The Big Brownie Birthday Stay Away

I've said it a few times, but I'll say it again: 2014 marks 100 years of Brownies, and there has been a whole range of activities, challenges, events and, of course, badges, organised and produced to help celebrate and commemorate this achievement.

One of my favourite things about Guiding is residential trips and so I quickly volunteered to help organise our Division's Stay Away event.  (Guiding is broken down nationally into different areas: the UK is divided into regions (Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, then England is further divided into e.g. South West, Anglia, I'm in LaSER (London and South East Region)) then into counties (I'm in Sussex West) and then into divisions and further into districts.)

There was a great team of people organising our Stay Away.  We had people sorting out the catering, someone sorting out the crafts and buying materials, someone else doing the risk assessment and paperwork and admin, someone ordering the badges, and I was ordering almost 200 mugs for all the participants!

It really is a team effort...we had a meeting roughly every month for about three hours, and then we had tasks to do before the next meeting.  It was quite hard to see how it was all coming together, but come together it did!

As I wrote about here we spent a good few hours the day before the event setting up the sports hall where we were staying.  Here we saw all the individual things we had been organising, from craft equipment to bunting to mugs to badges to drinks and biscuits.  Definitely coming together, we just needed a few Brownies!

Most of my photos taken during the event are of Brownies, so aren't suitable for sharing here...but they are of very happy girls, clearly having a good time!  The girls (about 120 of them in total) were divided into six groups: there were six activities, three inside and three outside (thankfully we had gorgeous weather!) and throughout the day the groups rotated round these activities.  We had outdoor games played on the tennis courts, a wide game played on the back field, line dancing, and three crafts - scratch art photo frame, wooden spoons to decorate and hang and paper Brownies to decorate.

The spoons were my favourite craft, so simple and so cute!

These scratch art photo frames were great - the girls each had one to scratch off how they wished, and then they visited the photo booth!  Just like you see at weddings at the moment, we had a 'booth' set up, an area of the hall we'd marked off and put up a pretty background.  We then had lots of fancy dress props and a leader who is good at photography taking photos of the girls either in pairs or groups or by themselves, whatever they wanted (oh, and the adults may have joined in too)!  After the sessions had finished, we had two volunteers take the memory card to town where we had warned Boots we were coming, and all the photos were printed.  The girls could then put their photo in their frame to take home.  Such a lovely momento for them.  There weren't enough frames for the adults to have one too, so I've got a hilarious photo of the Brownie leaders in my district and I just need to think of something to do with it!

As well as the main activities to do, there were a few things the girls could do at any point during the day.  My absolute favourite was this thumb print tree.  This amazing drawing of a tree (drawn by the niece of one of the leaders, she takes commissions apparently!) was on A2 card, and there were two green shades of ink pad.  Everyone had to make a thumb or finger print on a branch, thus adding lots of leaves to this tree! The ink dried very quickly, and then you wrote your name on your finger print.  Apparently it's an idea taken from a wedding, as an alternative to the guest book.  I don't have a photo of it finished, but trust me, it's beautiful!  It's currently being framed and then it's going to go on display in our Guide hall.  I love it! Such a unique piece of art to have, and a great reminder of a great event.

During the afternoon we stopped for cake - this beautiful cake was made by one of our leaders, and this photo doesn't show its size at all!  I can't remember just how big it was, but I do know it contains 60 eggs and 5kgs of icing!  A very delicious cake it was too.

Late in the afternoon, the caterers arrived.  As we had limited facilities for catering on site (think a couple of kettles, one fridge and a microwave) we had to get in mobile caterers, and two lovely ladies came with a fish and chip van and cooked dinner for us all!  It was delicious, food cooked fresh right in front of us, and then eaten out of the wrapper sitting in the warm evening sun.  Lovely.  It was an expensive option for food, but we didn't really have an alternative and it was worth every penny if you ask me!

