TIME FOR A FRESH START
By Peter Unsworth, Oxford
Mail, 12 November 1999
It had gone on too long.
Whatever caused the rift was hard to recall. All Edward Peters
knew was something had brought about a split between himself
and some old and valued friends. Because it wasn't sorted at
the time, the molehill had become a whole range mountains.
Sounds familiar? Perhaps, but in Edward's case he decided to
do something about it even if a little late in the day.
He would approach his friends, apologise if necessary, accept
theirs if offered and - wipe the slate clean.
The result was a friendship was rekindled and the Clean Slate
Campaign was conceived.
Its gestation period was fairly brief because Edward, who lives
in Victoria Road, Oxford, is not one to sit around. You can't
in his line of work as a voluntary worker with an international
He assembled a few like-minded friends, some from his church,
St Andrew's in Linton Road, north Oxford, and Clean Slate was
Now a year and a half on, it has national recognition and a list
of patrons (or should we say godparents?) that reads like an
international Who's Who.
Currently all concerned are working towards the Oxford Clean
Slate Week from November 29 to December 5.
Two helpers, Richard and Dianne Bayfield, who live in Davenant
Road, Oxford, this week saw the first of the 10,000 Clean Slate
greetings card they devised, roll off the press at a Witney printers.
It is hoped these will help spread the message worldwide in the
weeks ahead. They are seen as a welcome alternative to the usual
Christmas-New Year card. Schools are involved, with the Edward
Feild Primary School at Kidlington devising a programme that
has been sent to more than 400 schools throughout the country,
promoting the movement.
To cap it all, Oxford's Lord Mayor Val Smith is sponsoring a
competition with nine prizes of a cosy afternoon tea in the Mayor's
Parlour for children who enter the best Clean Slate stories.
Seventy schools in the county have been encouraged to take part.
She also hosted a reception in the Town Hall which church and
civic leaders as well as MPs attended. It must have something
to pull in this kind of support.
But enough of the who. Just what is Clean Slate? What is its
appeal that it can draw in people as diverse as the Bishop of
London and Gary Lineker, the Duke of Montrose and the Chief Rabbi?
It is so simple it verges on the hard to explain. Put it this
way, if, like Edward, you feel something in the past is holding
you back, is a weight on your conscience or simply getting up
your nose, then why put up with it?
Clear the chest (and nostrils) and start again. The detail, gory
or otherwise, need not be shared. The privacy of it all borders
on the selfish, but the amazing thing is that by taking this
step, selfishness, probably the biggest basic ingredient in holding
you back, disappears as if by magic.
Try it - it works.
All of us have 'baggage'. Here's the chance to unload it. Courage
might be needed - as in Edward's case; he could not foresee his
friends' reaction - or it could be simplicity itself.
At the Edward Feild School, headteacher John Hawkins sees Clean
Slate as a wonderful addition to their programme for living which
is very much part of the school's teaching programme. It was
put together by him and a number of teachers who also saw its
"It has helped give what we do an extra edge," says
John. "We try to develop moral and spiritual values, showing
how to cooperate and become part of the community. The simple
message of Clean Slate fits in well."
At the end of the four weeks, the children will be invited to
write down minute details of the 'baggage' they wish to leave
behind. The note, unseen by others unless the child wishes it,
will be put in a bag and the lot will be burned on a small bonfire.
Somehow a mighty conflagration seems unlikely from these youngsters!
What will happen to Clean Slate at the turn of the year?
"It will come to an end, but the theme is timeless,"
says Edward. "Clean Slate is all about being positive. It
could become the habit of a lifetime."
And that sure as anything knocks the spots off those well-meaning,
but short-lived New Year resolutions, doesn't it?
Further information can be obtained from Edward Peters on 01865
510734 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org