An amazing year has come to an end! When we moved to Worcester some 25 years ago I never thought I would become Mayor, I never expected to join either St Peter’s Parish Council or Worcester City Council, but all these things did happen. Being Mayor has been a great privilege and an honour, and it has been an absolute delight over these past twelve months to serve our lovely City in this position. Whilst my wife Freda was initially very apprehensive, she has enjoyed it too.
We have been very lucky in serving the City during a year when so many wonderful anniversaries occurred. To name a few, we saw the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, 300years of The Three Choirs Festival, 150th anniversary of the formation of Worcestershire Cricket Club, 150th anniversary of New College, and the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Canal. It has been a year of remarkable events and activities and we have been to some unexpected places and met many dedicated and hard working people. Wherever the Mayor and Mayoress have appeared, there has been a warm and genuine welcome and it has been a privilege to fulfil those roles.
A wonderful welcome was extended to us when we visited our Twin Town, Kleve, in Germany for the Retirement of Bürgermeister Theo Brauer. This warmth was continued throughout the year across our three local counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and of course Worcestershire. I would like to thank all my mayoral colleagues in the three counties for their support at the numerous events we have all attended: a great “Chain Gang“! Thank you.
I must also thank the Worcester News and Worcester Observer for their coverage of the many events. Their photographers were always present snapping away, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions. All the staff from both our newspapers were very supportive and helpful. So thank you to you all too, it was appreciated.
Our last big event was the Worcester Motor Show. What a great day that was; the town centre was not only alive and vibrant with some great cars, particularly the classics and older, but with a vast number of people smiling and thoroughly enjoying the day. There was a great atmosphere and it was during the time I spent walking around talking to visitors and exhibitors when it really came home to me that I was going to miss this very special role, a role I have enjoyed very much.
One last mention and that is of my three mayoral charities: Acorns, Sight Concern and Daisychain. Their support has benn superb and between us all, we have raised £30,000 for these great causes, for which I must thank you – and everyone we have met over the course of the year.
A celebrity came to town to deliver the Civic Society’s Annual Lecture held in the Guildhall, and what a delightful evening it proved to be! Griff Rhys Jones was in Worcester with his wife for the occasion, a charming couple who really made the evening something special. Griff spoke for about an hour or so, without notes, in a most captivating way on the subject of “Our Heritage”. A most timely subject as our City reaches out to become recognised as a Heritage City, in the company of Bath, Chester and Cambridge. Admission was free and around 200 people attended. A raffle was held with some brilliant prizes including an enormous chocolate hamper which I named “death by chocolate”, and during the evening over £700 was raised for the three charities, bringing our total for the Mayoral year to around £30,000.
WODYs, the youth section of the Worcester Operatic & Dramatic Society, held a rehearsal in St Mary’s Hall, Northfield Street, in preparation for their production of Les Miserables at the Swan Theatre from 2nd to 6th August 2016. A cast of 67 eight to eighteen year-olds sung a variety of well loved numbers such as I Dreamed a Dream and One Day More. We stayed for about an hour and a half, but could have easily spent the rest of the day there as the singing was quite breathtaking and with three months still to go, I think it will be an event not to be missed this August. Not only will it be a great show, but the cast will be raising money from the interval raffle for Worcestershire Young Carers too. Freda and I will be going and if you do want to book tickets, the Box Office number is 01905 644427. There’s much more information on their web page at http://www.wodys.com/
An usual service was held in our Cathedral: a “Pet Service”. My first thoughts were centered on the prospect of a number of dogs not getting on too well, or maybe a cat would be the centre of their attention. As it turned out, all the animals, (mainly dogs, but there was one tortoise), were beautifully behaved – not so much as a growl! It was a very nice event and the people were great and just as well behaved as their pets. The most significant thing for me was seeing another example of our Cathedral being managed for the people. This is not always the case, and we should be grateful to the Bishop and the Dean and Chapter for such an open approach.
Two addition plaques were recently “unveiled” noting the locations of Trinity Gate, near the Corn Market, and St Nicholas Gate, (which was also known as Gaol Gate), in St Nicholas Street. I believe originally there were nine gates through which Worcester could be entered back when it was a “walled city”; most have now been identified and plaques erected, thanks to the efforts of the Civic Society and sponsors. I’m very much in favour of these plaques as they help to bring Worcester’s history to life and preserve important locations. They are helping to make Worcester more interesting for our visitors while making us, the people of Worcester, more aware of our city’s past.
The ribbon was cut to open Colmore Tang Construction’s transformation of the former MEB offices on Blackpole Road into luxury apartments, known as Bridgewater House. The £10 million redevelopment by property developer Seven Capital has seen the building revitalised into one and two-bedroom properties, with a penthouse suite at the top of the building. providing residents with scenic views across the city towards the Malvern Hills. Demand for the apartments has been high, with all 75 apartments selling in just two months!
Whiston Court retirement community, off Upper Tything, opened its doors to reveal 37 one and two bedroom apartments, beautifully-designed and finished. But most importantly, it’s a not-for-profit development run by a local charity called the Abbeyfield Worcester Society, which is dedicated to combating loneliness among older people in Worcestershire. Aimed at the over 55s, Whiston Court offers assisted living accommodation for those who want to remain independent. It has the option of on-site support if needed, and it prides itself on its caring community ethos.
Recently I had the pleasure of making a speech from the pulpit. Not being ordained, this was a bit unusual, but the congregation seemed pleased with my few words. The venue was the lovely St Swithun’s Church, which lies rather hidden (just off the High Street and adjoining The Shambles). Built in the 1730s, it is often described as a “Georgian gem in the heart of Worcester” and has changed little since. Owned by the Churches Conservation Trust, they are about to embark on major repair work to make the roof watertight and provide some much needed toilets and heating facilities. I had been invited to see what could be achieved if a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and monies raised locally can be secured. There are some exciting plans which will bring the church back to life, if all goes to plan. I wish them every success.
St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Warndon, (just off Chedworth Drive), which opened in 1966, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a service led by Archbishop Bernard Longley. Fr Paul, who is the Parish Priest, was delighted by the number of people that attended, in fact the school hall was packed to capacity and it was a lovely service. The children were incredibly polite and well behaved and were a credit to both the school and their families.
On a sporty note, it was a pleasure to welcome representatives of the University’s “Champion” Netball and Wheelchair Basket Ball Teams to the Guildhall to celebrate their recent success. They were all great ambassadors of both their sport and our University and they made the occasion a very enjoyable one. I wish them every success in the future.
The Queen’s 90th Birthday was celebrated here in Worcester by the lighting of a beacon on the top of Fort Royal Park. Fortunately it was a dry, albeit chilly evening, but ideal weather to celebrate outdoors. As we lit our beacon we could see the Worcestershire beacon alight on the Malvern Hills. It was a great event with a lovely atmosphere and everyone present enjoyed the event!
I met with Chris Martyn-Smith at the recent Retirement Show held in the Guildhall and was delighted to hear of the initiatives the local company is pursuing in an effort to raise local awareness of dementia.
Chris said that ‘’Eclipse HomeCare wants to help families who want a better understanding of how best to support loved ones living with the onset of dementia. This is a problem that families are increasingly having to deal with and our monthly briefings from one of our clients provide a practical insight in how best individuals can be supported whilst at home’’.
Alzheimers UK estimate that there are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and that this number will rise to 1,000,000 by 2025. This is represents 1 out of every 3 people over the age of 85, so the hard fact is that many families will be touched by dementia at some stage.
The next talk in Worcester is planned for the evening of Tuesday 26th April. For more details please email info@EclipseHomeCare.co.uk