I took a break from my mayoral functions over the August Bank Holiday weekend and my wife and I enjoyed a relaxing cruise around the Scottish islands.
As soon as we returned, we were straight into mayoral duties with a visit to the home of the High Sheriff of Worcestershire Mr Richard Amphlett, just outside Tenbury Wells. It was a glorious late summer evening and many prominent people around the county were in attendance. This year’s High Sheriff’s fund is supporting mental health charities in Worcestershire. Any donations would be very welcome – you can make one online at www.justgiving.com/campaign/high-sheriff-Worcestershire
In the evening I was fully robed up to process to Fort Royal Hill, via the Commandery, for the Drumhead service organised by the Battle of Worcester Society. This year is the 370th anniversary of the Civil War Battle that did so much to define our nation’s history.
On Saturday morning I had two mayoral functions. The first, at the Guildhall, was a charity showcase organised by Worcester Rotary Club. I was met by club president Paul Denham, who is a former mayor of Worcester and spoke to many of the local charity representatives who were there. Afterwards the mayoress and I went to Pitchcroft to see the end of “Families on Track” – a new Worcester City Run event developed by marathon record breaker Paula Ratcliffe, who we met afterwards. Fifty-five families took part, and I was able to present prizes to some of the winners.
In the evening the mayoress and I attended the Battle of Worcester Society’s Anniversary Dinner in the Guildhall, which featured a speech from the Rt Hon Nigel Evans MP, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, on William Lenthall, who was Speaker at the time of the English Civil War. I would like to thank Richard Shaw, Chairman of The Battle of Worcester Society for the invitations to both this and Friday’s Drumhead service.
My final role, on a busy weekend, was to start the Worcester City Run Half Marathon and other events including the 10K and Junior race. All the weekend’s outdoor activities were gifted with wonderful weather, and it is good to see people once again enjoying everything that Worcester has to offer.
Mayoral Column – written by Cllr Adrian Gregson, Deputy Mayor of Worcester
The vagaries of the weather meant that it was down to me as Deputy Mayor to open the postponed first Worcester Mela in 30 years – a mini Mela outside the Guildhall serving as a taster for a full-blown community event planned for next year.
Judging by the crowd and interest it should be great. Mela Festival is a colourful expression of South Asian heritage and tradition and fun. With music and dancing Bollywood-style, it has taken all week for my back to recover (see the video!) Well done to the volunteers who brought this together, and good luck for next year’s event.
The Inland Waterways Association celebrated its 75th anniversary with a flotilla of barges on the canal at Perdiswell and it was a real pleasure to open the event on Saturday. The canal network is amazing across the country and in Worcester it is a really important part of the walking and cycling network, heritage and visitor economy. It’s a key element in our Masterplan and is one of the elements to receive support from the Towns Fund. As with the Mela, this Waterways weekend – and indeed much of the work on keeping canals clean and safe – was run almost exclusively by volunteers.
And that theme continued at Worcester City FC where I was able to present the Under 8s side with their national trophy, won earlier in the Summer. What a fantastic achievement for the kids and their parents and the volunteers who run and coach them – as well as WCFC as a whole. There is so much going on at Claines Lane now City are back. As can be seen from Monday’s result on the pitch they need our support; the organisation of youth, women, veterans and First Team all rely on that volunteer army as well.
This whole week has shown me close up just how committed people in the city are to their various causes and interests and how prepared they are to give time and effort to help others. Really inspiring.
The rain last Saturday meant the Mini-Mela Festival representing South Asian culture was sadly cancelled, but instead it will be held today with the Deputy Mayor, Adrian Gregson in attendance. As a result I had the Saturday off so in the afternoon went to the Worcester Rugby Football Club ground at Weston Fields on Offerton Lane, to join their 150th Anniversary Celebration Day. It was good to see many familiar faces and I watched an entertaining match between the Legends and Rugby for Heroes. Rugby plays an important role in the sporting fabric of our city and without Worcester RFC there wouldn’t be the Worcester Warriors – who play at the top level of the professional game.
On Sunday I made a surprise visit to Vann Vogstad’s home where his three daughters opened a lemonade stall which raised £36 for the “Race for Life” cancer charity. I was able to show then my mayoral chain, let them try it on and give them “I’ve met the Mayor of Worcester” badges. This was a fantastic effort and like the previous week when I was able to welcome Max Surridge and his parents to the Parlour for Tea as a thank you for his support to the Community in St Peter’s, shows what great young people we have in our city.
On Thursday evening I visited the Undercroft at the Cathedral to open the Confetti Exhibition by Jess Pritchard, a wildlife artist and creator of this work of art. Jess was inspired to draw large scale petals to emphasise how something small can have such a large and positive impact. Each petal is named after a different personality trait each of us may have. Accompanying these is a series of short films playing on a loop, illustrating the meaning behind each petal drawing.
This was my first opportunity to visit the Undercroft (although I walked past it in the Cloisters whilst it was under construction); it makes a superb exhibition space. Whilst I was there the Mayoress and I also had a go at the colouring station which has been set up for both children and adults.
Summer has arrived, and last weekend Worcester was able enjoy two popular events that are huge part of the city’s summer calendar.
On Saturday morning I had the honour of opening the Worcester Festival, which runs until August Bank Holiday Monday. The event is in its nineteenth year and features 711 events across 57 venues, with most of these events being free. Chris Jaeger and his team have done a fantastic job organising this. I was thrilled to see the mascot Percy the Peacock on the High Street, joining in with the Worcester Ukulele club outside the Guildhall.
Sunday was also the anniversary of VJ Day. I made a speech on behalf of the city which was released on video to mark the seventy-sixth anniversary of that event, and to remember the horrors of a war in which around 75 million people died. This can be viewed on Worcester City Council’s YouTube channel.
In the afternoon I had the pleasure of opening the Worcester Show, which has moved from its traditional home in Gheluvelt Park to Pitchcroft. The show included live bands, fairground-style attractions, a have-a-go sports zone and local food and drink. There were two marquees where judging of over 130 competitive creative classes was held, and later I did the honours by handing out the prizes. There was also a dog competition which Monty, our long-haired miniature dachshund took part in. The highly popular event attracted an estimated crowd of up to twenty thousand.
My final engagement this week was a visit to the Latimer Court care home off Newtown Road. Covid has not been an easy time for the care homes sector, and it was good to be able to meet the manager Lisa Riddle and her staff, along with some of the residents, for afternoon tea. Rachel Brady, the Activities Coordinator, told the mayoress and I how much she was looking forward to organising more activities and taking residents out in the minibus now the worst of the Covid pandemic was behind us.