(L-R) Carl Hunter, Brian Kirkby, Richard Parsons, Paul Whatmough, Tom Hurd, Jim Murphy (kneeled), Stephany Kirkwood, Colin Burford, Tony Davey

Stop number six on our Awards Tour took us to Wennington!

We want all the groups who’ve dug in the network over the past decade to get their hands on the INCA and ISPA prizes.

Nine ex-B4RNstormers turned out on the Village Green for a picture with the trophies.

Self proclaimed gangmaster, Jim Murphy, said take up of the B4RN idea was quick: “When I first heard Chris Conder talking I just thought she was bonkers! I really did. And I thought if it’s that bonkers, she’s come to the right place! Perhaps I’ll join. It did sound outlandish!”

At that point, Brian Kirkby chimed in, saying B4RN’s policy to connect every property mattered: “Realistically, where I’m at we would’ve never seen internet. [Another provider] would never come to us, we’re two miles from the main road.”

Villager Richard Parsons then added: “Even on the edge of the village it was 1Mbps. Going lower than that when the kids came home!”

Talk turned to getting people to sign up. Jim recalled: “I and my beautiful young assistant went out one Sunday…”

An interjection by Stephany Kirkwood: “Your assistant?! You were mine!”

Jim continued: “Oh sorry! We went out and the first person we asked was a refusal… until we got back when that first person said ‘I’ll sign up and when can I start digging with you’. It was Tony!” (Jim points at fellow volunteer, Tony Davey).

Like many B4RN customers, Tony says the service has helped professionally: “It gave my wife – who’s a musician – the ability to practice along to YouTube videos. You couldn’t do it in the past because the speed was zero, you couldn’t even get a still.”

Some wet volunteers, 2014.

When asked about specific memories of the build, Jim remembers two stories: “Firstly, Norman Dove working up there. We we doing a cable in behind. He must have been the wrong side of seventy. We were under a hedge and he said ‘you get out, Jim, I’m having difficulty, I’ve just heard my hip crack’. That was fine, but how were we going to get him out!”

“Secondly, we were getting into a disused metal pipe. I was given the honour as gangmaster to break into it. [I was thinking] ‘Is this the right pipe?!’ Anyway, I strike a blow and behind me my loyal friends and helpers all start hissing!”

Jim continued: “We had an awful lot of obstructions – bridges, railways…”

At which point Carl Hunter picks up the conversation: “We were the first to do an aerial river crossing. We got hold of a disused pole to straddle the river to connect a few properties.”

Brian added: “We almost joined the fishes at times!”

All the group agreed the B4RN project knitted the community together a little more, with Carl summing things up: “We all met in the trenches!”

And B4RN remains a literal shining light for Wennington – the cabinet’s electricity supply also powers the nearby Christmas Tree!

The group members also wished to give some honourable mentions: John Jackson (who’s no longer with us) gave valuable advice as an ex transport worker for Lancaster; Norman Dove (who’s moved away); and Tony Metcalfe who leant a digger to the group every weekend for three months!

Work at the cabinet in 2014.