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06 June 2011

Terry Waite opens celebrations for Swanwick Conference Centre's 100th Anniversary

Terry Waite opens celebrations for Swanwick Conference Centre's 100th Anniversary

Terry Waite, former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury was part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of The Hayes Christian conference centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire last week.

Nearly 200 guests joined Waite who has been coming to the Hayes for 50 years.

"There is a very special, homely atmosphere here," he said. "Fabulous new additions - ensuite bedrooms and conference facilities - have taken the venue to a new level without losing that personal touch."

Kidnapped in Beirut in 1987 while negotiating the release of hostages, Terry Waite was held hostage himself for nearly five years before his release in 1991.

The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick was used as a Prisoner of War camp during World War II. In 1940, renowned Franz von Werra and four other German PoWs were held captive at the Hayes and escaped by tunnelling their way out.

The Hayes has been restored to its original purpose as a conference centre and now caters for groups of up to 400 people with bedrooms, meeting rooms, wireless, outdoor and indoor activities, play areas for children, and award winning gardens and grounds.

"Our PoWs may have been unwilling 'guests' but visit any community in the UK and you'll find people who have enjoyed a time of refreshment here," said general manager Brian Cupples. "We have constantly developed to meet the changing needs of our visitors - a key to our success."

Not many can say they've been captured and held hostage during their lives, but almost anyone will say they have grown weary at times with busy days and responsibilities. Thousands of people, including Terry Waite and numerous church members have been able to find a place of solace at the centre.
"Through all the modernisation one thing has remained constant - The Hayes is a place where people meet God and have their lives enriched," said Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.

Adds Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford: "Swanwick has been a place of regular pilgrimage for me since the 1970s," he said. "I've been a learner, a speaker, a participant, an observer and an exhausted recoverer! Always I have found stimulation, friendship and hope - and the facilities have been transformed. It's a century to be proud of."