Steyning remembers ‘champion of the community’

Marlene Carman, of Steyning, who died in 2014
Marlene Carman, of Steyning, who died in 2014

Tributes have been paid to Steyning stalwart Marlene Carman, who died just before Christmas.

Mrs Carman served on Steyning Parish Council for nearly 26 years, having first been elected in 1987.

In the early years, she was chairman and vice- chairman of the council, and she served on all its main committees.

David Barling, who was chairman of the parish council when Marlene retired in March, 2013, said: “I had the privilege of serving on Steyning Parish Council with Marlene for many years.

“She was always helpful and a real supporter of the town, and did so much hard work, not only on the parish council but also in local groups such as Steyning in Bloom and The Conservation Volunteers.

“Marlene was a stalwart of Steyning and will be sadly missed.”

Mrs Carman was known as a tower of strength, always showing great enthusiasm.

A countryside specialist, Mrs Carman helped out with jobs like gardening in public areas in the town and was chairman of both Steyning in Bloom and Steyning and District Community Partnership.

Charles Ashby, chairman of Steyning Horticultural Society, said: “If it wasn’t for Marlene’s enthusiasm and hard work, Steyning in Bloom would never have got off the ground.

“She and her team would put up all of the hanging baskets and plant the flower tubs in the town. She also cleaned the streets and got rid of all the weeds.”

Mrs Carman was the first person to receive a Steyning Millennium Award, introduced by the parish council in 2000.

Sue Rogers, parish and district councillor, said Mrs Carman had been a very generous member of the community.

“She gave her time and skills in many aspects of community life over many years,” she added.

“Marlene made a substantial contribution to the work of the parish council and her love and knowledge of the countryside was focused into projects that will remain a lasting legacy to her.

“Many people will miss Marlene but she will be warmly remembered.”

District councillor George Cockman said Mrs Carman had been a champion of the community for the best part of 40 years.

“And some champion!” he added. “She took initiative after initiative to ‘make a difference’ in all sorts of situations in and around Steyning.”

Having spent her early life in Steyning, she then moved to East Sussex, where she met and married Gary. The couple set up home back in Steyning, where they became a familiar sight with a string of dalmatians.

“In those days, she was so shy that it was always Gary who had to answer the door,” recalled Mr Cockman.

She took an evening class in jewellery making and became involved in the administration, at a time when adult education was enjoying a new lease of life.

“Marlene not only collected fees and made up registers, she suggested new classes and tutors – administration was transformed into evangelism,” said Mr Cockman.

“As the classes grew, Marlene recognised that the work was largely fragmented, even when they met on the same site, so entirely on her own initiative, she set and ran an interval canteen. This gave the Chanctonbury Centres, as the enterprise was now called, a heart and soul, as well as a function. Those were very happy and progressive years.”

The experience gave Mrs Carman many new contacts and encouraged her to contribute in new ways.

When she helped with the floral decoration of Steyning Grammar School’s Shooting Field site for a major county event, she spotted the opportunity to use the flowers in the town once it was over, and the seed was sown for what became Steyning In Bloom.

Mr Cockman said: “Again, Marlene was involved not only with negotiations with a local nurseryman and Horsham District Council, but on many summer evenings she could be seen with Gary and the water bowser freshening up scores of baskets attached to lamp-posts throughout the town.”

It was around this time that she became a parish councillor and she was chairman during years of controversy in Steyning.

Mrs Carman argued fiercely for new sports facilities to be located at Steyning Grammar School, rather than the Steyning Centre, as some councillors had suggested. Mr Cockman said history had proved her right.

The funeral was held at Worthing Crematorium on Tuesday. Mr Carman died in October, 2012.