Community People

On this page we highlight stories from or about people from our local community.

Kenneth Conway, 1922 - 2016

Photo courtesy of Anna Vickers

Updated: 26th November 2016

Ken Conway, aged 93 and known to many within FoSJP, sadly passed away on 30th October 2016. He was one of our most elderly and valued volunteers. We'd like to honour and share his dedication to FoSJP and the local community.

In recent years, Ken would arrive in St.James' Park on his mobility scooter, wearing his familiar white cap. He was a frequent customer of the ParkLife Café and also George's Café on Church Street, where he made many friends. He helped regularly at Park events and especially at history events - he was often to be found sat behind a table "on duty" - and was one of our Park Oral History Project interviewees and also a member of the then FoSJP History Research Group. Ken was an ambassador for FoSJP, representing the organisation on stalls throughout the Shirley community and beyond. With the Shirley Heritage Project he willingly shared his World War II memories of being an ARP warden with younger generations; he was an honoured guest at two local schools. ‎ Ken was very well known in the area: he was also a member of Southampton Art Society and Atherley Bowling Club; a former member of the Wayfayrer's Theatre Group; a former local scout; a former president of Romsey Bowling Club, and had worked at the Ordnance Survey for over 40 years.

Michaela, our history coordinator writes:

"I first met Ken in 2007 at the Centenary Celebration of the park called Park100. He was a spritely eighty‑something then: no stick or scooter in those days. Ken had an infectious giggle and a real love of Shirley. He told us how he had thoroughly enjoyed the local history display and he spent time chatting with us about his memories of the area. Ken left his name and contact details just in case we’d like to hear more of his memories. As Ken had been an Air Raid Warden during World War II and the building in the Park had been built as an Air Raid Precaution "Report and Control" building, we were very keen to interview him. In 2009, when we received the Heritage Lottery Funding, we contacted Ken and he became one of our first Oral History Interviewees for the Shirley Heritage Project â€“ recording his memories of being an ARP warden and using the Civil Service Sports Ground. Ken subsequently joined FoSJP as a member, becoming a regular volunteer at Park and local history events. Ken didn't let his age or failing mobility prevent him from helping. His interest and experience with maps from his days at the Ordnance Survey resulted in him also joining our History Research Group. Ken joined us on guided walks and research trips to the University of Southampton, Southampton City Archives, the Local Studies Libraries â€“ where he of course made a beeline to the old maps and shared his discoveries with all - and the archives of Shirley Infant School and Shirley Junior School to help with their Shirley Schools Centenary 2012 project."

"Ken knew he had some important stories to tell. When asked if we would mind sharing his ARP and World War II stories with new generations, Ken was more than happy to speak to children and young adults. In 2010, he shared his memories with children from Upper Shirley High School and students from the History Department of the University of Southampton, both of whom interviewed him. In 2013, he explained to the children and parents from the SEEDS homeschooled group how the Park building was built and used in World War II. He even demonstrated World War II helmets to pre‑schoolers at a Jamie's Playtime summer holiday playscheme in 2011.

"A memory of Ken that other members have reminded me about was when Ken, who lived alone on Foundry Lane, heard intruders in his home. He came face to face with them: he at the top of the stairs, they in the downstairs hallway. This elderly chap waved his stick from the top of the stairs and shouted "Buzz off, you lot!" and thankfully they did. It reminds us of what he was like as a person: Ken didn't swear, he didn't drink. He did however, as a young man during World War II, work a full day and then every eight days also go out all night on ARP duty to look out for aircraft and bombs and to usher people to safety. I am writing this on 11th November, Remembrance Day. What a fitting acknowledgement to this humble, selfless man."

"Ken was a dedicated member of our history group family. He enjoyed meeting people, socialising, working: everything we did together as a group. We appreciated him, and he us. We will remember his chuckle, his fun, his positivity, and his total willingness to help. He will be sorely missed."

Michaela Lawler‑Levene, 11th November 2016

Ken, in his trademark white cap, representing FoSJP - always smiling!

Ken is also features in our book "St.James' Park, from Shirley Rec to Renovation, 1907‑2014":

He was also involved in many more activities referenced in the book, including the University of Southampton project on page 86.

John Sennett

Updated: 16th March 2015

John Sennett gave many hours of his own time to help organise FoSJP's Community Games event in July 2014. John is a young person who is very self‑motivated - read his story here to find out how volunteering has helped him gain confidence and real experience.

vInspired logo

Update, January 2015

John's contribution to the Community Games event was further recognised in December 2014, when he was selected by vInspired, the UK's leading youth volunteer charity, as their Volunteer of the Month for January 2015:

"Congratulations: John has been selected for our January award! It's great that John has been able to make such a positive impact in the community, and contribute to the great work around the Community Games event. We were so impressed and would like to give him the recognition he deserves!"

Click here to read vInspired's interview with John.

Update, March 2015

John received further recognition of his efforts at the Southampton Voluntary Services and Southampton City Council Volunteer Awards ceremony which took place on Tuesday 24th February 2015. These awards are given to volunteers who have donated 100 hours or more of their time, and is celebrated with a ceremony at which the Mayor of Southampton presents them with a certificate to mark their achievement.

John receives his certificate from the Mayor of Southampton The volunteers display their certificates

John's Story

Updated: 12th January 2015

Not John Sennett - this is another John

"When my daughter was two years old I gave up my full‑time employment to become a full‑time Dad as I had split up with my partner. I wanted to be there for my daughter until she started school."

"Lisa, a Family Support Worker from City Limits (they have a Job Club here every Monday afternoon) worked with me for 6‑8 months. She helped me write a CV but more importantly to gain my confidence again. My energy levels and motivation were really low. She got me a place on a Food & Hygiene Course run by TWICS in March 2013. It was held in the Community Room here. The deal was I got a free place on the course in exchange for volunteering in the Café."

"Before I was able to start volunteering here I brought my daughter to the Park one Saturday and noticed an advert for a job in the Café. I did a couple of voluntary shifts, then became a casual worker. My hours quickly increased to 30 per week and I have recently been promoted."

"I did an Emergency First Aid at Work training course in November and am hoping to take up more training opportunities."

"It is hard to find employment as a single Dad that allows you the flexibility to be there for your child. The ParkLife Café have been really accommodating. They allowed me to work around my daughter's needs during the first few weeks of school and gave me time to find suitable childcare."

John, February 2014

Carl's Story

Updated: 6th February 2014

Visit our History Stories page to find out how the restoration of St.James' Park and the ParkLife Café changed Carl's life.

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