Maltings Community Award April Winner 2018

St Albans volunteer wins Maltings Community Award for Old London Pre-School work

A tenacious community volunteer has been recognised at the Maltings Community Awards in St Albans.

Janet Audley-Charles, 56, from Cottonmill, has relaunched the Old London Road Pre-School, the Sopwell and Cottonmill Toy Library and is also a fervent organiser for the Sopwell Residents Association and Verulamium at Play charity.

Upon receiving her award and a £100 voucher to spend in the shopping precinct, she said: “It is a very big shock. It’s good to be acknowledged, but there are so many unsung heroes doing so much who are never recognised.”

She moved to the city in 1993 and in 1999 reopened the Old London Road Pre-School, which originally opened in the 1970s and celebrated 18 years of continuos service last year. It now has 71 children and 17 staff members, some of whom went to there as children.

However she did not stop with getting the school back and running: Janet fought to improve toilet and accessibility facilities, working with the Scouts, who owned the building, to install new toilets and a ramp.

She said: “The pre-school sets up connections between people who would never have met.”

Many of her projects have focused on her neighbourhood of Sopwell and Cottonmill, including the toy library and the campaign for a new community hub.

“We asked what are the words beginning with ‘S’ and ‘C’ that are important”, she said. “Sopwell was spirit and Cottonmill was ‘community’. Those two words are the cornerstones for a good, strong environment.

“This hub is so important and the fact we have so much support and so many ideas for what the building could be.”

So far, the campaigners have received around 60 suggestions including a Lego club, a club for older people.

They are running a petition and will be presenting the case for a new hub for Sopwell and Cottonmill to St Albans council in July.

Janet says she hopes her work instils similar dedication in her three children, one of whom, Jacob, nominated her for the Maltings Community Awards.

He wrote: “She never takes no for an answer and has amazing passion and tenacity.

“She always makes time for people in need. She is most definitely an unsung hero and I know everyone who knows her would say the same.”

To find out more about the Cottonmill and Sopwell Community Hub, email and Verulamium at Play can be found on Facebook.