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.
I am sure that you, like me, are shocked by the sharp rise in the number of COVID cases in Worcester over the last week. We must all continue to do whatever we can to prevent this deadly disease from getting any worse – but it does sometimes feel, as the numbers rise, that we are on a conveyor belt that we can’t stop and get off. I am confident that the majority of Worcester people are sensible and behave in a safe and responsible way, but unfortunately the numbers of infections continue to rise, so everyone must be more alert.
I just can’t wait to get my vaccination. I don’t mind if it is given in the GP surgery, at the hospital, at a pharmacy or at a special centre, it can’t come too quickly for me. Like you all, I long to be able to do the special things in life again like hug my children and grandchildren, go to the shops without wearing a mask, visit the theatre, go into a pub for a drink and a meal with friends. These things will come back, but we must be patient and wait until it is safe. I know how hard it is for us all.
Life goes on though, and this week I recorded a message for Holocaust Memorial Day which takes place on 27th January. Following COVID advice I recorded the message outside the Guildhall. This will go out with the other speakers’ messages via social media – including the Worcester Facebook page. This important annual act of remembrance for those who suffered and died in the Holocaust is a lasting memorial to them – and also a vow that this will never be allowed to happen again.
I also attended a zoomed Twinning Association meeting this week. By using this technology, we are connecting with more people from our twinned cities both here and abroad than in normal times, so some good is coming out of this dreadful pandemic.
HAPPY NEW YEAR. A phrase we have no doubt repeated several times over the last few days, but never said with more meaning than this new year with all the hopes for the future that it brings. When we reflect on 2020, our thoughts are bound to be clouded by the very unhappy and cruel year it was for many people. My most sincere wishes go to the people who have lost a loved one; to those in the NHS and care sector who have cared for the sick and dying with the most extraordinary devotion; to the key workers including teachers, police officers and housing and service providers; to the students and school children who have lived with uncertainty about their education but managed to stay positive about their studies; to their parents and carers who have had to pull out all the stops to become home educators; and to all of us whose lives have been upset by coronavirus in 2020. A huge thank you.
Since I last wrote to you, I enjoyed some Christmas cheer in the two Worcester News Carol Services held at the Cathedral on the Monday before Christmas. I read a lesson with others telling the Christmas story and the Kings School choir sang beautifully. This message we celebrated tells of a hope for better things to come in the future. We certainly need that reassurance right now – and we have it in the roll out of the vaccines that are now available to protect us against this terrible disease. I can’t wait to get my call to go for my vaccination, so I will feel safe again.
As we enter our third and hopefully our last lockdown, I am full of optimism for 2021. I know it will take time to vaccinate all those who are at the most risk, and that our lives may not return to our old idea of normal for some time, but we have endured this before and we will do so again. We will come through this, so with that in mind I say again HAPPY NEW YEAR.
It was with a sad heart that I stood outside the Cathedral on Friday 11 December to pay my respects to a very well-loved Freeman of Worcester, Cecil Duckworth CBE. Many people were there to mark the final journey of a man who brought so much good and joy to Worcester citizens and visitors alike. As well as the Bishop, the Dean, the High Sherriff and the Leader, Deputy Leader and MD of Worcester City Council, there were many others who came to see this kind, benevolent and quiet man pass by. Cecil made a difference to so many people’s lives through his generosity and the benevolence he brought to this City.
Similar roadside tributes were made at Acorns Hospice where he was a major original benefactor; at New Road where he was President of the Worcestershire Cricket Club; at Sixways where his foresight made the club the success it is today and at Worcester Bosch where he developed the first combustion boiler. Cecil’s success not only brought him happiness but it also brought happiness to the community, as he enjoyed sharing his financial success with others. I feel proud to have known him and offer my sincere condolences to his family for their loss.
I am looking forward to attending two Worcester News Carol Services on Monday. The pandemic has curtailed the activities of us all this Christmas and the Mayor would normally attend six or seven carol services brought to the Cathedral by various organisations. It is very different this year. I hope that you all spend your Christmas and New Year period safely and happily and when I next have a chance to write this column in 2021, that we are well advanced with the vaccination programme. People keep saying to me “What a year!” and I agree, but if we come through it valuing the simple things in life more such as good health, kindness and care for others, then some good will have come out of it.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!