If there was ever a competition to be crowned 'Mrs Carterton', Sue James would be a tough candidate to beat.

The 53-year-old has certainly left her mark on the town, whether through teaching thousands of secondary school children, running the annual pantomime, or setting up the fledgling festival Carterton Celebrates.

When you throw in four decades of fundraising for the charity Save the Children, you realise just how hectic her life must be.

Mrs James does none of it for personal gain, but received recognition for her charity work in the Queen's Birthday Honours this year, in the form of a British Empire Medal.

Typically, she refuses to take all the plaudits herself.

She said: "It's a huge honour. I was blown over.

"I feel it's for volunteers everywhere who give their time for charities, groups and sports clubs.

"The work Save the Children do is so amazing and I have such confidence in how they help people."

Read also: Carterton street named after showman

Selflessness is a theme when it comes to Mrs James, who is about as Carterton born and bred as they come.

Her father, Reg, was evacuated to the town during the Second World War and remains there to this day, happily married to wife Joan.

They brought up Mrs James and her siblings, Nick and Denise, and as a teenager the former attended Carterton Community College, the secondary school where she now teaches.

Mrs James and husband Colin, 56, have three children - Kayleigh, Christopher and Caitlin, who are 29, 28 and 13 respectively.

She has lived in different places in the town, but, other than living in Twickenham while she attended university, has never set up home beyond Carterton's borders.

“I’ve always liked Carterton - at school, a lot of my friends couldn’t wait to move away, but I liked the people," she explained.

"It’s a real strength of the place."

Read also: Pupils draw their town for Carterton Celebrates

Unlike many towns, Mrs James insists Carterton's centre has barely changed in the time she has lived there.

But this changes towards the outskirts of Carterton. Several residential developments have been built in recent years, with 2,680 homes planned for the area in West Oxfordshire's Local Plan, which sets out how to build almost 16,000 houses in the district by 2031.

Mrs James said: “The town has grown massively. I used to call it a village, but it’s definitely a town now.

“But the centre needs to grow with the number of houses popping up."

The lifelong Carterton resident set her sights on becoming a teacher aged five and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) after graduating from Strawberry Hill University - now St Mary's - in London.

Read also: Witney milkshake shop opens in Carterton

She admits city life 'wasn't for me' and returned to Oxfordshire, teaching for a year in Faringdon and then for another 12 months in Chipping Norton.

By this time, Mrs James had married Colin, an ex-RAF serviceman, and it was only a matter of time before she took a job at the community college.

Although the school has just 600 pupils, Mrs James estimates she has taught thousands of children in more than two decades.

She said: "In a school that size, you know everybody. I get parents telling me I taught them when they were younger and I'm now teaching their kids, which is scary."

Originally, Mrs James was employed full-time, teaching maths and some drama, but now works two days each week.

Read also: Carterton Leisure Centre to be completed in November

This is to the benefit of all the other organisations she is involved in, primarily Save the Children.

Mrs James first joined the Carterton & Witney branch aged just 14 and gradually got to know the other volunteers, adding: "It became my charity and it just stayed with me."

Then, the branch was just a few years old, but has now raised £1.4m across more than four decades.

Mrs James cannot estimate how much she herself has contributed in that time, but as the current chair of the branch, she is responsible for organising its activities.

Save the Children's primary money-spinner in West Oxfordshire is the annual May Day fair and car boot sale, which this year celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Attractions include a dog show, funfair rides and scarecrow trail - it takes some serious planning.

Mrs James and the rest of the branch's eight-strong committee start planning the event in January, but the chair revealed residents do what they can to help out.

"The book sale is so popular that people leave them on my doorstep. I can now fill my garage just with books," she said.

One of Mrs James's fellow committee members is her daughter Kayleigh, who also co-organises Carterton Celebrates.

Read also: Carterton woman named Ms Water 2019

The 29-year-old shares the same willingness to work for the community and inadvertently caused another of her mother's commitments.

Mrs James also runs amateur dramatics group the Acting Community Thingumybogs, which was born out of simple beginnings.

She explained: "The thingumybogs started because Kayleigh wanted to be a fairy when she was three. So I wrote her a pantomime.

"We put on Cinderella and everyone enjoyed it so much they wanted to do another one, so it became an annual thing."

The pantomime is now in its 27th year, with all profits going to Save the Children.

Although preparing for the Christmas show takes up much of the winter months, the not-for-profit group also holds a spring production and summer workshops.

Mrs James's youngest daughter, Caitlin, is a long-serving pantomime performer and even joined the committee aged three, as the group did not want an 'unlucky' 13 members organising shows.

It means all three women in the family have helped run initiatives in the town, with Carterton Celebrates the latest project.

This year's festival has just ended, after nine days of taster sessions, workshops and more to showcase everything residents have to offer.

The amount of activity during the event belies the fact that it is just two years old, with Mrs James and her daughter only running the first edition last year.

At the time, she said: “We got a leaflet through our door for the Burford festival and we thought 'if they can do it, why can’t we?'

“Carterton gets a lot of negative press and we’re not seen as a cute Cotswold village, but it’s an amazing place and has always had fabulous things that we need to get out there."

The 2019 edition began with a carnival and ended with an open mic night at the Grapes and Tomatoes bar, but there was plenty in between.

Alongside the one-off events were a treasure trail and 'Capture Carterton' photography competition running throughout the festival.

Mrs James said: "It has been well supported. People are already thinking what to do next year.

"It's a lovely place to live and there's a lot of really positive things going on, but we don't always shout about them."

Planning for Carterton Celebrates starts in January, meaning the James household is full of bits and bobs a year round.

It can be difficult to keep up with her busy life, but Mrs James revealed her husband is there every step of the way.

She said: "My husband is fabulous and supports me in absolutely everything I do.

"When the house is filled with pantomime costumes and scarecrows for May Day he puts up with it - I don't know anyone else that would."