Mayoral Column – written by Cllr Adrian Gregson, Deputy Mayor of Worcester
The vagaries of the weather meant that it was down to me as Deputy Mayor to open the postponed first Worcester Mela in 30 years – a mini Mela outside the Guildhall serving as a taster for a full-blown community event planned for next year.
Judging by the crowd and interest it should be great. Mela Festival is a colourful expression of South Asian heritage and tradition and fun. With music and dancing Bollywood-style, it has taken all week for my back to recover (see the video!) Well done to the volunteers who brought this together, and good luck for next year’s event.
The Inland Waterways Association celebrated its 75th anniversary with a flotilla of barges on the canal at Perdiswell and it was a real pleasure to open the event on Saturday. The canal network is amazing across the country and in Worcester it is a really important part of the walking and cycling network, heritage and visitor economy. It’s a key element in our Masterplan and is one of the elements to receive support from the Towns Fund. As with the Mela, this Waterways weekend – and indeed much of the work on keeping canals clean and safe – was run almost exclusively by volunteers.
And that theme continued at Worcester City FC where I was able to present the Under 8s side with their national trophy, won earlier in the Summer. What a fantastic achievement for the kids and their parents and the volunteers who run and coach them – as well as WCFC as a whole. There is so much going on at Claines Lane now City are back. As can be seen from Monday’s result on the pitch they need our support; the organisation of youth, women, veterans and First Team all rely on that volunteer army as well.
This whole week has shown me close up just how committed people in the city are to their various causes and interests and how prepared they are to give time and effort to help others. Really inspiring.
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.