Last Friday my wife the mayoress Lucy and I were delighted to welcome Jim Duggan and three family members to the Mayor’s Parlour to present him with his long-service award as a city council employee. Jim retired in September 2020 after forty-two years’ service working as an operator, latterly on the refuse collection service. David Blake, Managing Director of Worcester City Council, presented him with some gifts raised through a collection from the council’s staff. It was Jim’s first-ever visit to the Mayor’s Parlour and we discovered both he and the Managing Director shared a passion for motorcycles. As a councillor I take part in many meetings with council officers, but it is those at the sharp end that deliver many of the council services that we all benefit from.
No mayoral engagements were planned for last weekend, but it was good to get to Sixways and support the Warriors who once again narrowly missed out in a close game. It was good to see many familiar faces again as we start to come together after lockdown. The warm bank holiday weather meant many were able to enjoy being out and about, enjoying what our city has to offer.
My diary is now starting to fill up with engagements, and I look forward to meeting more people. This coming Friday I will be attending a recording of BBC Radio Four’s Any Questions in Worcester. This will be my third time at a recording of this iconic radio programme, and maybe I will get a chance to ask a question. On my previous attendances I was due to ask the next question before they ran out of time.
It is an enormous privilege to become Mayor of our great city, especially as 2021 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the Charter that created the role of the mayor an the three hundredth of the Guildhall, one of the most iconic municipal civic buildings in England. When I moved to the city just over thirty years ago, I never dreamt of becoming Mayor -and what a time it is, to become so.
The last fifteen months have not been easy as our lives have been put on hold due to Covid, and not only have loved ones been lost but we have not been able to enjoy the many pleasures that living in Worcester allows. This is why the theme of my mayoral year is ‘coming back together to celebrate our great city’. I hope that as the Covid restrictions are lifted, we can do exactly that.
The day before I became mayor at the Annual Council on 18 May my wife Councillor Lucy Hodgson, who is now the mayoress and a former mayor herself, were delighted to attend the civic banquet of the outgoing mayor Councillor Jo Hodges. I realise how lucky I am, as future events start to become reality – something my predecessor could not do.
On Saturday 22 June I took part in my first engagement as mayor attending the Civic Service for Councillor Kate Haigh the outgoing mayor of Gloucester. It was a privilege to sit in the quire at Gloucester Cathedral and hear the cathedral choir. I look forward to welcoming the Gloucester civic party in July when they come to Worcester for the opening of the Three Choirs Festival.
I have chosen two charities that mean a lot to my wife Councillor Lucy Hodgson and myself; The Stroke Association and ASPIE, a Worcester based charity helping adults with Asperger’s. Lucy had a stroke in March and is now making a good recovery and received support from the Stroke charity who have activities in the city. ASPIE, based in Sansome Walk was founded in 2011 by the late Sarah Micklewright, whose work is proving valuable to adults who felt particularly isolated during Covid lockdown.
This week I was delighted to visit Regency High School, which is in my Warndon ward. The Headteacher, Tania Dorman, welcomed Dave and I to the school to meet with the School Council, who asked some questions about my responsibilities as Mayor and what my year in lockdown had been like. The Head of the Council then took us around the school to show us their marvellous facilities. It was good to see the school in action and meet the wonderful students and staff who make up the community at Regency High. Thank you so much for inviting us to join you. We enjoyed it very much.
It was a week with an international flair to it again. On Wednesday I zoomed with Rolandas Janickas, the Mayor of Ukmerge, our twin town in Lithuania. We were celebrating ten years of twinning and there were 24 of us on the call. The skill and expertise of the Lithuanian interpreter made communication so easy. Many people in Lithuania speak English – but very few here speak Lithuanian. English is such a universal language all over the world, and we are spoilt because so many people speak and understand it. The Lithuanians are a proud people with their own culture and traditions and since the break with the Soviet Union thirty years ago, they have begun to re-establish their own identity. They very much value the twinning relationship with Worcester, as we do with them, and we all agreed that we have much in common with each other in wanting to promote peace and friendship.
This is the last time I will write to you as Mayor. I will miss this weekly review of what I have done, who I have met and what I have seen. Elections have come and gone with some shocks and upsets, cheers and regrets as we move into another municipal year. Soon a new Mayor will be writing and sharing with you their week of events. I must say that I have enjoyed this chance to reflect each week. I’d like to take this final opportunity to wish you all good health and happiness.
Last Saturday was Polish Heritage Day and I was so pleased to join members of the Polish Community in Worcestershire to celebrate the occasion. We were honoured to have the Consul General, Mateusz St siek, join us for the day for the raising of the Polish flag in Cathedral Square and the laying of flowers at the War Memorial. We were all presented with a gift of bread and salt, which is a traditional greeting in Poland.
Later the Consul General and other members of the Worcestershire Polish Association joined me in the Guildhall forecourt for the unveiling of the bust of Polish pilot Franciszek Surma, about whom I have written before in this diary. I also opened the Battle of Britain exhibition which is a panorama about the brave Polish pilots and airmen who came to Britain’s aid in the Battle of Britain in WW2. It was a pleasure and an honour to be part of the celebrations and to meet the visitors who had come for the occasion.
It has been an international week. On Tuesday I had a Zoom meeting with the Mayor and Council in Gouzeaucourt to sign the Twinning Agreement, which was passed at our Council in March. Speeches were made and thanks to the skill and expertise of our translators, we could all understand what was being said. Jacques Richard, the Mayor of Gouzeaucourt and I signed our copies of the agreement at the same time. Then the National Anthems were played and we all drank a toast to friendship and co-operation – and long may our twinning last.
The City Council, County Council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections have taken place this week and by the time you read this some of the results will have been published. The right to cast a vote is a privilege we have in this country which is not shared all over the world – and many have fought long and hard in the past for that privilege. I hope you voted; whether your choice of candidate was elected or not, democracy has been exercised, with the resultant winners and losers.