My View, Mel Hewitt: Testament to classic’s enduring panel

The team at M&S in Baxtergate, Doncaster with Mel Hewitt Community Fundraiser for the Hospice and Alison Constantine Voluntary Services Manager for the Hospice.

The team at M&S in Baxtergate, Doncaster with Mel Hewitt Community Fundraiser for the Hospice and Alison Constantine Voluntary Services Manager for the Hospice.

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One of my films of the year so far has to be Testament of Youth.

I remember vividly the TV dramatisation in 1979, which starred Cheryl Campbell as Vera Brittain. It was a wonderful example of the great British dramas of the time, which included the earlier I, Claudius and the later Brideshead Revisited.

It is fitting that as we began to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War, Testament of Youth – a book I first read when I was 18 – should be once more in the spotlight.

Although it is of such rare quality and importance it has naturally been discovered by each generation since its publication in 1933 and I believe has never been out of print.

At its heart is the memoir that tells the story of unbearable loss. Vera’s brother, fiancé and other close friends were all killed, the oldest was just 22.

This book had a profound effect on me and with each re-reading continues to do so.

It is one of a handful of seminal and timeless works that should be part of the national curriculum. We can all learn from such works.

As many know the extraordinary Vera’s daughter is Shirley Williams – now Baroness Williams of Crosby.

In 1981 I was a student at Swansea University and her book Politics is for People had just been published. It was here that I had the chance to talk to her for a few minutes when she made a visit to the university.

At the time unemployment in South Yorkshire was staggeringly high so this was the subject of our chat. I remember how interested she was and – impressively – listened to every word I said and then asked my view. It was refreshing and inspiring – I have never forgotten it.

There are people in life who make a profound impression on you.

They don’t have to be famous, powerful or talented, but each in their own way helps to build your character and shape the way you view the world.

These ‘mentors’ are the gifts that often appear at the unlikeliest of times and places and their value is sometimes only seen when you look back.

I don’t have to look too far back to see how much value – in every sense – the staff at Marks & Spencer’s have added to the Hospice appeal. They kindly chose us as their Charity of the Year and have been a joy to work alongside.

From the start it was clear that they were going to be so supportive, with cake bakes, sponsored cycling, craft sales, bag packing and sky diving all planned.

It has been a wonderful 12 months which raised a magnificent £6,760 for the Hospice Appeal.

Thank you to all who have worked tirelessly to raise this sum and to all the customers who have so put money in our collecting tins – thank you.

* Mel Hewitt, Community fundraiser, St John’s Hospice, Balby