The man who makes Yarmouth great
PUBLISHED: 17:44 05 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:44 05 June 2019
Rachel Moore pays tribute to a great man of Yarmouth, Hugh Sturzaker MBE
It takes a special force of nature to make a real difference to a community.
Only extraordinary drive, energy, leadership and conviction can revive community events and activities lapsed out of apathy and build momentum and support across a town; especially one sometimes perceived from outside as disparate and a bit of a lost cause.
Tomorrow, the seventh Great Yarmouth Arts Festival launches at the country's largest parish church, Great Yarmouth Minister, and on Saturday, the sixth Great Yarmouth Carnival will meander from the newly-revamped seafront Venetian Waterways into the town for a community fair and second Festa Fiesta, with music, dance and street circus.
The carnival's theme this year is energy - apt for an area grasping regeneration from the renewable energy surge off its coast, firing new energy in the east in many different ways.
The event, followed by a programme of events for more than a week, draws together the mix of nationalities and cultures living across the community.
The theme is especially fitting too to describe the real force behind the fiesta, a man who has, literally, touched the lives of so many families in and around Great Yarmouth.
Retired surgeon Hugh Sturzaker MBE moved to the area 40 years ago when the foundations of the James Paget Hospital hospital were being laid at Gorleston, so he can just about be classed as a local now. Rarely do you meet anyone in the area who hasn't had a family member treated by Mr Sturzaker, who is thankful for his diligence and skill and has some anecdote about the man. He was Mr James Paget, recording its history in his book, The First 25 Years.
Arriving in the area in 1979 when foundations for the hospital were being laid, he took up the post of a general surgeon. His work ranged from bowels to breast care and much besides, including setting up of laparoscopic surgery for general surgical condition.
What he has achieved since, professionally, for the people of his beloved adopted community and the fabric and spirit of that community is nothing short of phenomenal.
Closer to 80 than 70, his dedication, purpose and energy makes others wither away in inadequacy. When Hugh says he is going to do something, he does it, and makes it work, with vigour.
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Reviving all the above and more in a town that has its issues, with such a steadfast belief, funding some things from his own pocket to make it work for others, is a minor miracle.
Only last week, the first awards of the Civic Society of Great Yarmouth he founded, and chairs were presented at Great Yarmouth Town Hall. Business owners were rewarded for their tidy and attractive shop fronts and keeping their businesses well-maintained.
He has waged war on litter, setting regular litter-picking teams, and is a regular visitor in schools and colleges inspiring young people to get involved, look after their town and have civic pride.
He launched the Civic Society two years ago to develop a sense of civic pride in the town and take ownership of the streets and buildings to make it a better place to live - and at the same time protect its cultural and architectural heritage.
"Too often one reads and hears criticisms of Great Yarmouth yet the town has so much potential," he said. "In spite of this, the perception of Great Yarmouth is not good and all of us living in the borough or who come from further afield to work in it, need to come together to help improve the town. We need to take ownership of our own street, building or square and see how we can improve its appearance. We need to develop a sense of civic pride."
People follow where he leads. Membership is growing and future plans include staging a Medieval Fayre next year to draw people into the town to celebrate its town walls - the most historically significant in the country, second only to York.
As dancers and musicians thread their way through the town's streets and Market Place in Saturday's carnival parade to Festa Fiesta Street Party at and around St George's Theatre and the town's Cultural Quarter, and the community fair packs out Great Yarmouth Library, a public tribute must be made to the man who sowed the seeds for this back in 2012.
"We need to encourage people to participate, in music, literature, poetry, and to learn about the great heritage we have in this town that is not always appreciated," he said nine years ago when this all began.
"People always run down Yarmouth but they do not see what great art we have here."
He's made sure they do - and will, all when he could have embraced his retirement as an excuse to take it easier rather than running a diary busier than most people's full-on careers.
He sweeps into meetings, often his third of the day, always dapper and focused, before heading to another. He leads by example, his passion is infectious and just getting on with things is his way.
From all of us who appreciate all you do to make Great Yarmouth a better place to live, and those whose lives you saved and improved, thank you so much, Mr Sturzaker.