People often ask me what are the things you most need to be Mayor and I usually say stamina and a sense of humour. I am a very “Green” Mayor as I tend to walk to all my engagements in the City Centre wearing the Chain of Office so I can report two amusing incidents whilst en route to the Tour of Britain last week. One of two workmen sitting on a bench in Broad Street looked up and asked: “You the Mayor?” Yes, I said. “Oh, good on you mate” he replied. On the return, a bloke in Angel Place said : “Nice necklace”. Quick as a flash, I replied “Glad to hear it. It’s worth a few quid.” To which he said : “Yeah, nice one, man”. Those friendly exchanges made my day.
I’ve been to two awards ceremonies in two weeks, this week’s being the superbly well organised Worcester College of Technology Graduation Ceremony in the Cathedral. It was wonderful to be a part of it and to congratulate so many talented young people. Sad that they’re leaving college but exciting to see them take on the challenges and opportunities that await them in the big wide world. And I totally agree with the theme of the address, that people should take risks. If you don’t, you won’t achieve anything. So, carpe diem, in other words go for it.
The military theme of recent weeks continued when I saw a number of military manoeuvres on a visit to the local Army Cadet Training Centre; and the history theme continued on Sunday with the Heritage Open Day when I was “at home” in The Parlour for most of the day showing large numbers of visitors, local and from around the world, around my office and letting them be photographed with the ceremonial regalia, the enormous interest in which continues to amaze me.
One of the week’s many highlights was entertaining Jamie Sherwood (aged 11) and his family to tea in The Parlour whom I invited along after he won an important reading competition in Warndon. And well done to Mr and Mrs Sherwood for bringing up such a polite and positive lad. I’m sure he’ll be a star at his new school, Tudor Grange Academy.
The Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority Award Ceremony was for people who had acted beyond the call of duty. The most touching moment has to go to fire fighter William Doolan, who tried so extremely hard on stage to prevent a massive smile breaking out whilst awaiting the Silver Axe Award. What a pity not every organisation has these ceremonies to appreciate their workforce.
Two charity events reinforce my point about people acting selflessly for others. Congratulations must go to Angie Smith who organised her first-ever Fundraising Day at Archdales Club in Warndon for Cancer Research, raising an incredible £3,000.
The Community Fete on Sunday at Ronkswood Community Centre (thank you Jean Wilson) raised money for New Hope, benefitting children with severe disabilities. I enjoyed being met by Emily the Elephant and although I wanted to have a go on the bouncy castle, I feared it would be too risky for the castle. I spent a delightful evening at St. Mary’s Church in Kempsey at a Charities Working Together event organised by Heather Davies, where we had presentations from The Red Cross, Christian Aid, and Save the Children, much of which was very harrowing.
There is history behind every corner in our City, and I was in the middle of it at the Annual Commemoration Service for the Battle of Worcester in Old St. Martin’s Church, in the Cornmarket. You wouldn’t think such a beautiful building could be squeezed in next to two pubs opposite a car park. But that is Worcester for you.
Opening the refurbished Acorns shop in Mealcheapen was a particular honour as few of us can compare with the incredible work done by these incredible people, such as providing care and support to children so close to death and looking after the family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Acorns relies on voluntary income and the Worcester Hospice costs £7,500 a day – that’s £750 per bed. So, please go in and spend some money.
And what a Wednesday. Starting early morning at The Tour of Britain, I never knew how enjoyable it would be with such excitement oozing from the huge crowd. We must now work hard to ensure Worcester keeps it here as part of the annual calendar.
Later I sat on a Panel involving Starbucks to give grants to young people organising charity fundraising events. They deserved and we awarded the full amounts requested.
A lovely start to the week, with a chat and tea in the Parlour with Naomi Smith (and her Mum) who is writing an article about meeting the Mayor for her school, Nunnery Wood High. I look forward to reading her thoughts and impressions. How refreshing to see a 12 year old asking questions, taking notes, and showing a real interest in her surroundings.
With every day being unique, a large part of Tuesday was taken up by the BBC filming an episode of Father Brown from the Parlour and elsewhere in The Guildhall. Although they just wanted a shot of somebody coming out of the Parlour, it took an hour to do and, five large lorries of equipment and six hours later, the shooting was nearly all over for that day.
For a short while, there was a most amusing interlude when I wanted to return to the Parlour from the second floor, but without being allowed to go through the Main Hall. I thought I was stranded until I was shown an almost secret back route down eerie corridors, past empty offices. Still, an interesting discovery. Anyway, thank you BBC for showing millions of viewers in the near future what a wonderful building we have! If it implies the building may appear a little old fashioned, so much the better, that’s what gives it its character and interest – and why we must preserve it as it is.
On Wednesday I was treated by the Battle of Worcester Society to a Drumhead Service in Fort Royal Park, to mark the anniversary of the battle. This was surely one of the most important battles in British history, as it allowed Cromwell to lay the foundations of the modern British state and we soon then became one of the world’s greatest powers. And remember, the opposing armies were that of King Charles 11 of Scotland and his invading Scottish army, and Cromwell, the Lord General of Great Britain and Ireland. How fortunate we are to have a Society which continues to commemorate this momentous event.
At the same time, I as Mayor never forget the local issues of my constituents in Warndon. The week ended on a high also, with two successes when I managed to help a young family move into more appropriate housing, and also got an area of mass overgrowth behind a number of gardens in Cranham Drive cleared. Both took persistence, so the success was that much sweeter.
For much of my career – as a student, teacher, and M.P. – the real beginning of the year for me has been September rather than January. So now is a good time to look forward, and also back.
Two big events coming up are the new Mayor’s People’s Banquet on October 10, and the Be My Guest project.
I have now finalized a radical revamp of the Mayor’s annual banquet to ensure that, as a People’s Banquet, for the first time a true cross-section of Worcester society will be invited, according to new criteria, recognizing the good work of people who would otherwise never be rewarded for what they do.
The Be My Guest project is an attempt to encourage some interest in civic affairs by inviting schoolchildren and students into the Mayor’s Parlour to have a convivial meeting to talk about historical and current affairs, and have a tour of The Guildhall followed by refreshments.
Looking back, I have attended numerous events to mark the outbreak of the First World War, with still more to come. But apart from rightly honouring our fallen heroes, have we learned the lessons of that tragedy? I fear not.
Even today, this country has now been at war in the Middle East for 11 years. The questions we must answer are: do the horrors of the fighting – the wanton death and destruction – justify the end? Although countries may win the military campaign, do they actually win the war?
I am frequently reminded of this since right outside the Mayor’s Parlour, behind the wooden panels, is a whole wall containing the handwritten Roll of Honour listing those 4,981 Worcester people who served in the First World War, of whom an astonishing 741 were killed.
Let’s make all that worth it and, because life is not a rehearsal, let us think of the consequences before we act or speak.
- 24 September 2014 11:30The Mayor will attend a meeting of the Mayoral Charities
- 24 September 2014 15:00The Mayor will attend a meeting to discuss the flowers for civic events
- 26 September 2014 10:00The Mayor will host a coffee morning in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support
- 26 September 2014 15:00The Mayor will attend a meeting to discuss the catering for civic events