Appeal – High-flying support for Mayor’s charities


A former Basingstoke and Deane Mayoress reached new heights to support the current Mayor’s Charity Appeal

Mrs Penny O’Bee, who served with her husband Robert as Mayor from 1991 to 1992, took to the skies with around-the-world adventurer James Ketchell on a voyage of discovery in his gyrocopter.

The fundraising flight took Mrs O’Bee, aged 79, from Popham Airfield to the Isle of Wight, flying over Alresford, Portsmouth and Southampton water. They were waved off by Mayor Cllr Diane Taylor and her Consort Dr Andy Taylor and landed on the island where James treated her to lunch.

Mrs O’Bee bid £300 for the flight at a charity evening with James in March. She loves flying and has previously flown in a microlight over Victoria Falls in Africa, taken a small plane trip on safari in Kenya, ridden in a Chinook helicopter from RAF Odiham and taken a couple of gliding experiences. Her most hair-raising adventure was a youth hostelling parachuting course where she stepped out from a plane at 2,000 feet. This was her first time in a gyrocopter.

She said: “This experience was so positive, beautiful and it was fun having a go at keeping the gyrocopter on course.

“It was all enhanced by a very caring and skilled pilot whose enjoyment was contagious. Not often these days I get taken out to lunch by a young man with a somewhat spectacular arrival.

“I support the Mayor’s Charity Appeal whenever I feel in sympathy with the causes. I remember my husband’s fundraising efforts for the Basingstoke YMCA hostel when he was Mayor.”

James added: “Penny had so much enthusiasm and energy – she wanted to go higher and faster and was a very good co-pilot.

“She is an extremely interesting and impressive lady and I enjoyed hearing about her past experiences and how she has helped others during her time overseas.”

AppealMrs O’Bee helped raise £1,408 during An Evening with James Ketchell, supporting last year’s Mayoral charities of HeartSmart, Real Change Not Loose Change and Besom in Basingstoke. A second gyrocopter flight auction bid raised another £300 by Mr Roger Hick who took his flight prior to lockdown.

Cllr Taylor said: “We were very grateful to James for giving these two flights to support the Mayor’s Charity Appeal and delighted that Mrs O’Bee and Mr Hick enjoyed the experience.

“My second year as Mayor has been quite different due to the coronavirus lockdown. I think it will be more of a struggle to raise funds for this year’s chosen charities – Sebastian’s Action Trust and St John Ambulance – as so many events have been cancelled or postponed, but I hope that residents and local organisations and businesses will support them when possible.”

Basingstoke-born James, a former pupil of the Costello School, flew over 37,000 kilometres around the world in his gyrocopter last year. The mission was to inspire a million young people around the world to pursue their dreams.

In 2010, James rowed single-handed across the Atlantic Ocean, battling freak storms and running out of food. In 2011, he reached the summit of Mount Everest but developed a lung infection on his descent.

Then in 2012, James cycled 18,000 miles solo through 20 different countries and visiting schools around the world to inspire young people to pursue their dreams. He is now planning to ski across the Ice Cap in Greenland next year.
To find out more about the Mayor and her current charities, please visit


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