holiday forum

what it's all about


A place and a time for spiritual adventure, discovering what following Jesus means for us today!


Fun,games and competitions are a huge and important part of Holiday Forum – after all, it’s a holiday!


Holiday Forum is the place to arrive as a stranger, make friends, and leave as part of a new family!

Flip the boxes to discover the story

1. The first holiday forum

The years after the war were an immense challenge to the Church as the whole country set about trying to discover how to create a new sense of community. Youth work flourished and the fellowship conferences began to take shape. The Congregational Union went a stage further, recognising that many young men and women had lost their ‘youthful years’ and with them the opportunities for learning about the fellowship across the whole nation that held any denomination together. So began the Forum, initially the Congregational Forum, a holiday conference for church members. From July 28 th to August 4 th 1950 the first Forum was held with some two hundred and fifty members attending. Chaired by Leslie Cook with Bible Study led by John Marsh and music under the leadership of Eric Routley the history of Forum was off to a flying start. With the theme ‘Freedom and Fellowship in Christ’ the participants came from every part of the country.

2. "Don't forget your ration books!"

The Hayes at Swanwick was selected as the most central and appropriate place for the meeting and it has remained so ever since. In 1950 a special relief train ran from St Pancras to the long since lost Butterley station (it had been specially opened for Forum! One of the rooms at the Hayes still recalls the name). Members were invited to walk across the fields to the conference centre. They were reminded to bring Bibles and Congregational Praise, towels, soap and shoe cleaning materials, Tennis Racquets and balls, the programme and especially not to forget their ration books. The telephone number was then simply Ripley 438.

3. forum becomes a family event

By 1960 Forum was described as the most significant fact in church life over the last twenty years and its esteem was shown by the fact that the chairman of the Union was the Host of Forum. Amazingly the programme has changed little though the nature has when it was decided to allow children to attend with their parents. So Forum became a family event and in 1972 the family grew to include the Presbyterians and we became the United Reformed Church Forum.  For the next twenty years Forum continued to provide a wonderful sense of fellowship for those who came.

4. financial crisis and a new model

Numbers began to fall and financially it was no longer able to have sole use of the rapidly expanding facilities of the Hayes. The Forum of 1993 was a financial flop and the Mission Council decided to cease running it. Shocked by the loss of this unique event in the life of the church a group of the regular members clubbed together and in faith took over the responsibility for Forum. The Hayes were very supportive for Forum had become part of their ‘family’ and between us we set the ball rolling again, sharing the site and managing a very tight budget. Members came from all over the country to help organise the event and very few of them ever claimed any expenses. The work for the week was shared by those attending and costs were slashed. That is the model that has pertained ever since.