The Queen;s Jubilee celebrations in Ottery and Phyllis Baxter
- Credit: Phyllis Baxter.Josefina Gori
Ottery St Mary Friends of Phyllis Baxter Action Group writes for the Herald.
The connection between Phyllis Baxter and the Queen’s Jubilee -and Birthday- celebrations in Ottery goes back as far as 2002 when she joined the town council, Rotary Club, Lion’s Club and Chamber of Commerce and proudly took part dressed as Britannia, in the fancy dress parade at the Land of Canaan together with town residents, children and the late Jim Mullen.
Phyllis always took her job as manageress of the Ottery Tourist Information Centre seriously and nothing would stop her from going from shop to shop encouraging them to come up with ideas, ways of decorating their shop windows or anything that would help to mark the occasion in a true Ottregian spirit.
In 2012 she tirelessly worked in support of the then mayor Glyn Dobson, organising the events that marked the celebrations that took place all through the town and specifically at the Land of Canaan, to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and also later on the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations in 2016.
Her enthusiasm is reflected on a phrase she was well known for: 'wait till I tell you dis' which normally would be followed by a story of how she had managed to convince the press, the TV, some well known personalities, a band, an entertainer or whoever she could get her hands on to join in the celebrations and to let the world know that Ottery was ready to party.
Phyllis would produce programs, posters, contributions for Facebook, the local papers and the Ottery Gazette and incredible pictures that would keep the residents interested and ready to contribute to the festivities.
When the day arrived Phyllis would be there dressed for the occasion with either a red, blue and white tinsel wrapped around her neck or any original costume that would bring a smile to those who saw her with her camera going around the town.
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Her energy was drawn from the knowledge of the love people had of the pictures she would take and, that luckily for us, have been the source of information for our column in this paper.
Taking those pictures would be something that would go on for days. Phyllis would walk the town taking pictures of the shop windows, specially decorated for the occasion, days before the celebrations took place.
On the day she would be the first one going around the town capturing with her camera any event taking place and the last one going back home at the end of the day after covering every happening at the Land of Canaan, the Tumbling Weir, the church, the pubs and her favourite subject: Ottery residents celebrating as a community.
We still remember waking up early the day after, only to look at those pictures on our computers and enjoying each one of them and having a good laugh at how silly we dared to look only for her.
If you look at Phyllis’s pictures Ottery can be labelled “the happiest town in the South West” and give a sense to her most favourite phrase: “it was a good laugh”
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 brought 4 days of celebrations to town, a Jubilee party at the Land of Canaan with Songs of Praise, Proms and a children fancy dress competition; decorated plates and window competitions; the lighting on the beacon organised by Tar Barrels; a senior citizens party lunch and a Jubilee ball among many other celebrations and activities that escape our memory now.
The town is gearing up to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee soon and we all are looking forward to it especially after two years of restrictions.
On the day when Ottery residents will be getting together again, as we have done so many times before, to celebrate “in grand style, in a blaze of colour and unequalled enthusiasm” our Queen’s Jubilee, we will be thinking of you Phyllis and thanking you for leaving behind a legacy that will show generations to come a Royal occasion which will be remembered for years to come.