After dinner and some free time we had an indoor campfire whilst waiting for it to get dark.  The Senior Section girls had organised a torchlit trail for the Brownies to do, and we needed it to get quite dark before we could start that.  We had adult leaders stationed around the edge of the area we were using so the girls didn't wander off in the dark, we all looked brilliant in our hi-vis jackets and head torches!

After the torchlit trail we had hot chocolate and some cake before we got ready for bed.  'Organised chaos' is I think how we described this bit!  We had the girls sleeping in rows throughout the hall, and then adults sleeping in each corner under a gazebo - this meant that children could find an adult in the night if they needed us, and as each corner was a fire exit it also meant that we could safely get everyone out if necessary.

So at this point we had 120 children all getting ready for bed and needing to clean their teeth and setting out their sleeping bags and trying to find their pajamas and losing their teddy bear and wanting to sleep next to someone else and then needing to go to the toilet again and so on and so on and so the girls were setting out their beds and getting changed the hall was gradually turning bedding, pink blankets, pink pajamas, quite a 'pink' bunch of girls we clearly had!

Eventually they were all in bed, and we gave them 10mins or so to chat and wind down before we turned the lights out.  There are no windows in the sports hall, so we knew it would be very dark.  Each corner where the adults were had been decorated with fairy lights so the room did look rather pretty.  It didn't take too long for the girls to go to sleep (thankfully! and surprisingly!) and within 90mins or so most of the adults had headed to bed as well.  The ladies I was sharing a gazebo with suddenly got the giggles as we got into our sleeping bags and we tried so hard not to disturb the girls near us...which of course made us giggle more!  Think it was exhaustion setting in...we must have been tired as I didn't wake up again until 7.00 when a leader turned the lights on!  So most participants got about 7hrs sleep, which is pretty good going for a sleepover!

The girls had to get dressed and washed and start packing away their stuff - we had to completely tidy the sports hall as well as set out the desks and chairs as it was exams season and we had to leave the hall as we found it.  So quite a lot to do!  The weather was still lovely so the girls had breakfast outside, although I didn't see any of this as I was blitzing the sports hall!  I was surprised just how quickly we got the hall back to normal.  Parents started to arrive about 10 to collect their girls, and all of my Brownies said they'd had a great time, and I heard similar comments from other Brownies and their leaders.  As soon as all the children were off -site we carried on cleaning, and we were only there for another couple of hours or so, which really is quite good.  You'd never have known we were there!

I came home and collapsed in a small heap on the sofa - my feet hurt so much.  I hadn't really sat down at all on Saturday, as I had my own Brownies there and I was part of the organising team I always had someone asking me a question or needing me to do something.  But it was that satisfied sort of tiredness, where you know you're tired because you've been so busy. 

Since the event we've asked for feedback, there will also be some constructive criticism, and we can build on this for the next event...ha! the next event! But overall all the girls and leaders had a great time, and were very grateful for the hard work that had been put in.  One of my Brownies wrote me a thank you card, and her mum wrote a few words as well thanking me - I don't do Guiding for thanks, but it is very lovely when you get a heartfelt card and a smiley face chocolate lollipop!  Everyone said they liked their gift mug as well.

One of the leaders and her mum had been beavering away producing these presentation cards - every participant received one, everyone had the badge on the right and the badge on the left was either the one for adults (pictured) or the one for children (which doesn't have the tick).  It's almost a shame to sew these badges on to my camp blanket!

I was there at the Chichester Big Brownie Birthday Stay Away, and yes I did help to make it happen!


  1. This sounds amazing. What a memory for everyone to keep hold of for many years to come! :)

    1. I definitely won't forget it any time soon...and I think I've now just about physically recovered from it!

  2. It sounds brilliant! And as a parent of a Brownie, I want to say thank you to volunteers like you who give up your free time so that our children can enjoy these amazing experiences.

    Gillian x

    1. Ah, thank you very much Gillian! Us volunteers do it because we love it, but a heartfelt thank you is always very much appreciated. I hope your Brownie has been having an excellent time celebrating the BBB and has lots of badges to show for it!


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