Read an excerpt from Eve’s latest newsletter, following her tracks across Morocco’s Atlas Mountain foothills to discover ancient Berber weaving techniques. Morocco, October 2016
Evette Huntley Branson—mother of Richard, Vanessa, and Lindy and wife of the dashing ex-Cavalry officer Ted—is a force of nature. As a young woman longing for adventure, Eve disguised herself as a boy to take glider lessons, enlisted in the WRENS to help with the war effort, and appeared as an actress and dancer in racy West End Theatre productions (much to the dismay of her grandfather!). At age 24, Eve left her toe shoes behind and embarked on a series of harrowing adventures as an air hostess (dubbed ‘Star Girl’) on the ill-fated British South American Airways. After two of the airline’s small fleet, consisting of bombers and military transports retired from recent combat, disappeared in the Caribbean (helping to create the mystery of the ‘Bermuda Triangle’), the handsome Major Edward Branson lured Eve from the skies to safety—and marriage.
While raising a family, running a property business, serving as a probation officer and MP, and advocating for child welfare, Eve managed to find time for her writing and her beloved golf and tennis, never losing sight of her famous son’s business ventures and highly publicised attempts to break world records in ballooning, sailing, and the like; her two daughters’ arts and business careers; and the exciting exploits of her 11 grandchildren. Eve is the author of travel articles, novels, and children’s books and a lifelong active advocate for child welfare.
She is also founder and director of the not-for-profit Eve Branson Foundation that provides training and income-producing projects to local communities in Morocco. Eve is a devoted and tireless social entrepreneur whose philanthropic journey all began when son Richard was attempting to fly a hot air balloon from Morocco to France. Whilst Richard prepared the balloon for the voyage and patiently waited for the right wind conditions, Eve journeyed into the beautiful foothills of Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains.
Here, she stumbled upon Kasbah Tamadot, an exquisite property with breathtaking views and rooms filled with precious antiquities. Eve fell immediately in love with the place. Meanwhile, Richard’s hot air balloon had been carried off by strong winds, leaving him (temporarily) to abandon his mission. Eve decided she could still make the trip fruitful and convinced her son to buy the property so that others could experience the magic for themselves.
Richard agreed on the condition that his mother would help the local Berber people living in Kasbah’s surrounding villages. Unwavering, Eve grasped the challenge with both hands and her heart. The Eve Branson Foundation was born.
Eve’s first thought was how to encourage community involvement and ownership: “The girls will gradually help the village themselves – but we need to help them first”. A hike followed across the riverbank to the neighbouring village of Tansghart where Eve, undeterred by comments that “people would throw stones at you”, was soon sipping mint tea with local girl Fatima Imni and teaching her some knitting skills with the needles and wool that Eve carried in her bag.
Tansghart was the first crafthouse established to train teenage girls who had dropped out of school. Many projects have since followed and today, skills-training programmes and healthcare initiatives continue to improve living standards for the young people of the region.
“When I first arrived in Morocco over ten years ago, I was fascinated to find the remote communities of the High Atlas Mountains still living as they had done for hundreds of years – girls finishing school at the age of 13 with little or no hope of a future outside of marriage, if it came their way.
With no scholastic achievements of my own, it dawned on me that I could in fact teach skills and creativity as I had learnt myself, from which they could perhaps find a livelihood – and in turn, the deep satisfaction that comes from having an occupation to enjoy and feel proud of. It’s quite wonderful to come across an opportunity to help others.” Eve Branson, Founder.