Taking Stock - February 11, 2013

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I suspect I wasn’t alone last week in my excitement over the discovery of a king of England underneath a car park.

The DNA results not only brought to an end 500 years of mystery surrounding the death of our last Plantagenet monarch but also affirmed the importance of something quintessentially British.

I’m on about enthusiastic amateurism.

I’m sure plenty of people laughed at members of the well meaning but, well, let’s say slightly quirky, Richard III society when they suggested the king’s final resting place was a social services department car park.

Not to be swayed, they raised the funding necessary for an exploratory dig – the first cut, well almost, revealing the twisted spine of the felled monarch.

Tony Robinson must have secretly been seething – all those Time Team shows spent digging up tiny pots when all along there was a missing monarch out there to be found.

Of course, the hard work of digging and identification was left to the expert boffins at the University of Leicester.

But that’s not to discount the efforts of those regular folks, without who the discovery would never have been made.

And they are not alone.

As a journalist one’s attention is drawn to the enthusiastic work of a whole hoard of amateur groups.

And their efforts aren’t just limited to archaeology.

A good job too – I doubt they’d uncover much under the car park here at Gazette Towers, unless of course there are a few Wellington bomber parts knocking about following our airport’s use, during the Second World War, as an aircraft factory.

There are people fighting to save local amenities, working to get young people off the streets and to protect their communities from unwanted development.

The work of a group of amateur volunteers was crucial in raising public opinion and fighting, at public inquiry, to stop the Over Wyre gas storage scheme – at least for the time being.

A similar effort was put in by enthusiastic folks to save one of the Fylde coast’s much loved entertainment venues, The Grand Theatre – a battle those of us who live in Blackpool today must be thankful for.

And, here in South Shore, there are unpaid workers at The Boathouse Project running a much-needed youth club, credited, I notice, with virtually wiping out anti-social behaviour in some age groups.

These are just a few examples, but I’m willing to bet there are folks in every community giving up their time to make life just that little bit better for the rest of us.

The work of most amateur groups will, most likely, not generate the headlines The Richard III Society did.

But for many of our hard working and helpful community types, headlines don’t matter – it’s the results of their hard work which are important.

Enthusiastic amateurs everywhere, I salute you.