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From the Archive: The start of the Jack Petchey Foundation

From the Archive: The start of the Jack Petchey Foundation

As part of the 25th birthday celebrations of the Jack Petchey Foundation, the Foundation are creating an archive of all things Sir Jack Petchey! This includes photographs, diaries, publications, certificates, and many more relating to his businesses, the charity, and Sir Jack’s personal life. My name is Katy, and I am the archivist with the fascinating job of delving into the life of Sir Jack Petchey.

On the first of every month throughout 2024 I will be offering a glimpse into that archive through a series of blogs. I’ll be picking out some of the key artefacts that tell the story of Sir Jack and the Foundation. Join us for that journey as we discuss the second item!


Photo of Andrew Billington letter

For our second month, we are looking at the beginnings of the Jack Petchey Foundation with a letter from Sir Jack first sharing his thoughts for an organisation and/or scheme to help young people in East London and West Essex. Ideas included setting up a Children’s/Youth Respite Hospice, or widening the Jack Petchey Achievement Award Scheme.

Context of the Object

Now you may not have known this, but the Jack Petchey Achievement Award Scheme existed before the Foundation was formed. When looking at Sir Jack’s appointment diaries, you can see that he attended an Achievement Award award presentations prior to the charity forming in 1999. In the letter above, you can see where the Jack Petchey Foundation really began to take shape, expanding from those early Achievement Award events.

Sir Jack knew that he wanted to help more young people in London and Essex, but he also knew that he would need help from someone with experience ­– and passion – in this area. This was the moment Andrew Billington became involved. Andrew, at the time, was Chief Executive of a charity called Winged Fellowship. The charity provided holidays and respite care for people with disabilities, and Sir Jack Petchey was already kindly supporting this work through donations. As you can see in the letter above, Sir Jack approached Andrew, and this is where the Foundation really began.

Andrew Billington became the Director of the Foundation, working alongside Sir Jack. Andrew was heavily involved in the Foundation events, presenting lots of awards throughout his years. In fact, at one time when the photographs were printed from a Foundation presentation, Sir Jack left Andrew a little note to “Think a Smile” when the photographer is near! For those that don’t know, ‘Think a Smile’ was a quote Sir Jack held close to his heart – it was even engraved onto the original Jack Petchey Foundation medal!

Relevance to the Foundation

Picture of Sir Jack Petchey at the Jack Petchey 1998 event.

Just one year after Sir Jack addressed Andrew Billington with the idea, the Foundation was registered in August 1999, and officially established on 1st September. Sir Jack credits Andrew for his input into the success of the Foundation. Writing in 50/50 Man, his biography, he said: “The Foundation may never have grown into what it is today nor have been as successful” without Andrew.

As mentioned in the letter, Sir Jack wanted to focus on helping “the Youth”. It was agreed that the Foundation would benefit young people aged between 11-25, initially focusing on East London and West Essex. But this letter and the start-up of the Foundation was just the beginning!

Over the coming years, the Foundation and it’s geographical area grew to include all London boroughs and the whole of Essex. It is the perfect example of ‘if you think you can, you can’.

Do you want to keep up with the latest Jack Petchey Foundation 25th birthday news? Sign up for our Jack Petchey Foundation newsletter to receive the latest news and updates on the 25th anniversary celebrations, stories, exciting events, and more!


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