Last Friday (April 29th) Millman Street Community Centre said a fond farewell to Sue Shickle, after thirty-five years. Members, staff and volunteers all endeavoured to give Sue a fitting send-off to end her tenure on a high note. There was food and drink laid on, music, dancing and speeches. Sue, a little embarrassed with all of the attention, carried on working right up to the last. As is to be expected on such an occasion, emotions ran high.
HCA’s Chairman of Trustees, Crispin, (when asked if he was being well-looked after as he mingled with the crowd) said: “It’s Sue we should be looking after,” agreeing that “She can’t stop working,” as she passed by, en route to pouring drinks for members. “I keep telling her to sit down on a throne somewhere,” he said.
The speeches encapsulated what everyone felt about Sue, speaking for all of those assembled.
Crispin began: “We’re all here to say ‘thank you’ to Sue,” he began, to general applause. “I don’t know of anyone who’s done more to improve the amenities and lives of people in Holborn over the years. When issues have come up, Sue’s been the person to say ‘this is how you do it’. She’s been invaluable!”
John Levitt then spoke passionately: “Of course, we’re all very sad that Sue is going. But we’re happy for her. This has been a happy place because of Sue, and the brilliance she’s shown in all sorts of ways: Her integrity, her sense of humour. Her undying professionalism.”
He went on to say, “I’ve never met anyone like Sue in my life…Also, it’s been a happy place due to the staff and volunteers that Sue has found and selected,” adding, to Sue, “This place has grown and grown and grown over the years. I can only say it’s been a privilege to work with you and to know you! It’s been an honour, for all of us. I don’t know anybody in my entire life who’s done as much as Sue has for other people, and gone beyond what she was paid to do – way beyond. You’re a great lady, and if I had the chance to make you Dame Sue, I would!”
This was greeted with laughter and applause. Crispin then recalled the time when Millman Street Centre had been put on the list of closures by the council. That it wasn’t closed, he said, was “Very much to do with the spirit of the place, which Sue has created. We want to say ‘thank you’ for that!”
Sue was then presented with a series of cards and gifts by members, including Edna, Ivy and Helena. Crispin handed her a box containing a silver and amethyst pendant and earrings, specially made by local artisan Alison Flanders. “There’s also a book – not a book of Remembrance,” Crispin began, interrupted by members’ laughter at the idea. “For members to sign, ” he resumed, “And to write a little about Sue.”
Another round of applause, before the Great Lady herself took the microphone. “It’s lovely to see so many people here,” she said. “People I’ve worked with over so many years…through to people who’ve just joined recently. I’ve been very lucky that the people I’ve worked with – both the members and the staff and the volunteers – have been a joy to work with, and so supportive and so helpful. I’m not going to say much more,” she added, emotion almost overcoming her, before resuming: “But I’ll miss you all. Thank you very much!”
There was much applause and a spirited chorus of For She’s A Jolly Good Fellow from the crowd. Sue thanked everyone and, relieved to be out of the limelight, started the party proper with a final request to those assembled: “Will you all have a drink…Please!”
The festivities continued into the evening, long after this reporter had made his excuses and left. Even Mrs H turned up, and performed The Train Song, during which Sue was the driver. By all accounts, a good time was had by all.
From everyone involved with Holborn Community Association over the years – more than a third of a century – since Sue began at HCA, we would like to thank her for her work, friendship and inspiration. The old place won’t be the same without her.
There was some phone footage taken during the event (badly recorded, dreadfully edited with poor sound quality, natch). Below there is a slideshow and compilation of video which commemorate Sue’s last day at HCA.
Report by Notes Smudger