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Mr Norwich City Geoffrey Watling

Great entrepreneur, “Mr Norwich City”, and an ardent supporter of good causes, Geoffrey Watling achieved a great deal for Norfolk in his lifetime, and his legacy continues to live on.

Yesterday, on what would have been his 100th birthday, the Geoffrey Watling Charity held a special reception paying tribute to him at Norwich Theatre Royal, and presented £400,000 of funding.

Norwich Theatre Royal, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, East Coast Hospice, and The Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House each received £100,000 from the Geoffrey Watling Charity which over the years has given more than £4m to local good causes in Norfolk and Waveney.

Members of many of these good causes joined civic dignitaries, and Mr Watling’s family and friends yesterday to raise a toast to the man, who along with his many charitable and business achievements, was also credited with helping to save Norwich City Football Club financially and known as “Mr Norwich City” to many.

His nephew Alan Watling, one of the trustees of the Geoffrey Watling Charity, said Mr Watling had been a man who loved to celebrate, and that the charity was pleased to mark what would have been his 100th birthday by announcing the £100,000 grants for four special causes spanning the whole of Norfolk.

“They are a good mixture and we would like to think that they will be remembered as being part of Geoffrey’s 100th year,” he said. Norwich Theatre Royal plans to use its £100,000 to develop its education department.

Peter Wilson, the theatre’s chief executive, said: “It is an amazing amount of money, isn’t it. Fifteen years ago we did not actually have an education department, and now our education department is bursting at the seams.

This is a down payment on a big capital project we are hoping to undertake in the next few years to give the education department its own specialist building in order to improve the education in the arts for every single student in Norfolk.”

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is planning to put its grants towards its Cley Marshes Land Purchase Appeal to buy a key piece of land on the north Norfolk coast and expand its nature reserve.

Brendan Joyce, from NWT, said: “The Geoffrey Watling Charity is contributing £100,000 towards that hugely important land purchase, and what it does is it fills a gap that was in private ownership, and gives us 8km of coastal land that is in conservation management between Blakeney Point and Kelling.”

Richard Shaw, chief executive of The Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House, said the £100,000 was helping to fund a new hospice facility in west Norfolk for which building work has just started.

He said it was extraordinary how Mr Watling’s generosity had stretched so far and helped so many people over the years.

Robert Ashton, from East Coast Hospice, said the grant was a great boost to a capital appeal to build a new 10-bed hospice in Gorleston.

“It is the first big donation in the capital campaign to build a new specialist palliative care unit in Gorleston which is something that has been long needed.”

Also during yesterday’s reception, guests were able to look at an exhibition about Mr Watling’s life, and were given a sneak preview of one of the Geoffrey Watling Charity’s latest endeavours – the organisation’s gorilla sculpture which will be part of the Go Go Gorillas! Art trail through Norwich this summer to raise funds for children’s charity Break and the Born Free Foundation.

Article provided by Archant