Thaxted ‘lifeline’ group for disabled facing closure

PUBLISHED: 09:01 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:01 30 August 2018

Audrey Carmichael (centre) with former Saffron Walden MP Lord Alan Haselhurt and his wife Angela Haselhurst when they visited Thaxted Centre for the Disabled.

Audrey Carmichael (centre) with former Saffron Walden MP Lord Alan Haselhurt and his wife Angela Haselhurst when they visited Thaxted Centre for the Disabled.


A group in Thaxted which has provided support and activities for disabled people for more than 50 years could close unless a new manager is found.

Audrey Carmichael, who has run the Thaxted Centre for the Disabled for more than 20 years, and was awarded an MBE in 2012 is retiring from her voluntary role at the end of the year.

Despite giving a year’s notice of her intention to retire, no-one has been found to take over from her, leaving the future uncertain.

Mrs Carmichael, a great-grandmother, told the Broadcast: “The centre offers a place for physically disabled people to go for a couple of days and to mix with others in the same position and to have something to do. If the centre closes members will be losing friends they have met since being here. One woman said the club has been an absolute lifeline.”

The centre, which has 25 members, the oldest who is nearly 90-years-old, opens on Monday and Thursday, between 9.30am and 2.30pm.

Audrey and her team of volunteers provide outings, social events and arts and crafts for members including tapestry work, sewing and in the past, silk painting, which is then displayed and sold at the centre.

Two men, who have both suffered strokes use their “good hand” to repair cane chairs, whilst another member makes baskets with soft materials for toddlers.

Mrs Carmichael said: “It makes people feel worthwhile. A lot of them, if they live on their own sit staring at four walls if they don’t come here. Most members are quite elderly. Some can’t do very much but we give them something to do and help.”

Kaye Low, a mother with a severely disabled son, started the centre in 1963.

After spotting an advert Mrs Carmichael joined in 1983 and became manager in 1996.

Mrs Carmichael said: “I have absoloutely loved it. I think it is being with the people. They are all very happy and there’s such a lovely atmosphere. They are like my famly.”

A pool of ten volunteers help run the centre, including two women who have been there 29 years.

Mrs Carmichael said: “We desperately need someone to manage the centre, and I would hope to have a time to work alongside them to ensure a seamless transfer.”

The centre, which relies on fundraising is hosting a lunch with canapes and prosecco at Lower Hall Farm in Dunmow on September 23 between 12-2.30pm. Tickets are £15 and can be bought from the centre, Yogi pharmacy in Dunmow or Gifted in Thaxted. The Dunmow Community Singers will perform and proceeds go to the centre.

If you are interested in being the manager for the centre please email Mrs Carmichael at for more information or call 01371 830752.


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