Attending the Christmas Memorial Service by the Friends of Astwood Cemetery was a very appropriate and comforting event, giving us time to reflect on the lives of those who are no longer with us – especially for those for whom this will be the first Christmas when one of their loved ones will be absent.
During this season of pantos and carol services, I enjoyed the RGS and King’s School concerts in the Cathedral – the dimming of the lights at the latter was very effective. I so enjoyed the Flippin’ Freezin’ panto at Tudor Grange that, as a thank you, I invited the student who played The Mayor in the show and some others of the cast to tea in The Parlour, in costume if they preferred!
And, of course, charity events continued apace with the Age UK Coffee Morning in the Cathedral run by University students; and how privileged I was to meet so many people at the Worcester Royal Hospital Volunteers ‘Thank You’ event, with carols sung by the Sing 4 Breath Choir. The volunteers give so much of their time, doing an invaluable job looking after the patients.
But the ordinary life of Council work goes on regardless. I opened the Annual Landlords Forum in The Guildhall this week – particularly important as private sector rented housing now makes up an incredible 34% of the total stock.
Launching Deaf Direct’s Access Denied event in St. Peter’s Baptist Church reminded us of the rapid growth of hearing loss and the difficulties and even discrimination that many deaf or hard-of-hearing people face in their daily lives.
The following meeting between officials from the U.S. Embassy and local business people and decision-makers was a good opportunity for us to strengthen our tourist and investment links with our overseas friends.
Hosting the Mayor’s Charity Christmas Concert in The Guildhall and listening to a rare mix of carols and readings, brilliantly performed by the Elgar Chorale, provides me with the opportunity and pleasure to thank Malcolm Macleod, the choir and narrators for continuing with this wonderful Christmas tradition.
I was proud to open the new Angel Place Market, as it certainly needed a good makeover. We now have a mix of new and traditional traders with a wide-range of products, and the speciality cheese and pie stalls have raised it to the level of a continental-style market. This location can now take its rightful place at the very heart of City Centre shopping.
The Christmas season got firmly underway with the RGS Schools’ Christmas Concerts at the school and Cathedral. The Reception/Nursery class production brought a lot of “aahs” from the audience – and me.
It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the members of the Feelgood Ladies Group during their visit to the Parlour. As I always say, being young is not about age but outlook and attitude, and those ladies were certainly young at heart. Even the children don’t try to make off with the Mayor’s Chain!
Opening the Daisychain Benevolent Fund Christmas Tree Festival was a pleasure – and a triumph that I managed to flick the right switch to turn all the lights on. The box was full of switches so, if I got it wrong, I would have plunged the Cathedral into darkness! Hence a mixture of delight and relief. But selecting the Mayor’s Choice of Best Tree was extremely difficult because there was such a wide range and every single one was the result of much careful hard work. Nonetheless, after a number of inspections around the cloisters, and mindful that Christmas is a time for children, Pitmaston Primary School won the prize but, really, every tree was a winner.
And talking of children, “Aladdin The Panto” at Worcester Arts Workshop by Allsorts, a new children’s theatre school for the community, was pure entertainment – (and the best nachos from the cafe I’ve ever had.) Well done Stuart Inglis and the whole production team. We must all continue to support this important venue for Worcester arts.
Holding a bucket outside The Guildhall to raise funds for the Rotary Club’s Christmas Parcels is a great tradition, and I stayed there right until I could no longer feel my feet and had to go and thaw out!
Enjoying a performance of Handel’s Messiah by Worcester Festival Choral Society in The Cathedral was a fitting end to a wonderful Christmas week.
Opening the Victorian Christmas Fayre was pure enjoyment, and although my mounting of the horse on the carousel after the formal opening was, I suspect, less than elegant, that only added to the moment of fun. My walkabout visiting the stalls on Saturday afternoon confirmed that this year’s event was the biggest and best so far. That people were here from Yorkshire, Essex and Lancashire, to name but a few, shows why it must now be the nation’s number one Christmas market – up from second place. But why can’t this wonderful spirit of happiness last beyond Christmas?
I’d like to say a very big thank you to Tommy Wilson for your most generous donation to the Mayor’s Charities, for the benefit of those in need and who are less fortunate than others.
The Be My Guest programme offering a tour, tea, and chat in The Parlour for schoolchildren is blooming with the latest visitors from Hollymount, Perrywood, Perdiswell, Pitmaston, St. Josephs, and Blessed Edward Oldcorne schools. Many of the children’s drawings depicting what they liked best about the visits are displayed in The Guildhall foyer. They’re absolutely delightful, so do come in and have a look. There’s even one of me which actually makes me look thin!
Recognising the international dimension of the Mayor’s role, I hosted a reception for the Mayor of Ukmerge in Lithuania, with which Worcester is associated; and I attended the Ushakov Medal Ceremony with the Russian consul to reward those heroes who manned the wartime Arctic convoys.
Supporting charity fundraising took me to the Friends of the Museum of Royal Worcester Annual Dinner where, sitting amongst the former factory’s ware over the centuries, I kept wondering how the company could have closed. But the museum lives on and you can get some special Christmas presents in the superb gift shop.
I was most impressed by the first Graduation Ceremony of the Worcestershire Children’s University, whereby children graduate if they gain the necessary points for doing extra-curricular work. I have agreed that The Guildhall will become the first (and only) validation centre for Worcestershire.
My first Christmas Lunch was hosted by The Friends of KGV – Thanks to Biddy and Mal Furlong, the organisers.
The Take Pride volunteers’ Thank You event at The Guildhall saw many people receive awards for the work they do for others in the community – testament to the nature of our City. Allan Barnett, Chair of the Friends of Gheluvelt Park, was singled out for particular praise.
Separately, the Lions Club of Worcester, who also give so much of their time fundraising for worthy causes, did me the highest honour by making me an Honorary Lion at their 45th Charter Dinner.
Most of Friday was spent in the Cathedral participating in our University’s Graduation ceremonies, watching so many students about to take on the challenges of the real and often hostile big wide world out there.
Hosting an Open Day in the Guildhall Parlour for the 150th Anniversary of the Mayoral Chain demonstrated another aspect of my open-door policy – reaching out to people to interest them in the work of the Mayoralty. Both adults and children enjoyed trying on the Chain and getting a photo. The Chain’s fame lies in its uniqueness of being solid gold.
It was a pleasure to open the Kids Run Free running event at Cob House Fisheries. Worcester is its 15th location and is designed to create fun by awakening children’s enthusiasm for sport and outdoor activities. Even though I was sinking into the mud in the pouring rain, the kids loved it! How refreshing to see children not glued to some mobile phone with plugs stuck in their ears gawping at a computer screen.
During lunch with Mr Sardar Sadiq, the Speaker of the Pakistani National Assembly, I told him that Benazir Bhutto, the murdered former Prime Minister, was an Oxford University friend of mine. Mr Sadiq accepted my invitation to pay an official visit to see more of the City, and he graciously reciprocated. Thank you Councillor Allah Ditta for organising the event at short notice.
Having attended the Installation of the new Archdeacon of Worcester in the Cathedral and then welcoming the Reverend Julie-Ann Watson as Team Rector at St Barnabas, it was heartening to see that the ecclesiastical life of the City is flourishing.
Finally, hosting tea in The Parlour is always a pleasure – this week for Ruth and Barry Dixon; and Julie, Adrian and Holly Tidberough.