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Author: Adrian Gregson

Mayor’s Diary June 18 – June 25

Mayor’s Diary June 18 – June 25

When I agreed to sing with the Ukelele Band on Saturday, raising funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK, I didn’t mean my choice of song to impact on the weather. That was a great shame as the all-day event to mark the centenary of Gheluvelt Park was pretty much rained off at lunchtime!

In the morning the Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, veterans, VIPs and the regimental ram braved the rain for a short service. We were very pleased to have Lady Lucy French with us as well, who is the great granddaughter of Sir John French who had been in command of British Forces at the start of the First World War. He was awarded Freeman of the City and opened the Park in June 1922.

As it was intended back then, Gheluvelt Park serves as a memorial and also a living green space in the heart of the community. Just a shame about the rain.

The military theme was updated with the raising of the Armed Forces Day flag on Monday, a brief ceremony attended by a number of veterans and public. On that day we remember not just those who have died but those still serving, and very importantly, their friends, families and the communities around them.

And taking of the local community I was really pleased to see so many old friends, work colleagues, representatives of local groups and organisations that contribute so much to the City, and mayors from around Worcestershire and beyond, at the annual Civic Service.

I can claim some credit for the choice of music, but not for its excellent presentation or delivery. Thanks also to the Cathedral authorities, especially the Dean whose sermon touched a number of significant issues for the city. As this is the Civic Service, for the whole council and not just its mayor, thanks are also due to the handful of councillors who were able to attend. I will be self-indulgent however,and thank the staff of the Bellingham care home that brought my Dad to visit for the day from Lancashire.

 

Mayor’s Week: June 11 – June 18

Mayor’s Week: June 11 – June 18

One of my charities, Severn Arts, has bookended my week with events on the west side of the river. The highlight has to be hundreds of primary school children from across the county coming together in the Arena for the Big Sing – a singing workshop culminating weeks of learning songs at schools to an audience of “very important stern-faced people”. Great to see young people inspired to work together through music and song.

The Jubilee party at Christopher Whitehead’s on Saturday was also full of music, choirs, ukeleles, bongo drums, ice cream and a bit of “Kaos”. The wind proved a challenge for the plastic hats and please don’t ask me to count a band in on time again! Fun for all in the community, young and old.

Talking of old, for anyone of my age or more, the 1980s was an interesting period of political change in UK society and we marked the 40th Anniversary of one of the more significant events, the war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, last week. A short commemorative service at the Guildhall was attended by representatives of the Armed Services and included not only at least one veteran of the war but also some residents from the Islands who were visiting Worcester.

Finally, if anyone sat outside the Exchange in the Cornmarket on Sunday night wondered what was going on, let me tell you! Old St Martin’s Church was having its new communal garden dedicated along with the gates to the churchyard. OSM is 250 years old this year, one of many Georgian church rebuilding projects, and had lottery funding to help revive and re-establish green space at the back. This area is one of great historical significance and the church once ran a parish as far east as Spetchley, beyond what was then the City Wall and the St Martin’s Gate, roughly where the car park is now. Church attendance may not be everybody’s thing these days but St Martins is open to the whole community and this area of the city has long welcomed traders, migrants, musicians, travellers and revellers. And still does.

 

Mayor’s Week: June 5 – June 11

Mayor’s Week: June 5 – June 11

To be honest, it was a great weekend for Worcester. Not only the number and variety of jubilee teas, but also the general buzz around the place. We hosted a lunch in the Guildhall for people nominated by local community groups, who had gone over and beyond what could be expected during the Covid crisis and it went really well, and then followed it up with a few neighbours still braving the clouds!

The Elgar Festival is now getting a regular footing in the city – Elgar’s birthday coincides with the Jubilee date of June 2 – and was well supported with fantastic performances by local and invited musicians. Huge talent and great music over a range of genres.

But bringing it home in these anxious times, I was pleased to accept, on behalf of the city, the grateful thanks of a Ukrainian refugee who talked to us at the Cathedral door on Saturday night. His story is moving and relevant but despite his tribulations he made a real effort to meet me and to attend the concert.

Things moved at a gentler pace during the week. Digging a sod on Broomhall Way at the start of the new housing development, one of the urban extensions agreed as part of the South Worcestershire Development Plan. Not without its controversy but we know we need affordable housing.

I also called in to see a community arts project in an empty shop provided by Crowngate – the Community Living Room. Organised by Crave Arts, the project gave space to people to talk and write about their own home life, good and – more often than not, not so good. It was a really interesting event aimed at drawing out the importance of a secure home through poetry and art, and tackling the anxieties, and worse, that some people have to deal with in their domestic life. Right on the money as far as my theme of the year goes, in tackling mental health and wellbeing through engagement with arts, heritage and culture.

 

Mayor’s Week May 29 – June 4

Mayor’s Week May 29 – June 4

I still think in terms of school holidays (probably because both my parents were teachers) but this ‘Not Bank Holiday Monday’ had me discombobulated. I was one of 700 guests at the Lord Lieutenant’s Jubilee Garden Party. The rain pretty much held off for the two hours.  Most people had a greater right to be there than me – local community service workers recognised for their commitment during the pandemic.

Similar people are at my chosen charity, OnSide and it was great to meet the team at their open day. Working with anxiety, social prescribing, loneliness, dementia and wellbeing, this group are providing essential care, support and advocacy in these uncertain times. Well done Kate, Mo, Viv, Susanne, Alan, Adrian and everyone else.

On Wednesday I called in at Worcester’s trademark Royal Porcelain Museum which is showcasing its historic royal designs alongside Platinum Jubilee plates designed by schoolchildren from Stanley Road. The museum has had further funding to take its pop-up museum to people in the community who would not normally get into the Severn Street attraction.

On Thursday evening, Edward Elgar’s birthday, I was on Fort Royal Hill to launch the Jubilee celebrations in the city. Around 1,000 people came up to watch me light the beacon. It was amazing to see so many old and familiar faces. Many had made an evening of it, with camping chairs, wine and quiche. Others had wandered up as it got darker. They came from across the city, and also internationally. I met at least three groups of American visitors who reminded me, as an historian, of the great irony of lighting a Jubilee Beacon for HM The Queen, on the ground where liberty was fought for and the two US Presidents stood to recognise one of Worcester’s other great trademarks, the English Civil Wars.

It has been a rewarding week full of links with the past but celebrated in highly modern fashion, marking 70 years of great social, economic, cultural and political upheaval across the Commonwealth and the world. Seventy years of service by one woman who has also changed but who remains, for many, a symbol of stability.