Last Sunday I was very pleased to be invited to a Commemoration Service in Madresfield for the Polish Flying Officer Franciszek (Franek) Surma, who was one of the brave Flying Officers who defended our country against the attacks by German planes in 1940 at the Battle of Britain. It was a special occasion as it is 80 years since these events and in remembering Franek Surma, we also remembered all the brave pilots who were involved in protecting the UK. I was one of several speakers at the event – wreaths were laid and the Last Post was played before a minute’s silence was observed. The story of Franek Surma was uncovered by the local historian Dilip Sarkar and immortalised in his book, The Invisible Thread—A Spitfire’s Tale, and it pays due respect to Franek, one of many Polish pilots who protected our shores.
As I said in a previous blog, sport has never been my strength and so it was with admiration for the daring and skill of the young people present that I opened the refurbished Nathan Spiers Memorial Skate Park in Oldbury Road. This park was created thanks to the fund-raising efforts of his parents in memory of Nathan who tragically died in 2002. It is a fitting memorial as skateboarding was a passion of Nathan’s and the new installations mean that it can be used by young people of all ages. The new notice board I unveiled tells all users about how the park came to be built and Nathan’s love of the sport.
I hope that some of you will come to the Guildhall today to see the Parlour and other parts of the Guildhall which are not always open to the public. It is Heritage Week and many of our beautiful and historic buildings are open to the public to share their beauty and heritage. More about that next week.
One thing I regret from my childhood is never being enthusiastic about sport. I played tennis, hockey and netball in a fashion at school and did the exercises that P.E. expected of me, but it was never with any real enjoyment or success. Time and again I am now reminded that in order to be healthy and look after myself, I should be doing regular exercise.
It was therefore with a certain amount of regret at my wasted youth that I opened the wonderful new tennis courts on Cripplegate park, not forgetting that there are two newly refurbished courts on Gheluvelt park too. The facilities are fabulous with small courts for those young Roger Federers and Serena Williamses. With some free or a very affordable £1.25 a week for family membership, it is very good value for money. Many thanks to the Lawn Tennis Association for their generous funding and to our partners Freedom Leisure for making all this possible.
On Thursday Mark Jackson, the High Sheriff of Worcestershire and I spent four hours walking around and visiting Worcester’s wonderful heritage sites in preparation for Heritage Week which takes place from 11 to 20 September.
We visited the historic Commandery, Cathedral, Guildhall and Tudor House Museum and also called in to the newly re-opened Museum of Royal Worcester (Porcelain). We finished our journey at the Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, which also houses the Worcestershire Regimental museum.
On the way we stopped to see William Shakespeare’s Marriage Bond and other very precious treasures in the strongrooms down in the depths of the Hive. Mark and I had a super time and I would love to tell you more about the things we saw and heard, but lack of space prevents that. However you can see these things for yourself during Heritage Week and discover more about our very special City. Many thanks to Harry our photographer who accompanied us all the way.
My thoughts this week have been with our young people who have been returning to school and college and those who will be going to university within the next few weeks. It is so important that they feel safe and secure in their place of learning, and I would like to thank all the headteachers and staff who have worked hard to ensure that the school environment is ready for the large number of pupils who will be arriving. I hope it goes well for you all and wish you every success for the coming months of study.
I was born in Worcester and have lived here all my life. For some of you this may seem rather unadventurous, but I must say that Worcester is far from a dull place to live. I was very interested to hear from the Battle of Worcester Society members whom I met on Thursday evening about the extent to which Worcester was a very significant place in the English Civil War.
This year is the 369th anniversary of the last battle of the Civil War which was fought here in and around Worcester. I attended the Drumhead Service of Remembrance in Fort Royal Park on the site of the royalist fort, where a plaque is in place to remember the 3,200 soldiers who were killed in that last battle of the Civil War.
I tried to imagine what a terrible event it must have been. Soldiers were killed at the royalist fort and in the streets of the city, where it is said the streets ran red with blood. Those of the royalist army who were captured were imprisoned and often transported to New England, where they became slaves on the plantations.
We observed a minute’s silence in memory of those soldiers. It was an excellent and enthusiastic turnout from a group of people who are determined that this bloody and unhappy period of our history is not forgotten.
On to things more modern tomorrow, when I shall be present for the opening of the newly refurbished tennis courts at Cripplegate Park. Any sport which involves the hitting of a moving ball has never been my forte so stand clear when I take up a racket tomorrow!
Summer seems to be coming to a close and the change in the weather from one day to the next makes planning for anything rather difficult. This year is very different for the City Council and also for me as Mayor, because planning for events and the special civic occasions is tricky with some not happening or if they are being held, it’s in an alternative manner. The Worcester Festival has been taking place over the last fortnight but mostly in a virtually; it will end on this coming Bank Holiday Monday. I hope you have all had a chance to engage in the activities in some way.
A big event for Worcester has always been the University and Heart of Worcestershire College graduations at the Cathedral, but sadly they will not take place this year in their usual format. I want to congratulate all students who would have received their degrees during September and October and say that even though the ceremony did not take place, that does not take away your achievements and success at graduation. Well done and best wishes for success in your chosen career path.
Our children are going back to school next week and although there is still some uncertainty about how this will work in each setting, I am sure you would agree that our young people deserve to return to their schools and make the most of their education.
Finally, October is Black History Month and I urge people to share their photos, memorabilia and experiences of life in Worcester. Get in touch with the Community Engagement team by emailing email@example.com .
The response we get will help us all to appreciate the culture of black lives in Worcester. Through knowledge and understanding we can avoid the dreadful social unrest which has come about in parts of the U.S.A. – most recently in the riots which have engulfed Kenosha, Wisconsin following the shooting of Jacob Blake. We must all take care in our lives, think of our neighbours and stay safe.