Gillingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry | New Faces New Challenges
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New Faces New Challenges

02 May New Faces New Challenges

Roman Catholic Cardinals from all over the world gather in a locked room in the Vatican to choose a new Pope.  Although far fewer members than countries were represented, the diversity and professions represented were extensive as Gillingham Chamber came together at the Town Hall to elect their new Chairman.

Unlike Rome, where they stay entombed till a successor has been chosen, members in Gillingham already had ideas and the election was a routine affair.  A report from outgoing chairman Lucy Milton-Downes from Farnfields Solicitor was read out in her absence as she stayed at home with her new baby.

Lucy had already led the chamber for 3 years, having been asked to stay on after her constituted two-year tenure was up.   Now with a new baby and a move from Gillingham to the Warminster office she was relinquishing her leadership to new hands.  A thank you for all her hard work and commitment to both the Chamber and the town was minuted and will be sent to her in her absence.

The finance report was then delivered, telling us of the costs incurred over the previous year supporting, Skillfest, Victoriana Fayre, Gillingham in Gear amongst the many events.  The Treasurer told how our membership although inevitably losing a few along the way due to retirement, closure or moving away, the recent drive to have all signed up members in time for the listings in Gillingham & Shaftesbury Guide and Gillingham News has been very successful.   With more paid up members at this stage of the year than ever before.

The voting took place and Sharon Cullingford of Cullingford Carpets & Interiors was elected as Chair.  She said “. I am really looking forward to my year as Chairman for the Gillingham Chamber of Commerce, working closely with the businesses and Town Council to encourage new growth and life back into the High Street, the heart of our wonderful Town.”

Sharon will be joined by Rebecca Antil from Farnfields Solicitors who has taken over as Vice-Chair.   Julie Cousins remains secretary and Rob Setchell from The Dorset Chef remains as Treasurer.    Jenny Trim from Jennifer Trim Design and Print has taken the role of Membership Secretary and Fran Hill from Vale Secretarial and Gillingham & Shaftesbury Guide heads the marketing team.    Barry Von Clemens will remain as council liaison and Tom Kingscott from Cullingford and Janet Peagrum from Neal’s Yard Remedies Organics are also on the committee.

The elections over, there was no white smoke but a photo posted on social media to announce the new committee.    Sharon follows a long list of previous chairs dating back as far as the 1930s with Evan B Downs taking the first Chair position. In recent years Lucy from Farnfields, Keith Waring from Lloyds Bank and Richard Cumming from Orchard Park have occupied the seat.  There is an element of Sharon coming home to roost as her family were in business and some have sat on the Chamber committee from the beginning.

Asked about her heritage and current life Sharon replied “my Parents, Grandparents and Great-Parents were all business owners in Gillingham. I am a director of Cullingford Carpets and Interiors, which I run with my husband and brother.  I am married, have four gorgeous children and seven grandchildren under the age of 6 years. As you can imagine life is very busy and super fun.”

Cullingford Carpets and Interiors are situated in Gillingham High Street where Sharon will be at the heart of the town, listening to the issues that affect High Street retailers as well as the wider growing business community.

If you wish to contact the committee, please email them at:

Membership is only £40 per annum and as well as the annual listing as mentioned above your businesses will be promoted throughout the year through our social media programme.   If you would like to join the growing band of successful businesses within Chamber, please go to

“I was always looking for a community, I did not see myself as a priest on my own.  I need a community”  Pope Francis

Promoting your business and raising your profile. #lovegillingham #ourtownyourbusiness