‘Tis the season to be joyful – and why wouldn’t I be when my days are filled with meeting wonderful Worcestershire people all doing wonderful things at this wonderful time of the year? Just to give one example – it’s as good as impossible to put into words the honour of being asked to dig the first footings for a new scheme of 70 self-contained independent living units for the elderly at Whittington.
The next day, I had the absolute joy of watching toddlers from the King’s St Alban’s pre-prep school perform their nativity, while the official opening of the Christmas Tree Festival showcasing 89 charities’ trees in the Cathedral just filled me with so much admiration for every single group represented.
Small Business Saturday gave me the opportunity to visit five local firms that the City Council has helped to start-up, while being asked to choose one of dozens of worthy works from the Worcestershire Society of Artists at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum proved well-nigh impossible. Cinderella at the Medway Community Centre was a sheer delight and I have to admit that the words to describe the perfection of Worcester Male Voice Choir’s concert in Pershore Abbey simply don’t exist.
Of course, the season inevitably involves a hectic round of carol services. The Freemasons’ Grand Master service, BBC Hereford and Worcester’s Celebration of Christmas concert, County Council Chairman Peter Tomlinson’s Christmas Carol Concert, the Worcester Scouts’ and the University’s annual carol services were all worthy of the highest accolades. There was not a moment in any of these house-full events that was less than enchanting.
Sandwiched-in between this whirlwind of a calendar were even more events, including the Crossroads Caring for Carers Christmas Charity Event. The talent on show for the final of RGS’s Star Search at the Grange proved a serious eye-opener, while the Mayor of Stourport’s Pre-Christmas Charity Dinner quite made my week. Phew!
It proved to be jingle all the way when I was joined by the mayors and civic heads of the surrounding districts – collectively, nicknamed ‘the chain gang’ – for the opening of the 27th Victorian Fayre. Sadly, my power over those that control the weather is direly limited. But despite the really dreadful conditions my heart was warmed more than I can say by the amount of Worcester souls who still braved the elements and turned out for what’s never less than the most shining highlight in the city’s winter calendar and the official signal that Christmas has begun. So long as Worcester folk continue to show such spirit and support, the Faithful City will never have cause for concern, so my thanks to all.
A further gladdening prospect was the number of traders who continue to set-up their stalls here year after year. I even had the opportunity to chat to one who was at the first Fayre and has not missed one since. That came as I had the pleasure and delight of judging the Best Victorian Dress and Best Stall competition. Judging is based on the combination of Christmas spirit and Victorian dress and while every stall offered plenty of one or the other, the winners were those who fully entered into the spirit of things by demonstrating both. My congratulations to them.
Entering no less into the Christmas spirit, the Victorian Fayre Fringe that I attended in the Hopmarket continues to grow at a rate of knots – and long may that pleasing trend continue, too.
Another feature that makes the Victorian Fayre so super-special is the welcome presence of the official representatives of our twin towns, Le Vésinet, Ukmerge and Kleve – all of whom remained here to attend the Twinning Association Christmas dinner. I so hope that Brexit won’t detract from the enduring friendship we enjoy with our very special European ‘twins’ and that the pairing notion will continue to flourish.
All in all, an enchanting week, commendably – and most impressively – topped by the RGS Year 1 and 2 Christmas performance. Wonderful.
Well… a week that began well, ended well and had lots of good news in between!
The Best of Worcester Awards showcase the awesome talent of our schoolchildren – it’s a terrific event for the city and a start on the mountainous task of deciding who, among the thousands eminently eligible, is to be included in the running for the winners’ prizes next April. It was a privilege to be a part.
It’s a rare event that gets me toe-tappin’ and hands clappin’ but my, what a brilliant performance the Worcester Musical Theatre Company put on at The Swan Theatre on Friday. ‘Celebrate the Season’ sensationally recaptured my 50s, 60s and 70s youth. Own-up time: I was left buzzing for hours and hours, long after it had finished!
Another day, another delightful dose of music. Worcester Festival Choral Society’s Mozart’s Requiem in the Cathedral on Saturday was so poignant and moving that I, the Bishop and the Dean all broke with tradition by standing up and applauding, the entire audience following suit.
The RBS wreath-laying memorial service at Astwood marking the debt we owe to Commonwealth servicemen proved as moving as ever on Sunday. Later on the same day it was my pleasure to journey to Birmingham for an update with the owners of TV stations serving 168 Asian countries, which are airing Worcester’s pioneering moves to provide for needy children.
The scourge of seagulls besieging Worcester has been a controversial issue for as long as I can remember and, like it or not, action of some kind really needs to be taken. A fruitful meeting to finalise exactly what we could do accounted for much of Wednesday afternoon. I was happy to leave my consort, my daughter Parveen, to discuss Britannia Square Residents’ Association’s particular concerns about gulls in the city – of which, more on both in due course. The inaugural lecture by UoW Professor Tracey Williamson on the impact of dementia on carers, and an illuminating briefing into the work of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association at Dancox House, completed a week of action.
Well, with Bonfire Night over and done with, it looks like we’re on the steady rundown to Christmas – and already plans are having to be hastily re-jigged. Due to unforeseen circumstances, on Friday the Elgar Chorale was obliged to put back its annual Christmas Charity Concert to December 18. A minor setback but even so, a spectacular evening remains in store, as ever.
If there’s one task I particularly welcome, it’s the opening of new ventures in Worcester, and Saturday saw just that – hairdressers The House of Glew in the Trinity: no ribbons to be cut, but my hair was. And a very neat trim it was too!
Watching fashion models parading on the catwalk may not be everyone’s idea of a fun-day Sunday, but when it’s for charity – as was Bromsgrove mayor Cllr Rod Laight’s marathon event, the sum-total raised for Primrose Hospice nudging £6,000 – I consider the time exceptionally well-spent.
It was a case of best behaviour in the company of heavy-duty VIPS for the rest of the week: Monday, alongside the Bishop, Dr. John Inge at the Palace to welcome Martin Gorick, the new Bishop of Dudley, and later that evening with the University’s highest execs, heads of academic schools and new graduates for the Graduation Dinner at the Arena. If anyone knows how to put on a grand show, it’s the University of Worcester. I was most impressed.
And so, to a memorable end to a memorable week. In town for the university’s glittering Graduation week, the establishment’s founding Chancellor and Queen’s cousin HRH Duke of Gloucester is always a welcome visitor and this week proved no exception. We met during my first mayoral term in 2004 when his genuine interest in all the university’s activities and achievements was already clear to see and all these years on, he remains as committed as ever. The same can also be said of his wife Birgitte, HRH the Duchess of Gloucester, in the city to mark Leukaemia Care’s 50th year of working with the blood cancer community, meeting beneficiaries and fund-raisers. Deeply honoured.