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Exeter CAB through the ages… who knows what the next 65 years will hold?

So that’s it. A year’s worth of research, countless meetings in Exeter CAB‘s training room and A LOT of laughs has resulted in 104 books, 100 DVDs, a blog, an exhibition, a Historypin site and a page on Exeter CAB’s main website. (The day after our celebratory launch event, there were also four very hungover volunteers [us] but the less said about that the better!)

Through this unique, enlightening and fun project, made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we’ve been able to tell the amazing story of Exeter Citizens Advice Bureau. Thank you to Devon Records Office, Westcountry Studies Library, David Cornforth’s informative website and everyone who gave up their time to help with our research.

Special thanks to the staff and volunteers, past and present, who have worked tirelessly for Exeter Citizens Advice Bureau to make it such a well-respected and valued organisation.

Here’s to the next 65 years!

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We’ve loved pretty much every minute of this project, as you can see from our beaming faces!

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Exhibition Evening

First and foremost, a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who came to our Launch Evening at Exeter CVS. It was a fantastic night; we had a brilliant turn-out (about 65 people, appropriately) and the much-anticipated pork-pie platter went down a treat. It was great to be able to share all the work and research we’ve been doing over the past year and was especially lovely to be reunited with many of our interviewees.

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Peggy (Exeter CAB adviser), Karen (Team Leader) and Bex

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Over 60 people came to our Exhibition Evening – here they are, enraptured by Steve’s speech!

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The Book(s) – Sue is now the Queen of Indesign

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Our displays, including material for our Heritage Lottery Fund digital record

We set up the smaller room as a ‘cinema’ and projected the 15-minute Exeter CAB 65 film on a loop. We even had popcorn (thanks to Sue’s brainwave in the early hours of that morning!)

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As far as we know, no-one fell asleep whilst watching the film… That’s what we call a success

Special thanks to Sue’s friend, Helen, who managed to take lots of photos, and organise all the displays, food and drinks (as well as organising Sue and I who, as usual, were faffing around with velcro, projectors, popcorn and various other things…) Thank you to Dennis Mardon (Chair of Trustees) and Steve (Director) for their speeches. Last, but by no means least, thanks very much to Liz at CVS for all her help, patience and technical expertise (if anyone ever need a 2-room venue in Exeter for an evening function we highly recommend going to Exeter CVS!)

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Read The Book…

If you’re a history geek or book-worm like us, you’ve come to the right place. Click on the link below to read The Book (uploaded as a PDF – it’s 52 pages so may take a couple of minutes to download). Happy reading…

Our City Charity: A History of Exeter Citizens Advice Bureau

The front cover of the Book

The front cover of The Book using CAB colours, of course!

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Watch The Film…

This 15-minute film tells the story of Exeter Citizens Advice Bureau through the voices of its volunteers, paid staff, and most importantly, its clients.

Since Exeter CAB was set up in 1947, it’s received over half a million enquiries.

This video been produced by Bex Devaraj and Suzanne McQueenie, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s All Our Stories programme.

Finally, special thanks to all the staff and volunteers, past and present, who have worked tirelessly for Exeter Citizens Advice Bureau, to make it such a well-respected and valued organisation.

For more information about the bureau, please visit

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HURRAH! The film is finished! The book has been sent to press! The exhibition boards need a few more tweaks and then they will be scaled up to A2 size and printed!

Re: the Big ‘Launch’. The date has been set; the venue decided; the invitations sent out. Now, the most important decision needs to be made: what are we going to do about catering? Home-made or shop-bought sandwiches? Sparkling water or sparkling wine (I think we all know the answer to that!)? Is it too clichéd to have sausage rolls, party rings and cheese-and-pineapple-on-sticks (perhaps, but who cares?)

P1070608 - Version 2After a year of research, emails, hard-work, meeting lovely people, confusion, set backs, creative bursts and lots of laughs, we’ve done it. We have actually produced a 52-page book, 15-minute film and eight exhibition boards.

