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Rotary Club of Horsham Celebrates 100 Years

Rotarian Dave Smith with staff from Benson's Funfair and Happy Accidents (©AAH/Alan Wright)

Published 1st August 2023

The Rotary Club of Horsham celebrated its centenary year with the return of Funday Sunday on 9 July. Held in Horsham Park, the event offered a variety of stalls and activities by local businesses, organisations, clubs and charities, with a kids’ zone and live music entertaining crowds throughout the afternoon. 

It is the first time Funday Sunday has been held since 2019, and as was the case prior to the pandemic, it coincided with Horsham Children’s Parade. The vibrant parade, organised by Community Interest Company (CIC) Happy Accidents, comprised hundreds of pupils from 19 primary schools across the District, with marching bands adding to the carnival atmosphere. 

The theme of this year’s parade was ‘Classic Stories – Old and New’. Participating schools embraced the spirit of the day, creating giant characters and colourful costumes during workshops with community artists. Thousands lined the streets of the town centre to watch the parade, which featured characters from books including The Brilliant World of Tom Gates (Castlewood School), The Jungle Book (St Robert Southwell), The Boy at the Back of the Class (Southwater Junior Academy), Varjak Paw (Greenway), The Adventures of Tin Tin (Heron Way), The Cat in the Hat (Holbrook) and Gangsta Granny (St Andrew’s, Nuthurst). Marching to a beat provided by bands including Boom Tribe, Brighton School of Samba and Kings of Dhal, the parade gathered in Denne Road, taking in East Street, Carfax, West Street and Springfield Road before ending in Horsham Park, where Funday Sunday was held.

Caroline Gould, who led the Rotary Club’s organising committee for Funday Sunday, said that organising the event had been a challenge. ‘It has been four years since the last Funday Sunday, so bringing everyone together from many organisations has been difficult, as some of the people we used to liaise with have moved on in the intervening years. However, we were determined to make it happen in our centenary year.’ 

‘The Horsham’s Children’s Parade is wonderful. It was held last year and was well attended, but when it ended, there was nothing for the children to do. The parade organisers were keen to have something else, to make the most of the carnival atmosphere and the thousands of people involved. So, we relaunched Funday Sunday. Jo Nixon and others at HDC’s Parks and Countryside team have been brilliant in terms of their assistance. We also received support from Gatwick Community Trust and the Lottery Community Fund, as well as from local businesses including Aspen Place, Bluecoat Sports, NFU Mutual and Brock Taylor, which we’re very grateful for. Horsham Rotary has long been involved in hosting family events like the Pancake Races, so organising Funday Sunday was important for us in our centenary year.’ 


Funday Sunday and the Horsham Children’s Parade also coincided with the arrival of Benson’s Funfair in the Park. The Rotary Club – always looking at ways to serve the community – provided free rides for local children with special needs and their families. The Rotarians liaise with schools including QEII Silver Jubilee School to create a database of eligible families. The service gives them two hours of dedicated use, with the funfair closed to the general public.  

Dave Smith of Horsham Rotary said: ‘We offer this service to any child registered with special needs, and their family too. All children love the funfair, but when it’s busy it can be unsettling for some people. This gives them the chance to enjoy all the fair has to offer without any of the queues and the stress that can come with a large crowd.’ 

‘Lillian and Mark Benson are wonderful, as they provide this service free of charge. Their staff devote two hours solely for this purpose, so we’re very appreciative of their support. Many of those using the scheme attend schools that we liaise with, but if anyone is eligible and would like to be added to our database, they are welcome to contact us and we can add them to the list for future events.’  


Funday Sunday added a flourish to a momentous year for Horsham Rotary. Members and Friends of Rotary marked the centenary with a gala dinner at Cottesmore Golf & Country Club on 5 May, celebrating 100 years since its formation in April 1923. The club continues to thrive, with more than 30 regular members and many more Friends of Rotary and Corporate Members.  

Andrew Edwards, current President of Horsham Rotary, said: ‘There are many facets to Rotary now, including breakfast, lunch and evening clubs, and more recently an e-club was founded to meet modern lifestyles. Rotary International has worked hard to change perceptions of the organisation. Some perceive Rotary as a Gentleman’s Club, but it has changed a lot. We only meet formally for a meal twice a month, at Roffey Park Institute.’  

‘Outside of formal meetings, we have social meetings, when we visit a pub or other venue, and Zoom meetings too. People can attend the clubs and meetings that suit them. For a long time, membership predominantly comprised professional businessman, but Rotary has been welcoming women for more than 30 years and we’ve had several serve as club President. There is a vibrant youth programme too, so Rotary is for really for anyone who wants to contribute positively to their community.’

‘In Horsham, we do that very well, with fundraising schemes and events such as the Santa Steam Bus, run with the support of the Les Searle Group, and of course Funday Sunday. The Children’s Parade attracts thousands of people, and it’s wonderful to see families gathering in the park, enjoying picnics and taking part in the activities and games on offer. It has taken a huge effort to organise, but it has been worthwhile, as it highlights what Rotary is all about. Hopefully, now the event has been re-established, we can make Funday Sunday an annual highlight once again.’ 

Words: Ben Morris Photos: Alan Wright

For details about joining the club, email: secretary@horshamrotary.org.uk or visit www.rotary.org/enRotaryClubofHorsham