This article appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of our Parish Magazine, The Dorn Free Press. I like it because it focuses on my work in my community – it doesn’t mention my disability once – and why should it?
Michelle Newell writes:
With all the negativity in the world right now, it is certainly nice to have some good news to celebrate! If you haven’t heard already, our very own Richard Brown has been awarded an MBE for ‘services to people with disabilities and to the community in Middle Barton’!
Richard’s charitable journey started very early on as a student at Oxford Brookes University. After Graduating, his first job was as Deputy President of the Students’ Union there. After retiring from a successful career in Local Government in 2012, Richard joined AtaxiaUK as a Trustee and having grown up in Barford St Michael, moved to Middle Barton from Birmingham.
When Richard’s daughter Bella started at Middle Barton School, Richard became a Parent-Governor in the hope of meeting more people in the village. During his time as a School Governor, he helped the school maintain its ‘GOOD’ Ofsted rating, began to develop his love of reading with the pupils and transformed Friends of Middle Barton School (FOMBS) into an ambitious charity. Building on the vision of the pupils he coordinated the project to transform the old unused outdoor pool into the outdoor classroom we know today. Richard says that he owes the success of this project to the “transferrable skills gained from his career, charity work, but mostly good-old parent-power!”
His growing reputation led to his being approached by a member of the Steeple Barton PC back in 2015, where he was asked to represent the village at a meeting in Oxford regarding the impending loss of public transport. He returned with the solemn news that there was nothing that could be done to save the bus service, but was hopeful for a ‘plan b’. After working with a small group of like-minded villagers, OurBus Bartons was born. Richard says proudly, “I did the charity stuff, fundraising, website and Social Media – the things I knew!” Five years and four buses later, OurBus Bartons is the only community bus service in Oxfordshire which is completely volunteer run with a scheduled service. Richard has termed its success as a “credit to everyone involved”.
Now a National figure through his work with Ataxia UK, Richard put his skills to use again in 2019, after a villager was struck by a car in North Street. The Safe Roads for Middle Barton campaign was born. Richard used the contacts he had made through OurBus Bartons and the experience gained throughout his career to influence key decision makers. He delivered a 352-strong petition calling for change, to a cabinet meeting of Oxfordshire County Council in January 2020. Their response was promising, but progress has been impacted by Covid. But the campaign still has momentum, especially as the parish now has its own speed monitoring equipment. There have been talks of a pedestrian crossing, so watch this space!
So how did the MBE come about? Proud of his nephew’s extensive charity work and services to the community, Richard’s Uncle nominated him in 2018. He was told that if nothing had been heard of within two years, to expect that the nomination had been unsuccessful. After two years, Richard had assumed that he was perhaps not “who they were looking for”. He was extremely surprised to receive a call “out of the blue” to tell him that he was to be awarded an MBE. Of course, he was sworn to secrecy until the New Year’s Honour List was released, and he confesses that he didn’t think anyone would notice. However much to Richard’s surprise, word had spread and the first 48 hours were like “a birthday when you’re a child!” His phone did not stop ringing, he recalls having friends and colleagues who he hadn’t spoken with in years contact him to give their congratulations, as well as the deliveries of cards, letters and bottles of champagne! An extremely unbelievable and enjoyable time for Richard, who is hoping to have a proper ceremony and celebration post-Covid.
Richard reveals that he owes his success to his Wife, who’s phenomenal support and encouragement helped start his journey and has kept him going in the darkest of times. He is especially proud that his citation mentions Middle Barton, which he calls “a very special place.” I’m sure you will all join me in wishing Richard huge congratulations for his fabulous achievement.