There hasn’t been much time to sit down and reflect on my hectic whirl as mayor – but I did a bit of it this week, when I was permitted to sit in the actual chair that countless thousands of patients were strapped in and operated on at Worcester Infirmary, for the best part of 200 years. I can’t imagine what was going through their minds at the time, but I can say what was going through mine! What a boost to tourism we could have if a medical history trail could be created taking in The George Marshall Medical Museum at Newtown, the old Infirmary in Silver Street and the newer one in Castle Street. Watch this space!
Twinning: now there’s another issue that Worcester excels at – and meeting the Twinning Association to hear plans for up-coming events proved illuminating. Can you name all of Worcester’s twin towns? Allow me… Kleve, Le Vésinet, Ukmerge, Worcester (Mass), Vernon and Gouzeaucourt, every one of which the city is proud to be associated with.
I’ve always taken an interest in Worcester Wheels, one of my mayoral charities, and it was a real pleasure to unveil another addition to its fleet this week.
Then on Friday it was best behaviour for lunch with Worcester’s permanent judge Robert Juckes and the Chairman of the Bench for the swearing-in of six new magistrates. I proved rather less buttoned-up at Worcester Arena later that day, when Worcester Wolves gave London Lions a right old seeing-to. Nor was I especially quiet and sedate at the Rotary Club’s Harvest Supper and Barn Dance at Hollymount School – it was only the weight of the chain that kept slowing me down, honest!
An extra- special week in all, made even more hectic by celebrating 15 years’ success for Chris Partington’s Zebra Architects; starting the charity walk for the Oscar Appeal; attending the Hop Festival in the Hop Market; attending the Droitwich Civic Service; and going to the 101st birthday party of KGV Playing Fields volunteer, Biddy Furlong. Whew…would someone please find me a chair?
Most weeks I look over the past seven days to decide what’s been the highlight. This week I didn’t bother….they were ALL highlights!
Mid-week a most pleasant duty, handing over well-deserved National Citizen Service certificates to around 200 children. Their tales fill me with admiration.
The Mayor’s Parlour twice became animated with foreign students this week: 26 Spanish estudiantes hosted by Tudor Grange, and then a few days later 20 more étudiants from Lille: did you spot how fluent je suis becoming in picking up bits of different languages there?
What’s to say about the City of Worcester Sports awards presentation at the Arena last Thursday? In addition to Steve Cram and the BBC’s Dan Pallett as Master of Ceremonies, everyone there was a VIP – none less so than the sponsors who made it all happen.
The weekend proved all-go: six events back-to-back, each of which would have qualified as the highlight in any ‘normal’ week: Guildhall Heritage Day; the crowds queueing to see the Guildhall give up some of its secrets (hectic); Footlights Stage School Open Day; being wowed by Tudor Grange Academy youngsters’ song-and-dance (brilliant, utterly); Pershore Charity Brass Band Concert in the company of civic dignitaries from all around (sparkling).
Bright and early the next day, I fired the starting gun for the 4,000 runners taking part in Air Products’ Worcester City Run (dazzling, as was the weather). It was my loss that I had to miss the end, but it was all in a good cause – the unveiling of the Midlands Air Ambulance cardiac car (fantastic, not least as it will be stationed at Worcester to provide the fastest possible treatment for cardiac arrest victims). And in the evening, the installation of the Reverend Dr Stephen Edwards as residentiary Canon at the cathedral (moving, intensely so).
‘Touched’ best sums-up my reaction to meeting the parents of tragic student Tom Jones who drowned in the river exactly a year ago this week. On Monday the Royal Life Saving Society installed new emergency equipment – a crucial addition to the riverside.
As Mayor, every event is special and every week is memorable: it’s just that some events are more special than others, and some weeks more memorable. This one just happens to have been blessed with both…
‘Community engagement’ is one of those terms beloved by Council workers but is often misunderstood by everyone else. It means public involvement in decision-making and there’s going to be more of it in weeks to come! Promise – watch this space.
The spotlight fell on the two aspects of education on Friday: in the morning, the Heart of Worcestershire College graduation ceremony in the Cathedral – some business stars of the future there, I don’t doubt.
Later that same day came an extra-special, extra-memorable event – the opening of Worcester’s first new primary school in a generation. North Worcester Primary Academy is on the site of the former Park & Ride bus depot in Perdiswell and has been needed because of a particularly high demand for school places in the north of the city. As a result of this new opening, 60 reception pupils and up to 26 pre-school children are now assured of the best possible start in their educational journeys.
This same all-action day was capped by the H&W Fire and Rescue Service medals and awards ceremony. It’s sometimes too easy to overlook the exceptional talents, skills and bravery of this organisation and I was humbled in honouring several who’d demonstrated willingness to put others before themselves.
‘Spectacular’: now that’s about the only word I can conjure-up to describe Stourport-on-Severn’s Carnival and River Parade on Saturday… twelve hours of non-stop, full-on, colourful action that left me full of admiration for its organisers. Oh yes, and quite exhausted!
As a Muslim, I personally have not the slightest quibble about attending Christian church services, many of which I find moving and intensely uplifting: Wychavon District’s Civic Service in St Andrew’s Church at Hampton on Sunday proving no exception.
Finally, something we mayors all hold dear: the presentation of awards to worthy charitable causes – on this occasion, the Lions Club. The evening was an exercise in how to do things right!
Several times this week the thought has crossed my mind: ‘what a brilliant idea: now why didn’t I think of that?”
The first was on Friday when it was my pleasure to open The Kiln, a collaborative business hub initiative aimed at freelancers and business start-ups in what was the former City Police Station in Copenhagen Street. Basing your enterprise in one of the old cells is now no longer a bar – ooops, no pun intended… oh, I don’t know though – to business success. A grand idea.
The second was attending Shedfest at the Arena. Now, while I’m in favour of every man having his own shed for his personal me-space and blokey haven, this has nothing to do with garden furniture. Men’s Sheds (https://menssheds.org.uk/) is a nationwide organisation committed to bringing men together to combat loneliness and isolation, using regular social interactions to learn new and improved skills through active participation in activities they enjoy. I hear the organisation is growing by as many as nine new ‘Sheds’ a year. Impressed? Very. So much so that I’m going to be pushing to get one set up in Worcester. Another grand idea that I wish I’d thought-up first.
Of course, September 3rd is a special date in the city’s calendar marking the anniversary of the Battle of Worcester – this year, the 368th – and the annual Drumhead Ceremony with a colourful march from the Guildhall to the Commandery is a pageant to behold. That it coincided with the announcement of some important Civil War ‘finds’ at Powick and that the main sites of the battle are for the most part in the ward I represent, gave this year’s event extra poignance, while underlining the importance of maintaining our colourful history for generations to come. Pageantry is something Worcester does very well and I hope will long continue to do so.
The day had been marked with some sadness though: a 4.00 am call to say that a remarkable lady had died. This was Saeed Begum, who lived in my ward. She was 109.