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Humans of Frome Sheila Gore by Ciara Nolan

ON a recent Tuesday morning Sheila popped in for a quick chat.  She had one hour before she had to attend her next appointment. Her next meeting is at Frome College with a group of students, her purpose; to discuss whether or not Frome is becoming gentrified.

She informs me that they had sent a questionnaire over which she could have sent back with simple yes or no answers, but what’s to be gained from that she asks, she’d rather engage more with the students and the issue.  She dons her Mayoral hat for this task, she could just as easily have fetched her IFF councillor’s hat or even the hat she wore as a town trader for two decades.  Sheila, is a well known figure about town and a wearer of many proverbial hats and a rather bling necklace too.

Born and raised in London, Sheila grew up with strong role models – a biochemist mother and a teacher father who imbued their young daughter with a fascination for the sciences and gave her the strength to eke out her own individual path.  Just one of two women in her year group, she graduated as a geologist which led her initially to teaching, a job that she found rewarding apart from the constraints of the schools that she worked in.  Such constraints forced her to look outside of the norms of school life, thus began her long working relationship (over 10 years) with the world famous Natural History Museum in London.

Her career there began at an exciting time, a time which saw the stale exhibit-based gallery experience developing into an altogether more interactive experience.   Bringing the museum to life for its visitors and inspiring the young minds that annually visited in their thousands, was at the forefront of Sheila’s  remit.  She talks of her days at the museum with such fondness that it is hard not to feel her level of enthusiasm and passion for her work and for what she and the teams around her achieved in her time there.    Before departing for pastures new, Sheila was part of the museum staff action to prevent museum entry fees.

Her next career move was to the Department of Education where she worked as press and publicity officer.  In her time there she was given the opportunity to take a few years out to study.   

Following a period of ill health, which conventional medicine had done little to help, she discovered homeopathy.   She studied homeopathy for a couple of years and returned to work at the Department of Education on a 6-month on and 6-month off working arrangement.  With one foot in London and the other in Frome’s Wholefood shop on Cheap Street, Sheila began her homeopathy practice.  Eventually the Wholefood shop was offered to her for sale, and despite never having run a shop before, she of course leaped at the opportunity or ‘jumped off a cliff’ as she says herself.   For over 19 years, Sheila ran the well-loved Frome Wholefood Shop (where, for a number of years she continued to run her homeopathy practice), and where she employed a staff of  wonderful people who she says she couldn’t have done it without.

Life moves in cycles and when one door closes, another door opens (or several as in Sheila’s case).  In 2016, the year that saw Sheila hanging up her shop apron, her political self emerged into public life.  Her inner politician had been stirred and activated by a period of fighting against the proposed building of a giant supermarket on the Saxonvale site in the centre of Frome.  She and the others who lent their voice to that campaign won that battle.  Sheila emerged from her shop years, stepping forth as the town’s Mayor and also as an Independent Town Councilor, both roles demanding that she deals with issues on a wide-reaching spectrum.

Today, Frome College students, yesterday an interview with a South Korean Mayor who is interested in different ways of running politics across the world and having come across Peter MacFadyen’s book ‘Flatpack Democracy’ sent a film crew to interview our town’s Mayor. Tomorrow – who knows? But whatever the future holds, I am sure that Sheila Gore, a woman so invested in this town’s welfare over the decades, and so willing to stand up for what she believes in, is the best woman for the job.