BROMSGROVE has paid a final farewell to a community stalwart who was a "phenomenal" champion of the arts.

Jennie McGregor-Smith BEM was involved in a plethora of local groups, including the Bromsgrove Society and Bromsgrove Concerts.

The 85-year old died suddenly on September 15 and her funeral was held on Thursday (October 12) at Redditch Crematorium.

She was born in Leatherhead in 1938. With her husband John, she moved to Bromsgrove in 1966.

They lived at Coombe Cottage in Finstall where they raised their children Graham and Heather. Jennie remained in the family home after her husband’s death, moving to Bilberry Place last year.

Bromsgrove Advertiser: Jennie McGregor-SmithJennie McGregor-Smith (Image: Bromsgrove Society)

Jennie’s professional life included being a part of the administration for Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, being Artistic director of Huntingdon Hall in Worcester and she was a case worker for the Victorian Society responsible for buildings within the Bromsgrove District.

Outside of this, Jennie was heavily involved in the world of music and the arts.

Bromsgrove Concerts chairman Alastair Moseley said: “Jennie was an ever-present figure in everything arts and music in Bromsgrove and was hugely loved and respected by everyone for all that she had done to promote high-quality music and art, and unlocking the local talent of the town.

"She brought artists of international repute to Bromsgrove to perform, she helped to establish a much-needed centre for music and arts here and she always seemed to attend every concert that took place in the town.

"She laid some very strong foundations in music and arts for her successors to build on, including me, for which I personally will be forever grateful.”

The 'Words' group was co-founded by Jennie, Kate Shaw and Margaret Cooper in 1979 to bring literature events to Bromsgrove. The list of speakers invited by the group includes writers Jonathan Coe and Geoffrey Hill, P D James, Andrew Motion and Zadie Smith.

Bromsgrove Advertiser: Jennie (second from left) with poet Roger McGough at the first 'Words' event Jennie (second from left) with poet Roger McGough at the first 'Words' event (Image: Bromsgrove Society)

Jennie was one of the people responsible for campaigning to bring a dedicated arts centre venue to Bromsgrove. She took a leading role in campaigning for the possible re-purposing of various buildings but none of the options were possible, so work began on fighting for a suitable site for a new build. The result was Artrix which opened in April 2005.

Her countless achievements were acknowledged with the award of the British Empire Medal in the New Year honours list of January 2018, given in recognition of services to the community in Bromsgrove.

Jo Slade, Bromsgrove Society chairman, paid tribute to Jennie at her funeral.

She said: "Bromsgrove, and its history, is very much indebted to Jennie for the dedication she showed to ensuring the town’s history was preserved and recorded.

"Jennie was one of the instigators and founding members of The Bromsgrove Society. Her talent for research resulted in the publication of four detailed and superbly illustrated local history books, where both people and place are championed.

"Jennie has been such a positive force in Bromsgrove for many years. She was loved by many, and her legacy will live on in the buildings she admired, the organisations she instigated, and the people that Jennie brought to life in her books. She will be always missed and fondly remembered." 

During the service, during the time set aside for personal reflection, the piece of music played was "Down by the Sally Gardens" by E.B.Britten, performed by Roderick Williams, who often sang at concerts organised by Jennie.