In conversation with Rowland Warboys
JN: You moved to the area back in 1980 – what first brought you here?
Rowland: I arrived in Suffolk as a newly qualified art teacher to work at what was then
Nacton Heath in Ipswich. My wife, Surinder was busy as an artist working in stained glass
and also as a restorer and conservationist. We had a workshop in the bottom of our garden
that eventually proving to be a little small. We tried to find a house with a barn that we
could use to no avail and then a friend told us of a huge barn for sale in Mellis.
The rest as they say is history, we moved to Mellis in 1988, living first in a caravan whilst we
(first) built a studio and then made the barn habitable – an on-going project. It was in late
spring we arrived and the sight of The Common in front of the barn, the children hidden by
buttercups as tall as they were, compensated for the caravan.
JN: What community activities have you been involved in during your time in Mellis?
Rowland: In 1989, the hottest day of the year, walking across The Common with a fellow
parent of children at Mellis Primary School; David Williamson, we noted how “It would be a
fine place to play cricket!” and that was the rebirth of Mellis Cricket Club – there had been a
cricket club in the village many years before. We have since established a new pitch at the
Old Cricket Field on Thornham Estate where, thanks to the tender care of Chris Farrant we
have a pitch we regard as a privilege to be able to play on.
My wife and I were honoured to be able to design and make a new East Window for St.
Mary’s Church. Recently I served on the Parish Council for 5 years and have been a Trustee
for Mellis Memorial Hall since 2012. Last year I helped with a group of volunteers from the
village to clear the ditch running alongside The Carnser. This was supported by Suffolk
JN: What made you first decide that you wanted to stand for office as an elected councillor? Rowland: My first experience of local politics was as Parish Clerk for Thrandeston P.C. and then as a member of Mellis P.C. After retiring I decided that this was an opportunity to become more actively involved in “Green” politics. I had been a supporter for many years and when an opportunity appeared to stand as a candidate in 2015, I put myself forward. I have been spurred on, I think by the birth of my grandchildren and a wish to make a small contribution to ensure that they can enjoy what we all take for granted. I enjoy canvassing, I feel it’s a great opportunity to experience the diversity of the ward and its residents, first campaign was restricted to Gislingham, Mellis, Thornham Parva and Magna, Wortham and Burgate, this year Wickham Skeith was added as a part of the restructuring of the electoral wards. JN: Did the result last month come as a surprise? Rowland: Well yes, I must confess though as I went around and talked to people, I was beginning to feel optimistic, and thought it was going to be close. I had had some interesting and informative conversations that made me feel people were ready for a change and receptive to the local Green Party’s Policies. Also, the excellent track record of Andrew Skinner in the neighbouring ward gave me some credibility. However, come the day of the result my family had prepared a supper that could as easily been a consolation meal as a celebratory one. JN: What do you see as the priority items on the council’s to-do list that you will be focusing on? Rowland: At present the council is in the process of being formed, its composition is 16 conservative councillors, 12 green party councillors, 5 liberal democrats and 1 independent. The Green Party’s policy is the return of the Mid Suffolk Council to meeting within the area it represents, also; if the council borrows money to invest it should be with the intention of promoting growth within the communities it represents. I think that residents are rightly concerned that decisions taken with regard to local planning and development do not take sufficiently into account their views. Their impression, and mine is that development is something that is being done to them not with them. Personally, I think that the council and its officers should be looking at how Mid Suffolk could raise awareness of the means of reducing even further its carbon footprint and that of proposed developments across the region. There is a growing awareness of the need to change our practices in industry, agriculture and our daily lives to reduce our negative impact on the environment. There is much good practice that should be celebrated but we also need more thorough monitoring of what is actually happening and its implications in order to identify areas that need, urgently, to change. JN: What would you like to say to the people that voted for you in the election – and the people that didn’t? Rowland: I have been elected to act as an advocate for everyone in Gislingham whether they voted for me or not and I will do my best to represent them fairly without prejudging a situation. I am idealistic but not a zealot and I realise that we must proceed in small practical steps to a more sustainable future; but proceed we must. Little things and actions count, for example I feel pleased that I have finally weaned myself from the use of clingfilm, not easy. I will do my best to act as a bridge between the residents of Gislingham Ward and Mid- Suffolk District Council, keeping them informed of issues that affect them and represent them fairly at council meetings.