SIMON Edwards, 24, recently took part in a sponsored London to Brighton bike ride and raised more than £200 for the Swindon Gang Show. THE Swindon Gang Show is a variety performance given every 18 months by local Scouts and Guides.

Simon Edwards has been involved since 2005, but he has been involved in Scouting for even longer and is a passionate advocate.

“I started at the age of six with the Second Stratton Beavers,” he said, “and have been in the movement ever since.

“I did Beavers and Cubs with the Second Stratton, Scouting and Explorers in Wroughton, and I’m now a leader at Rodbourne Cubs.”

Simon, who lives in Stratton and works in medical research administration, is also a member of a senior organisation called the Ascalon Network, which is aimed at people aged 18 to 25 who want to continue in Scouting.

“It works alongside being a leader. It’s a bit more - I guess I’d say - free range.

“For me nowadays it’s about giving back what I’ve taken. They say it’s a worldwide family - it is, it really is. As much as anything it’s a huge, huge social group.

“It gets children, young people and adults out, doing things they would not do otherwise through activities, through camps and even through various meetings.

“It takes them away from computer screens, it gives them a different social circle outside school and school work.

“It helps them to become more individual and more confident in themselves. It’s given me a massive, massive circle of friends inside and outside Swindon. It’s given me a lot of confidence and a lot of life experience which I can pass bask to young people as well as reflecting on it myself.

“I never went to any big national or international camps as a participant, but I’ve been to a couple as a leader and it’s unbelievable.”

Simon readily acknowledges the importance of keeping up with technology, but he believes the movement strikes just the right balance between that and more traditional activities.

“Obviously, we’ve been around for 111 years, and we like to retain a lot of our traditions, a lot of the values that Baden-Powell laid down.

“That’s what keeps us different and it’s important not to lose sight of it, but at the same time we are going forward with the times.

“It’s finding the balance between keeping traditions and not just keeping them for tradition’s sake.”

Although a driven person by his own admission, he credits Scouting with helping him achieve his goals.

Simon believes the movement helps keep face-to-face communication skills alive, as well as teaching young people basic skills which are becoming more difficult acquire in an increasingly mechanised world, skills as simply but vital as preparing a meal and washing up afterwards.

According to Simon, the self-reliance and organisational skills fostered by Scouting, together with its emphasis on teamwork, serve him well in many of his other activities, which range from striving for top honours in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme to bell ringing.

He helped to found an organisation called the Lilliputters Guild, a community for younger ringers which has a thriving Facebook presence.

Other qualities he credits Scouting with instilling include confidence and leadership skills, which helped when he first became involved with the Gang Show 13 years ago.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was very shy, not very outgoing. I wanted to do it but needed a push as well. I was never sure with rehearsals to start with but I stuck with it. Being on stage for the opening night was a magical feeling.”