Centrepieces' current chairman movingly relates how his late wife, Jackie, inspired him to assist with the mental health arts group's transition into a charity.

Andrew and Jackie's marriage in 2004.

I’m currently the Chairperson of the Trustees Board for Centrepieces. I became involved as long ago as 2001-02, when I was working for MIND in Bexley as Volunteer Coordinator. One of my responsibilities was setting up a befriending scheme for people suffering from long term mental health difficulties, living in NHS Trust Care Homes. I was looking for volunteers to match with people in care at the old Bexley Hospital, and in supported community settings within Bexley borough. 
I organised a number of information and recruitment sessions at MIND in Bexley. One of the volunteers who came forward to the sessions was Jackie Henery, who shortly afterwards started working at the Crayford Centre as a Day's Services Officer, reporting to Geoff Norris who was the Centre Manager. Jackie and I shared an empathy for people with mental health difficulties. We had both suffered and recovered from mental health problems in our lives, and understood how important the art group and support at Crayford, which included drop-in sessions, was to a full recovery. Myself and Jackie had both been determined to overcome our problems and return to work; this success was a great testimony to the role that Centrepieces and the Crayford Centre played in our return to health.

Jackie at a Centrepieces exhibition
at Bexleyheath Library, in 2009.
Jackie was greatly involved in the Centrepieces art group within the Crayford Centre and was a gifted artist, sculptor and photographer. She enjoyed all the creative arts and had trained and qualified as a patisserie chef at Lewisham College, before working for the Hyde Park Hotel in London. Many of Jackie’s creations in cake making and patisserie were outstanding and won her awards; others she made for birthdays and special events, delighting the people who’d commissioned them.

Jackie became a befriender to a young man living at Bexley Hospital who was artistically talented, and she encouraged him to try new projects working with different types of media. I was accompanying Jackie on her visits because of hospital rules. She was the only volunteer befriender visiting someone of the opposite sex, and had to have someone chaperoning her.

Jackie with Edward Heath at the
ACOB Season Exhibition, in 2002.
It was in this way that I met Jackie and spent time with her, becoming fascinated by her creative skills – something I sadly lacked! It wasn’t long before we started to see each other outside of work and were married in 2004 at Sidcup Registry Office.
I was a frequent visitor to the evening drop-in sessions at the Crayford Centre, often walking across from our house in Wolsley Close in Crayford to meet Jackie at 9pm when the Centre closed. I became involved in centre events, barbecues and holidays which Jackie helped to organise, and I attended several Centrepieces art auctions that the staff – Jackie, Cecilia, Harpreet and Geoff – organised. The auctions were very successful, raising vital funds for Centrepieces to continue its good work. I always thought that Centrepieces in particular contributed to the clients’ well-being and enriched their lives, bringing back the confidence to socialise – for example, when mixing with people at their various events.
Jackie became seriously unwell in 2008-9. She started suffering from crippling headaches and tiredness, before being diagnosed in January 2011 with an incurable GBM brain tumour. Jackie was very courageous and fought the brain cancer for nearly five years, before sadly passing away in October 2015. 
By 2011, I was working as Chief Executive Officer at Bexley Accessible Transport Scheme (BATS). I took time out from work to help Jackie through surgery, then radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment at Maidstone Hospital. I gradually cut down on my working hours and days at BATS to support Jackie, research clinical trials and care for her in the best way I could, being there for her when she needed me most. In 2014, I retired early from BATS to become a full-time carer.

Jackie benefiting from the wythie workshop at the
Crayford Centre, in 2000.
I became aware of the possibility that Oxleas NHS Trust might close the Crayford Centre, and I knew how concerned Jackie was that Centrepieces should survive independently: she greatly valued the group and everything it stood for. While attending, Jackie had been shown breeze block carving by John Exell, demonstrating her skill at The Danson Show on more than one occasion. She also became interested in mosaics, creating some lovely mosaic poles in three descending heights, which were sold at a Centrepieces art auction. I was very proud of my talented wife and her determination to help the clients at the Crayford Centre.
When I learned of the plans to create a Centrepieces Charity Incorporated Organisation, I was determined to assist in any way I could, as I saw the importance of maintaining this valuable arts group, knowing how much it meant to Jackie to see it survive. 
Geoff Norris asked me to be Chair of the Trustees Board. I was pleased to assist him in making Centrepieces work as a CIO with my charity, business and funding knowledge (more than anything I could contribute artistically!)
I am pleased to say that through Geoff, the Trustees Board, volunteers and members, Centrepieces has now become a CIO. It’s moving forward with exciting plans for the future, something Jackie would have been very pleased to see, and I'm sure she would have been proud of the effort everyone concerned has put in.
It gives me great pleasure to see the breadth of artistic talent within Centrepieces. I'm sure that with the quality and combined experience on the Trustees Board, Geoff’s enthusiasm, and the hard work of the members, that we can go on to be stronger and more sustainable in 2016 and beyond.

Jackie and Andrew (centre right), with other members of
Centrepieces at the ACOB summer festival, 2005.

Written in loving memory of my wife,
Jacqueline Grieve (Jackie):

10/09/1969 to 21/10/2015

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