A couple who have dedicated their lives to a Solihull community have been honoured for their work. Catherine Lillington meets them
Go to almost any neighbourhood meeting in Shirley and you are certain to find Malcolm and Ann Turner.
The modest couple, who have been dubbed Mr and Mrs Shirley, have spent the last 30 years involved in the community – from parent teacher associations to fighting a bid to build a new Asda supermarket in the town centre.
In recognition of their commitment, the pair have been given an award for community involvement in the Solihull Civic Honours 2011.
Long before the Prime Minister launched his Big Society plan, the Turners have been raising money for Shirley’s Christmas lights, running a craft group and teaching schoolchildren cycling proficiency among other good deeds.
In their officials posts, 73-year-old Malcolm is chairman of Shirley Residents’ Association, Ann, aged 70, is secretary; they are both trustees of Shirley Institute, Malcolm was chairman for seven years and Ann is in her first year of the job; they are also members of Shirley Town Centre Partnership.
Local people joke the pair, who are also grandparents, devote themselves 24/7 “at a rough guess”.
Their friend Betty Lukins, who attends the craft mornings run by the couple, said: “Where Ann finds the time I don’t know, but they say if you want anything done ask a busy person and that’s Ann.
“They were really pleased about getting the award, they hadn’t expected anything. The world would be a better place if there were more people like them. Going back to the Second World War everybody helped each other out but you don’t get that now.
“They’re the type of people who do what they do for the community and the local people, not because they want anything out of it.”
Their popular craft club, which has run for the last 15 years, means more to its members than the chance to swap knitting patterns. Most of its members are pensioners who see the group as a way of keeping in touch with friends and finding out what’s happening in the community.
Betty added: “Malcolm will tell you if anything’s going on in Shirley and if there’s anything you should know about like watching out for bogus callers coming round.”
Malcolm, who rings a goat bell to get the attention of the craft class, updated members on the public inquiry on the controversial Parkgate scheme at which Ann made a speech.
Speaking outside and smiling as he recognises every passer-by, he explained how having their son Glenn, 37 years ago, “opened up their lives” and their voluntary work began with cub scouts and PTAs.
“We have always wanted to help and put input into the community. We love people,” he added.
When the couple, who worked for Lucas Aerospace and have been married for 48 years, get home their answerphone is usually flashing with news of latest developments in the town.
Ann, who was born in Shirley, argued before a Government inspector for the park, “the lungs of Shirley,” to be spared from developers wanting to build shops, homes and an Asda store.
“Shirley’s always been part of me,” said Ann, who works her way around the room listening to a woman’s concerns about parking and admiring the group’s latest handiwork.
“It’s just one of those things. We got involved with the cubs and scouting.
‘‘We went to camps and I used to cook for everybody. It was just something I really loved. If anybody asks us to do things, if we can, we will do.”