Last Saturday saw the High Street packed with people waiting to see the Mercian Regiment march from the Cathedral through the city streets. The applause they gave to the soldiers, whose turnout was exemplary, is testament to the high regard in which the regiment is held in Worcestershire.
The march was followed by a ceremony held at Dancox House, where a stone plaque was unveiled to commemorate the actions of Private Fred Dancox VC during the First World War. Pte Dancox was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving his colleagues by capturing a number of German soldiers who were firing on them. Sadly he was later he later died in combat, before receiving his medal.
On Sunday I attended the Royal Grammar School sports arena to hand out awards to those who had competed in the Droitwich Open Archery Tournament. There were some outstanding archers there, with one talented youngster breaking national records.
The following day I went to the studios of YouthComm’s music radio station where Mr Muff Murfin had invited me to promote the Mayor’s Family Fun Day. I took the opportunity of plugging the tandem skydive that I will be doing on March 7 next year. The Virgin Money Giving Page will be up and running shortly so I hope I do get a few sponsors for my charities!
On Wednesday, as well as entertaining Mr Reg Perkins and his family in the Guildhall for his community volunteering, the Mayoress and I went to Sixways in the evening, for the Worcestershire Group Training Annual Apprenticeship Awards. It proved to be a really successful evening, and it was inspiring to hear how apprentices had made the absolute most of the scheme run by the group and were settling into employment. Additionally, it could be seen how the companies themselves were being very supportive to the apprentices. The awards they picked up showed how all were really committed to the scheme.
We spent all of Thursday day in the Guildhall with children and their parents enjoying the Family Fun Day. A bouncy castle, face-painting, glitter-tattooing and cake decorating all played their part in making this a great day for youngsters. Add to that the tours of the Guildhall, kindly given by Councillors Andy Roberts and Pat Agar, gave everyone a chance to see what this fantastic building has to offer. A very enjoyable day.
As Deputy Mayor it is always an honour to step in for the Mayor when he is away and to represent the Faithfull City.
Being invited by Colin Kinnear OBE, founder of the Bransford Trust, to the fantastic Three Choirs Festival has been a highlight for me. Colin and the Trust have supported this world class festival for many years and have done so much good for the city in so many ways that it was only fitting that he was honoured by Her Majesty The Queen with an OBE this summer.
People often don’t realise how difficult it is to perform or speak in front of large crowds – although it’s an occupational hazard if you’re in the public limelight and a profession such as ours! It’s obviously even harder for children, which is one of the reasons I was so impressed by the pupils in a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory through All Sorts Of Performing Arts Centre at Bishop Perowne High School. It was a wonderful rendition with a modern twist and it was a joy to see the children produce a fine and confident performance in only five days. Very impressive!
Then it was time for the Worcester Foodie Festival and I found myself being grilled (instead of the fish he was cooking!) by celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli. In front of a packed crowd at the newly opened Cathedral Square, Jean-Christophe, like a true professional, charmed and wooed the crowd with his envious long hair and rich French accent, whilst giving me some banter.
Cathedral Square looked magnificent and served the purpose it was designed for extremely well. It’s a much-needed open public space for events like these.
It was heartening to see that there were so many varieties of food on offer at the festival and a significant amount from local independent food operators. It is important to support our independents to keep that unique edge that Worcester has. Well done Worcester BID (Business Improvement District) for a successful weekend.
I was invited to the Horizon Community Centre to join in the celebration of the Eid Festival. This was a lovely family event where everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The food prepared by volunteers was excellent and the children really enjoyed the entertainment provided.
Saturday started with me opening the new visitor experience at The Commandery. As well as brilliant improvements to the rooms and interactive visitor participation, The Commandery has taken on IT improvements to offer an even more informative visit. If you are at all interested in this piece of the City’s history with its involvement in the Civil War then I’d recommend a tour of the exhibition.
From there a I took a walk up to the brand new Cathedral Square where, together with a representative of the developers, I officially opened this new precinct. With its great views of the Cathedral this area with new restaurants and shops will, I’m sure, be an attraction for visitors from other parts of Worcestershire and its surrounds. All good for the City’s economic growth and prosperity.
On Tuesday the Mayoress and I visited Bishop Allenby Hall at St Stephen’s Church where the Reverend Andy Todd together with volunteers from the parish had organised the opening of a café. The idea is to encourage visitors to use the hall as a meeting place and certainly anyone feeling lonely would receive a very warm welcome together with a nice cup of tea and choice of cakes.
The week was rounded off with a very enjoyable evening at the Swan Theatre to watch the Worcester Operatic and Dramatic Society Youth Section (WODYS) perform Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Whistle Down The Wind. Having seen them in rehearsal I can honestly say they have gone from strength to strength. They are an incredibly talented group of youngsters who put their heart and soul into entertaining the audience.
An exciting week this one, starting with a Procession from the Guildhall to the Cathedral together with the Mayors of Gloucester and Hereford to mark the opening of the Three Choirs Festival. The Cathedral choir were in excellent voice which everyone appeared to enjoy it.
We followed this with a visit to an exhibition at the Guildhall opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire, detailing the WWI battle at Gouzeaucourt, France. This French town and Worcester have links going back many years when Worcester residents helped to restore services there.
What a great week for Worcester when we have visits from two members of the Royal Family in one day!
On Tuesday HRH the Duchess of Gloucester attended the New Hope Children’s Centre to see for herself the magnificent work being carried out by Jean Wilson MBE and the staff there. The After School and Holiday Centre run activities for children with special needs. The Duchess saw children enjoying themselves and being encouraged to join in a number of pursuits.
That same day saw the arrival of HRH the Prince of Wales who was visiting the Cathedral to watch a performance of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, part of the Three Choirs Festival. This was a brilliant performance, obviously enjoyed by His Royal Highness, who took the time to speak with all those in the orchestra and choir before leaving.
However, meeting distinguished guests to our city didn’t stop there. Previously on Sunday while starting the Go Dad Run race in aid of Cancer charities, I was able to thank Colin Jackson for coming to Worcester to support the event which drew a record number of runners.
Also this week I met trustees of Aspie’s, the charity that runs a day centre for adults with Asperger’s syndrome. Speaking with a number of those who were benefitting from the service it provided, it was apparent that they enjoyed the setting where they were able to meet others in a similar situation and have time to themselves.
My week ended with a full council meeting when I announced that to help raise money by way of donations for my chosen charities I will do a tandem Skydive later in my year in office