As Mayor, every event is special and every week is memorable: it’s just that some events are more special than others, and some weeks more memorable. This one just happens to have been blessed with both…
‘Community engagement’ is one of those terms beloved by Council workers but is often misunderstood by everyone else. It means public involvement in decision-making and there’s going to be more of it in weeks to come! Promise – watch this space.
The spotlight fell on the two aspects of education on Friday: in the morning, the Heart of Worcestershire College graduation ceremony in the Cathedral – some business stars of the future there, I don’t doubt.
Later that same day came an extra-special, extra-memorable event – the opening of Worcester’s first new primary school in a generation. North Worcester Primary Academy is on the site of the former Park & Ride bus depot in Perdiswell and has been needed because of a particularly high demand for school places in the north of the city. As a result of this new opening, 60 reception pupils and up to 26 pre-school children are now assured of the best possible start in their educational journeys.
This same all-action day was capped by the H&W Fire and Rescue Service medals and awards ceremony. It’s sometimes too easy to overlook the exceptional talents, skills and bravery of this organisation and I was humbled in honouring several who’d demonstrated willingness to put others before themselves.
‘Spectacular’: now that’s about the only word I can conjure-up to describe Stourport-on-Severn’s Carnival and River Parade on Saturday… twelve hours of non-stop, full-on, colourful action that left me full of admiration for its organisers. Oh yes, and quite exhausted!
As a Muslim, I personally have not the slightest quibble about attending Christian church services, many of which I find moving and intensely uplifting: Wychavon District’s Civic Service in St Andrew’s Church at Hampton on Sunday proving no exception.
Finally, something we mayors all hold dear: the presentation of awards to worthy charitable causes – on this occasion, the Lions Club. The evening was an exercise in how to do things right!
Several times this week the thought has crossed my mind: ‘what a brilliant idea: now why didn’t I think of that?”
The first was on Friday when it was my pleasure to open The Kiln, a collaborative business hub initiative aimed at freelancers and business start-ups in what was the former City Police Station in Copenhagen Street. Basing your enterprise in one of the old cells is now no longer a bar – ooops, no pun intended… oh, I don’t know though – to business success. A grand idea.
The second was attending Shedfest at the Arena. Now, while I’m in favour of every man having his own shed for his personal me-space and blokey haven, this has nothing to do with garden furniture. Men’s Sheds (https://menssheds.org.uk/) is a nationwide organisation committed to bringing men together to combat loneliness and isolation, using regular social interactions to learn new and improved skills through active participation in activities they enjoy. I hear the organisation is growing by as many as nine new ‘Sheds’ a year. Impressed? Very. So much so that I’m going to be pushing to get one set up in Worcester. Another grand idea that I wish I’d thought-up first.
Of course, September 3rd is a special date in the city’s calendar marking the anniversary of the Battle of Worcester – this year, the 368th – and the annual Drumhead Ceremony with a colourful march from the Guildhall to the Commandery is a pageant to behold. That it coincided with the announcement of some important Civil War ‘finds’ at Powick and that the main sites of the battle are for the most part in the ward I represent, gave this year’s event extra poignance, while underlining the importance of maintaining our colourful history for generations to come. Pageantry is something Worcester does very well and I hope will long continue to do so.
The day had been marked with some sadness though: a 4.00 am call to say that a remarkable lady had died. This was Saeed Begum, who lived in my ward. She was 109.
Alongside the glitz and ceremony of being Worcester’s 792nd mayor, I’m still a ward councillor and a troublesome issue for residents of Warmstry Court in Quay Street accounted for some well-spent time mid-week – hopefully with a good result!
And talking of results… to notch-up 150 years of priceless service to the community and still have a particular relevance in the 21st century is a brilliant achievement. This remarkable milestone was reached by the YMCA in Worcester, whose celebrations I was delighted to be a part of on Thursday.
Acknowledging – and where possible, rewarding – local talent is never less than a welcome duty. The trouble is, with so much of it around, where to start? This dilemma was brought home to me in dramatic terms during the first ever all-action Arts and Performance weekend in The Courtyard of Worcester Royal Porcelain. All credit to organisers Chris Oxlade-Arnott and Rebecca Farrow. I’ve now added thoughts for a permanent arts talent showcase to my wish-list of things to follow up on in the future.
Sunday was a very special day: the Eid celebrations, marking the end of Ramadhan, the fasting season. Families from across the city had catered for some 1500 Asian and non-Asian guests at an event I hosted – and the response did not disappoint. Sadly, some tragic events have overtaken us all of late: the son of a much-loved family with Worcester connections was killed in an accident just the night before – and to their credit, many had felt it their duty to journey north to pay their respects.
A minute’s silence was thus duly observed for the grieving family, as well as for two more noted personalities whose days have recently come to an end: King’s School headmaster Matthew Armstrong, aged 48, and one of the nicest men I ever met, ever-smiling Guildhall attendant Len Carless at the age of 93.
This week I also had a fruitful meeting with Rukia Hussain, Manager of the local Asda, regarding more charitable fund-raising activities. It has been a week of mixed emotions, to say the least.
A touching moment to start the week: the much delayed presentation of WWII medals – including the Legion D’honneur – to RASC veteran Lance-Corporal Colin Palmer who was at the D-Day landings and the liberation of Belsen, and was a motorcycle messenger throughout the European campaign. I say ‘much-delayed’: Colin is now 98 so that gives a clue as to how long – and all credit to Age UK’s Veterans Service which did tireless work to make the event happen. I was proud to be there.
I’m also pleased that Harriet Winestock, manager of the local Aldi has pledged support for my local charities: my target this year? £100,000.
There was more ‘looking back’ the next day, with the official opening of the Studios at the Old Infirmary. Such a pleasure to see a building with so much history brought back to life and converted to residential use.
With ‘cricket’ taking over from ‘Brexit’ as the nation’s prime talking point at the moment, it was a rare pleasure to be invited to a celebratory lunch at the Arena, organised by the University. This was as an opportunity to meet the captains of the five national teams competing in the Physical Disability T20 Cricket World Series. August has seen England, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh battle it out, and I hear that India went on to beat England in the final.
I’ve never made any secret of my close association with the Rotary Club of Worcester and all its good – no, I’ll re-phrase that, great – works, which made the weekend’s Charity Showcase at the Guildhall all the more personal. This was an opportunity for all the city’s lesser known charities to promote themselves, and a grand job they did too. I was similarly delighted to present cheques of £1,000 a piece to Worcester’s Snoezelen and West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, proceeds from the street collections at the recent Carnival.
Finally, I’ve self-diagnosed myself with a new ailment – weddingitis. I’ve been to more than thirty this year alone and three more are taking pace this week – one in Kent. Think I need a rest!