Charity of the Month: Stevenage Credit Union

There 57,000 Credit Unions in 105 countries around the world, helping 217 million members take advantage of affordable financial services. Stevenage Credit Union is just one of them, having been in operation for over 20 years. They are supported by … Continue reading

Charity of the Month: Carers in Hertfordshire

Carers in Hertfordshire is a countywide charity that was set up in 1995 to support unpaid carers, whatever the caring circumstances or condition of the person they care for. There are at least 109,000 unpaid carers in Hertfordshire – people looking after a loved one, who is elderly, disabled, has a learning disability or mental health condition or who misuses drugs or alcohol. Continue reading

Our members: Just Sing! Community Choir


Our member, Just Sing! is a fun, friendly and fabulously relaxed community choir based in Stevenage. Their ethos is one very much of inclusion, as there are no auditions and you don’t need to be able to read music or have any experience to join. Everything is taught ‘by ear’ so no one is at a disadvantage, even if they’ve never sung before and don’t read music. Fees are kept deliberately low, and special arrangements can be made for those who need help.

The group sings all kinds of songs, from classical to pop, from folk to rock, as well as show tunes and favourites from musicals. Everyone’s tastes are covered, and the choir have a wide repertoire, from classics like Tallis’ Canon to Fix You by Coldplay. Members also benefit from lessons all about breathing and vocal technique from their accomplished Musical Director, Penny Manser. The idea is to enjoy improving your singing whilst meeting new people and building confidence at the same time.


Just Sing! began in Autumn 2009, (then known as Singing for the Terrified) after the library staff at East and North Herts NHS Trust saw the BBC’s The Choir with Gareth Malone, and were inspired to organise a singing event of their own. Aware that many people would like to sing, but are too nervous to join an established choir (usually because they can’t read music or haven’t sung before), the event was intended for anyone who wanted to sing regardless of whether or not they had any experience.

Their first singing session as a group took place in April 2010, with Michael Price directing around 35 people to sing Ticket to Ride by the Beatles, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables and Bridge Over Troubled Water by Paul Simon. Michael is a composer and music editor who works on film and TV scores, most famously for the BBC TV series “Sherlock”. The day was such a success that the group has grown and grown ever since, now boasting 60 members!


The choir’s first public performance was at David’s Bookshop Christmas Fayre, in Letchworth in November 2010, and since then they have performed at the Bennington Lordship, Anglesey Abbey, Wimpole Hall and the Hatfield Galleria. 

Just Sing! now meet for rehearsals every Thursday during term time with Musical Director Penny Manser, and are always delighted to welcome new members. There are opportunities for choir members to sing solos or duets at concerts, but for those who are less confident every new member is given a ‘buddy’ from the existing members to welcome them and help them get into the swing of things.


This year is set to be the most exciting yet for Just Sing! as the choir is taking part in a new project with Letchworth based composer Alison Wrenn. During the Summer they will be recording and performing 50 minutes of new songs for a community choirs songbook project called Sing For Our Planet. Six specially chosen composers will also be liaising with local community choirs, culminating in a massed choirs performance in the Summer of 2015.

New members are always heartily welcomed to Just Sing! and you can go along to the community hall at North Herts College on Monkswood Way in Stevenage to try your first session for free….the rehearsal schedule can be found on the Just Sing! website here. Also look out for updates on the website for their “Singers’ Night” in April, as well as upcoming themed workshops such as African Gospel and “Abbatastic”!

And if that’s not enough to convince you, why not have a look at some of the videos made by choir members who wanted to share the experiences with the choir?

Our Members: Dr Hadwen Trust


Our member, The Dr Hadwen Trust (DHT) is the UK’s leading non-animal medical research charity, funding and promoting the development of new techniques to replace the use of animals in medical research.

The Dr Hadwen Trust helps scientists to implement existing techniques and develop new ones which are more human-relevant and replace animal experiments. Funded solely by charitable donations, the DHT has awarded grants to over 160 research projects since 1971 for some of the most advanced and successful human-related techniques in the most diverse areas of research including cancer, Alzheimer’s, asthma, kidney, heart and liver disease and diabetes, amongst many others.

The Trustees of the charity, which was founded in 1970, had two main goals: to play a major role in funding non-animal replacement research, and to nurture widespread support for this. The DHT is still focused on these key principals and continues to demonstrate that cutting-edge research methodologies have led to significant advances and innovations in pursuit of more human relevant approaches without the use of animals.

Later this month, The DHT are hosting a fundraising Curry and Quiz Night at Hitchin Boys’ School, on Friday 31st January. Entrance is just £10 per person, which will go towards their continued work and development. Teams of up to six are invited to come along from 7pm, and also enjoy a full bar and raffle, as well as a vegan friendly curry supper.

Booking is essential, so call 01462 436819 or go to their website to buy your ticket and find more information.

Quiz poster 2014 Original

Launching the new Stevenage Community Action project

SVA Event

Stevenage Community Action, the newly formed local initiative managed by NHCVS, today hosted a ‘Meet the Team’ event at The Hyde Out Community Centre, to launch their new services.

The event was a great opportunity for current and potential members to find out more about membership benefits, as well as to meet the Stevenage Community Action team and learn about how they can help with funding, recruitment and volunteer management amongst other skills and experience. There was also chance to network with other small groups and charities, in addition to a ‘Twitter Masterclass’ and lunch.

The new initiative, funded by Stevenage Borough Council, has been set up to support charities, community groups and social enterprises in the Stevenage area and to help them to become stronger and more sustainable organisations. Members can gain information, guidance and resources enabling them to deliver effective, high quality services, as well as ask for advice on charity governance, funding bids and changes in the funding environment. In addition, members have access to a wide range of material resources free of charge, including hire of event materials and books.