As Sue said on the phone yesterday, ‘I’m glad we’ve finally produced something now; I was a bit worried at one stage that everyone thought we were just having a laugh and not actually doing any work!’

I feel really proud/slightly amazed that together we’ve compiled 7-decades worth of ‘stuff’ into, hopefully, a professional-looking, interesting book and an informative and engaging film.

I (Bex) was primarily responsible for the film, while Sue took on The Book. Sue went from a total ‘Indesign Novice’ to nothing short of an ‘Indesign Genius’ in about a week and I hope it’s not too strange or patronising to say, but I’m so proud that she designed a whole book (which also looks great and fits really well with all the other CAB branding).


Apologies if this post is a bit self-congratulatory, but there were moments I thought we’d still be doing this project by the time Exeter CAB reached it’s 100th anniversary (hey, Sue, there’s a thought… we could reunite and I will push your wheelchair for you…)

Finally, it would be fantastic if as many people as wanted/were able came along to our Exhibition Evening on Wednesday 30th October at Wat Tyler House in Exeter. If you would like to join us and help celebrate 65 years of Exeter CAB, please email Sue at

We look forward to seeing you there!

P.S. If you can’t wait until then, you can watch the film in the post below… Please let us know what you think – any feedback would be very much appreciated! Thank you.

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Yesterday and Today

then and now cab questionsWe’ve been busy compiling lists of questions asked by Exeter CAB clients over the bureau’s 65-year history. From queries documented in the very first annual report (published in April 1948), to enquires the bureau received as recently as last week.

We were surprised that so many questions asked in recent years bore such a striking resemblance to the past.

Have a look at this and see what you think…

P.S. Please click on the table to enlarge it.

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We’re Halfway There

We are now well past the halfway mark in our project and it feels like a good time to look at what we’ve achieved and how much we still have to do.

The path our project has taken has changed as it has developed. Very conscious that the grant from the Heritage Lottery is from its ‘All Our Stories’ programme, we knew we had to use people’s memories and experiences. But what became apparent after  lots of media appeals, poster campaigns and workshops were a couple of things: The types of problems people discussed with the CAB were very personal and often painful for them to revisit and there was also a very straightforward problem of them not being able to remember very well.

But what we did encounter was an enormous amount of goodwill towards the charity and dozens of former members of staff and volunteers who were able to tell us all about the CAB’s history.

This picture is from the front cover of a book, "The Story of the Citizens Advice Bureaux", which Sue found online. The book was written by Margaret E. Brasnett, to commemorate the CAB's Silver Anniversary in 1964.

This picture is from the front cover of a book, “The Story of the Citizens Advice Bureaux”, which Sue found online. The book was written by Margaret E. Brasnett, to commemorate the national CAB’s Silver Anniversary in 1964.

We went back to the Lottery and explained our dilemma. They agreed that the project’s new path was as worthy and suitable and we set about recording interviews with people who had been involved in the organisation since the 1960s – and they had some great stories to tell.

CAB 65 IVEES - July 2013

From L-R (clockwise): Robert, Muriel and Gerda

All the time we were conscious that we would love to get perhaps one or two people who had been helped. And thanks to our on-going relationship with St Sidwell’s Centre, where we held a couple of workshops, we found Muriel.

Muriel is the most amazing lady. She is 93 and attends the centre regularly. She had experienced quite a lot of hardship in her life, but she was willing to talk to us on camera and she told us about when she first visited the CAB in the early 1950s for help with childcare for her young daughter.

We want to say thanks to Muriel, she looked beautiful on camera and gave us a lovely open and honest interview. We both came away feeling really moved that she took the time to help us and be so open with us.

So now we are planning our exhibition, more details to come of this, we’ve started writing the book and Bex is starting to pull together all the interviews she has recorded. We hope to create something of quality which will record and reflect the work of the CAB in the city since 1947 and also look to the future of this important charity.

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A photo of current Exeter CAB staff and volunteers, taken on a training day in June 2013.

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