enthusiasm for classical music with her prodigious ability to inspire others and to network across the academic and arts worlds. Audrey’s vision was to provide an opportunity for high-level regional musicians, and/or younger artists developing their professional careers, to offer concerts in the local community at affordable prices. This has continued to be the basis for our ACCS mission, delivered through four annual concerts (mostly classical, some jazz), with the kind support and collaboration of SDAC, Manchester Camarata, the Keyboard Charitable Trust and our local patrons.
Audrey is fondly remembered and will be greatly missed by many of us. The following short obituaries are by Committee members, all of whom hope to continue with that mission that Audrey was so instrumental in defining.
We intend to resume our Adbaston concert series in Spring 2021, including an Audrey Newsome Memorial Concert at which we hope you will be able to join us.
Clive Kerridge (Chairman)
Adbaston Community Concert Society CIO
Registered Charity No. 1181880