The event was also attended by the Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Jack Pickersgill MA, MSc. and Mrs Margaret Davies-Pickersgill, who were pleased to help launch the project and see so many growing groups in attendance.

NHCVS Deputy Director Hannah Gray, who is heading the initiative, said “We are excited to have the chance to meet all our new members, as well as welcoming those groups who may also benefit from membership with us. The team are looking forward to initiating and nurturing the development of new groups, schemes, enterprises and organisations in Stevenage, as well as seeing the growth of the recently launched Stevenage Time Bank.”

With decades of experience in managing a diverse voluntary service, already successfully operating across North Herts, NHCVS are confident that the new Stevenage Community Action project will provide a valuable resource to local groups.

To find out more about Stevenage Community Action, check out the new website:

Visiting our Members: The British Schools Museum


NHCVS members, The British Schools Museum in Hitchin offer regular tours with their volunteer guides, and recently I went along to join in and learn more about the Grade 2* Listed building.

The original British School was formed when, in 1808, Joseph Lancaster visited Hitchin and met William Wilshere, a local lawyer and land-owner. At the time, the working poor had no access to education and there was no government funding for such things. Lancaster however shared his ideas for education with Wilshere, and they managed to gain support from like-minded philanthropists who helped to convert an old malthouse that he owned in Hitchin into a Monitorial, or Lancasterian, school.

Pupils at the school were taught within Lancaster’s revolutionary methods, where one Master would teach thirty of the brightest children (the Monitors) who would then in turn teach the rest of the 300 pupils in smaller groups. The school taught boys and girls, although separately, and became very popular with children travelling from all over the area.

In 1925 however, the Trustees of the British Schools handed the site to Hertfordshire County Council, who renamed it Queen Street Infants’ School, then in 1969 the last school on the site closed, with the buildings being used as Hitchin College’s Community Annex. When the site was offered for sale by Hertfordshire in 1990, the Hitchin British Schools Trust was formed to save the buildings from redevelopment and to create the British Schools Museum.

Our tour began in the old playground, where we were told how the children were not allowed to run at all and a high wall stopped the boys from throwing things at the girls in their play area below! We were then collected by our teacher, all dressed beautifully in the Victorian style, and taken to the amazing Gallery classroom.

There we sang a hymn to start, then practiced our maths in old money on slate, as well as reading parrot-fashion and writing with a dip pen. It was so lovely to learn about the old teaching methods and get to turn our hand to them….especially  for those of us who are left handed and would not have been permitted to be at that time!



Having said goodbye to our teacher, we toured the museum’s examples of an Edwardian classroom and war-time schoolroom, before looking into the huge and stunning Lancastarian schoolroom. There, a member of the tour was given the task of acting as Monitor, whilst the rest of us stood around the little semi-circle painted on the floor and repeated letters of the alphabet to learn by copying.



Next we visited the Headmaster’s house, which is an amazing example of a Victorian home, complete with all kinds of rare and interesting artifacts. Our tour concluded in the Discovery Room, followed by a visit to the gift shop and cafe of course!

The site is an extremely important example of this part in the history of elementary education, and the Lancastarian schoolroom is the only surviving one of its kind. It remains largely unchanged from the room in which 300 boys were once taught, and the adjacent Galleried classroom still has its tiered seating in place as in 1853 when it was built. It’s such a delight to see such a cared for building, and a relief to know that it is in such safe hands with the committed team and volunteers from the Trust.

The museum is open on Tuesdays (10am to 4pm), Saturdays (10am to 1pm) and Sundays (2pm to 5pm) until 26th November. The team also organises a number of annual events on Bank Holidays and school holidays, and on the first Sunday of each month you can enjoy a Victorian lesson at no extra charge, just like the one I took part in.

There is a small admission charge of £4.50 for adults, £2.00 for children over 5 (under 5s free) or you can get a family ticket for just £12. This includes your tour, and children can explore the site dressed as a Victorian boy or girl in the costumes provided! It’s tremendous value for a wonderful day out, and I’d recommend it to anyone!

A post by Emily, NHCVS Events Coordinator

Visiting our members: Baldock Seniors Club


Hello, I’m Anne. My job is to help small voluntary community groups in North Herts and Stevenage.  I help both brand new and established groups. Maybe they are just setting up and need a hand opening a bank account, agreeing a constitution and getting a management committee up and running. Or it may be that the group has grown and is ready to register with the Charity Commission. Or perhaps they just need a bit of advice on insurance, policies, safeguarding or where to apply for grant funding.

One of the things I enjoy best is going out to visit groups, to get to know them and see how I can help.  Last week I visited Baldock Seniors Club. What a lovely friendly group of people! They had invited a local dance teacher, Janice, to demonstrate some dancing with a few of her older students. There were around 25 members sitting round the edge of the dance floor, with a great variety of music old and new to get everyone’s toes tapping.

Janice did a brilliant job of finding something for everyone to join in with, whether it was getting up to have a go at the cha-cha-cha or Boston two-step, doing a seated version of YMCA or just singing along to old favourites. One 82-year-old really put me to shame – she barely sat out any of the dances, and was a pleasure to watch as she twirled around the dance floor never putting a foot wrong! Another lady sitting next to me had the most beautiful singing voice and after a lifetime in the theatre she really brought something special to her dancing.

Penny and Cara do a great job of organising different activities and speakers for the group in their own time as volunteers and also organise occasional trips. The group meets on Wednesday afternoons at the Baldock Community Centre, for a small membership fee. If you live in Baldock and are interested in going along, or in trying Janice’s popular tea dance on the last Friday of each month, contact the Baldock Community Centre on 01462 894109. They would be very happy to welcome you.

A post by Anne, NHCVS Development Worker