It was great to see the students in their gowns up and down the High Street this week, to and from the Cathedral for their graduations, celebrating their academic achievements with the support of their families. I know that covid safety has been at the forefront of the University’s planning, as it has been for all of us, in meetings, watching the football and the T20s, going to work, or just sitting (sometimes) in the sun. Hopefully a few more weeks will assuage the disappointment of the Summer Solstice being a damp squib, weather and covid-wise!
On Tuesday I had the opportunity to stand in for the Mayor, with the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, at the raising of the Armed Forces flag, marking the start of Armed Forces week. I was joined by representatives from the British Legion, 214 Battery, Cadets, Stepway Charity and the Mercia Regiment. A small crowd watched the ceremony outside the Guildhall, and afterwards we were photo-bombed by a couple of students for their graduation pictures! The cadets got a bit more than they bargained for!
Following on from Tuesday’s event, Wednesday this week marked United Nations Public Service Day. Maybe this can be more obviously marked in the future, considering our experiences over the last year.
I am looking forward to covering for the Mayor again on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Worcestershire Motor Club. The Greenleaves Centenary Classic Tour event will cover 100 miles of county lanes, with a ceremonial waving off of these classic cars from the Guildhall. The Club has its origins in Worcester’s engineering companies and competes at various trials and rallies. I am especially looking out for one of those escorts my mum and dad had, which probably brought me on my first trip to Worcester back in the 70s.
On Monday I had a meeting with Margaret Jones, Grants and Fundraising Manager for the Friends of Fort Royal School. Back in 2019 the school was successful in securing National Lottery funding for an innovative new IT project.
The school is working alongside Collar & Tie – a company specialising in creative learning and technology. The company is developing an App that will help the pupils to explore places of interest around the city including the Hive, Worcester Cathedral, the Riverside and canal basin, Fort Royal Hill, and the Guildhall. Collar & Tie’s Max Dean explained how the App will work. It is a cross between an interactive audio-visual guide you would find at a visitor attraction, and the Pokémon Go game. The Guildhall element will include a narrative given by me, all dressed up in my mayoral robes.
One of my roles as a city councillor is to be a council nominee on outside bodies; I have been on the Committee of Worcester Arts Council for a few years now. We were finally able to meet in person at Perdiswell Young People’s Centre on Wednesday.
The Arts Council is supported by Worcester City Council and provides grants to its membership, which comprises locally based organisations and individuals involved in the arts. It is always open to new members. We’ve given grants to support several events that will be happening in our city over the coming months.
I was hoping to meet the Canon Precentor Dr. Michael Brierley at the Cathedral this week to discuss the Civic Service that was intended to happen on 11th July. However, due to the delayed removal of Covid restrictions until 19 July, our meeting has been put back.
My mayoral theme is “coming together” – and hopefully when do hold the Civic Service we can have a full Cathedral, with people able to join in and sing congregational hymns.
Most areas of Worcester have two tiers of local government; the City Council and the County Council, which provide the services most of us use daily.
However, in St. Peter the Great and Warndon Villages we are also represented by parish councils. In addition to my role as a City Councillor I also serve on Warndon Parish Council, which provides enhanced services to that particular area of Worcester. On Monday I attended our monthly Parish Council meeting at the Lyppard Hub, where we welcomed our new clerk Tanya Talbott who took over from Susan Howell this week.
On Wednesday I joined a Zoom call with the Worcester Twinning Association. Worcester now has five twin towns, with Gouzeaucourt in northern France joining our other twins of Kleve in Germany; Le Vesinet, west of Paris; Worcester, Massachusetts in the USA and Ukmerge in Lithuania.
Due to Covid restrictions most communication with our twin towns is currently undertaken through Zoom, but hopefully as the vaccine programme gets rolled out the day when we can once again meet in person gets closer.
Hopefully in early December visitors from our Twins will be able to attend Worcester’s Victorian Christmas Fayre so once again we can buy their local produce from stalls. When my wife Lucy was Mayor back in 2008/9, we were lucky enough to visit Kleve and hopefully we will travel to Gouzeaucourt later in my mayoral year.
Today I will be in Cathedral Square supporting the RAF Benevolent Fund Static Dambuster Ride. To have public events at long last in our city centre is such a morale raiser, after months of lockdown.
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.