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Providing support in the city of Winchester

Special Interest Programme / Partner story / Video

Photo credit : Shutterstock 

A beautiful city in the south of England, Winchester is known for its bustling shopping streets, quirky open-air events, and beautiful architecture. Home to nearly 130,000 people, Winchester welcomes an additional 300,000 visitors a year to share in worship at its amazing cathedral, explore its heritage, and attend many events. 

In 2022, Oak Foundation supported several charities operating in the city, as well as efforts to help preserve its heritage. This included the refurbishment of the magnificent 150-year-old organ in Winchester Cathedral. The cathedral helps foster strong community links through worship and welcome activities, often enriched by glorious choral music. Right at the heart of this is the organ, an impressive instrument that is made up of 5,500 pipes. First installed in 1854, the organ is in daily use for worship, recitals, and concerts, and can be heard the world over in broadcasts and recordings. 

However, the organ has not had any work done to it since 1988, and it has been in constant use. The cathedral employs three full time organists and there are up to three organ-playing services daily. “We are getting to the stage where the organ is starting to be unreliable,” says Andrew Lumsden, director of music. This is why, throughout 2023, most of the organ will be dismantled to clean, repair, strengthen, tune, and regulate it. It will take nine months and a whole team of specialist organ builders working on it to entirely refurbish the organ. 

In recent years, even more people have been visiting the cathedral and using it for many different reasons, including spiritual, social, and community reasons. “We know what Winchester Cathedral means to everyone,” says Zoë Seenan, Winchester Cathedral’s director of development. “It’s our duty to look after it for future generations.” 

Oak also supports The Winchester Beacon, a 24-hour, seven-day a week shelter supporting between 100 – 150 people experiencing homelessness annually. Over the decades, thousands of men and women have managed to escape homelessness with its support. 

The Beacon offers ten single bedrooms to people experiencing homelessness, as well as three ‘move-on’ homes that house 12 people for the longer term until they are ready to get a place of their own. The Beacon also provides wrap-around support, including counselling, nutritious meals, and a wide-ranging programme of practical and emotional support to help people break the cycle of homelessness and rebuild their lives. 

“We wanted to provide some sort of way out of homelessness; we wanted to provide a light out of homelessness, and so The Beacon became that,” says Sarah Davis, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees. “Our aim is to move people on through support, by giving counselling, help, and advice, by filling in forms, by helping them move onto the next steps.” 

Oak also supported Winchester Youth Counselling (WYC), an organisation that provides one-on-one counselling to young people living in the district. Its services are different from other available counselling services in the area, as it provides open-ended counselling, which means WYC counsellors work with young people until they feel strong enough to face the world on their own.  

In addition, because spending time in nature helps reduce stress and anxiety and improve emotional health and wellbeing, WYC provides complementary youth-engagement support through Nature Therapy, Walk and Talk Counselling and group work. 

Nature Therapy includes outdoor activities, nature connections, team building, mindfulness, games, creativity, art, and relaxation techniques that help young people before and after therapy, as well as other activities such as sculpture and song-writing workshops. “These groups are really important, because while a client is waiting for one-to-one therapy, they can join a group in the meantime,” says Katy Seymour, youth engagement lead for WYC. WYC has also expanded its support to parents and caregivers. 

“WYC’s work aims to ensure that children and young people can reach their potential, increase their confidence, and go out in the bigger world, engage again with education or employment, engage in friendships and relationships, be better supported within their families, and feel more empowered and happier,” says Marta Sheppard, clinical lead at the WYC. 

Oak is happy to support these various organisations and we are sure that the efforts of Winchester Cathedral, the Winchester Beacon, and Winchester Youth Counselling all make a big difference to the lives of many people in the city. 

These grants all fall under Oak Foundation’s Special Interest Programme, which covers a wide range of fields, including environment, health, humanitarian relief, education, and the arts. You can find out more about the programme and its strategy by clicking here.  To find out more about Winchester Cathedral, check out its website here.  For the Winchester Beacon, check out its website here. For more on Winchester Youth Counselling, go to its website here.