A big thank you to all those who braved the weather to join the St Paul’s Hostel big Sleep Out last week. The weather turned out for the worst, with torrential rain and the temperature plummeting. It was a sobering night for all those involved; unfortunately it is a daily occurrence for those who are sleeping rough on the streets of the City. The money raised should go a long way in helping to get vital supplies – well done all!
The Mayoral Chain which I often wear was originally designed for Alexander Clunes, who twice became Sherriff and Mayor of the city and who donated it for subsequent mayors to wear after his death in 1878. As Clunes was a railway man, the mayoral Chain of Office was fittingly designed to represent the links between railway carriages.
The connection to the railway was recently recognised by astute business woman Asia Baig, who recently launched the Centenary Lounge on the Cross in Worcester, taking inspiration from the nostalgic golden era of Great Western Railway carriages. Their accurate representation and attention to detail has derived from a labour of Love. I urge you to pay a visit to marvel at the sheer beauty of the place; may be you’ll also be tempted to try an afternoon tea in the luxurious surroundings!
I’m not a natural musical fan, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the WODS production of Oklahoma, which left me in raptures. The standard of acting and singing was far superior to anything one might expect from an amateur production company. Full credit to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers and staff, who have ensured two cracking performances thus far!
I joined Richard Soper, ex CEO of Worcester Bosch, for the official opening of the new Regency High School extension, where I marvelled over the new facilities with governors and pupils alike. The extension was dedicated to long term Governor John Pearsall, who has dedicated over 30 years of community service on top of running a highly successful engineering consultancy firm.
It is exactly this service by key prominent business people that was talked about at the annual Civic Lecture which I hosted at the Guildhall this week. Andrew Reekes, a prominent historian and Old Vigornian, talked about the role of Joseph and Neville Chamberlain in the brief renaissance that Birmingham experienced under their great leadership. The determination of prominent people to contribute to society and deal with the social dilemmas and ills of their time is what marks a progressive and compassionate society. There are many such examples of this in Worcester today; it is local people’s love and determination to give something back which keeps this city going.
It was a quieter week than normal, but no less interesting. I was interviewed by Ruby Edwards of the Worcestershire Lifestyle magazine about my year in office and as I sat in the Mayors Parlour contemplating the wonderful events that had taken place in the year, it began to dawn on me that I was only six weeks away from the official hand over to the new Mayor. Doesn’t time fly! Spare me the violins and tears just yet – I must make the most of my remaining time.
On Tuesday evening I hosted the Lions Club awards ceremony at the Guildhall. Having done several Lions Club events over the civic year, I have become familiar with the professionalism and dignity with which the Lions conduct their business. They are the world’s largest voluntary service organisation, committed to ensuring local charities and international causes alike across the world are addressed and supported. Locally in Worcester they raise a modest amount for charity and local causes. But crucially they support little known organisations and groups with their community work too. We heard from six charities which are benefiting from the Lions awards, two of which are causes close to my heart.
The Friends of Fort Royal, a small community group headed by Cllr Lynn Denham, were awarded a cheque to carry on supporting the wonderful events that take place in the park all year around. I too have fought hard to secure funding for Fort Royal Park in the past.
The second is Worcester Amateur Boxing Club. Being a child of the seventies when boxing was at its peak, the heavy weight greats of the time and previous era left a lasting impact. My friends and I joined the Worcester Amateur Boxing Club; it provided us with a sense of belonging and a means to channel our energy. Our coach, Mick Underwood, instilled in us a sense of discipline and routine that has stayed with me ‘til this day. He taught us about respect, focus and pride, as well as how to do a press up or two, which I demonstrated to anyone who cared to watch!
I am grateful to Mick for being a part of my upbringing. It is this type of work in the community that can make a real difference to someone’s life. I am glad that the Lions recognised this and made a donation, which will help the Club to carry on this vital work.
Having been brought up in this wonderful City practically since birth, I am grateful to everyone who has been a part of my upbringing, success and failures – whether they be teachers, friends, family or random members of the public. It is through their help, support and words of encouragement and advice that I have been able to achieve all that I have today. Thank you – and have a safe weekend.
I was privileged when out and about in the city last weekend to witness a number of great initiatives that make a huge difference to people’s lives. Often these initiatives begin their life as a simple idea, a thought, a kind intention; a spark that came deep from the heart.
These then develop and morph into invaluable and integral services that embed themselves within the community. The best ones are often the simplest. They tend to originate from personal tragedy, heartache or pain, where people are determined to ensure that never again will they or other people suffer because of the trauma or pain that they had previously suffered. So, they endeavour to make a difference.
The Make Time Friendship group has been going for ten years in Worcester, and was started by a group of volunteers that had been hurt or affected in different ways. They set out to make new friends and to try to find solace and an outlet to heal the wounds of past trauma. It has been a tremendous success; I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of dance and song with the members of the club and the Worcester Ukelele Band.
The Worcester Leg club, in a different way. achieves the objective of reducing isolation and loneliness, through the health in the community agenda. The club meets twice a week at the Tolly centre and helps scores of visitors with leg problems and ulcers. I commend it and its volunteers and helpers for going an incredible 13 years, with the help of Cllr Andy Roberts amongst others.
On Friday afternoon I stood shoulder to shoulder with Peter Atkinson, Dean of Worcester and members of all faiths and none at a vigil organised by the Worcestershire Inter Faith Forum. The event was to show solidarity with the victims and families of the terrible terrorist atrocities in New Zealand. This simple act goes a long, long way to show what a great, tolerant and understanding city ours is.
I, along with High Sheriff Cassian Roberts, attended the West Midlands Ambulance Excellence in the Community Awards. I heard about the incredible efforts and heart-breaking stories of staff, volunteers and the public when saving lives. The High Sheriff quite rightly paid tribute to the service and the volunteers, describing them as the glue that bonds the fabric of the county and Country. It is this glue that runs deep within the veins of this City, weeping from the heart in times of need. It forges and becomes unbreakable, causing Worcester to unite in times of hardship, adversity and unprecedented events. It is this glue that is very essence of the beauty and joy of life and the soul. I hope you will have a wonderful weekend.
Memories from last week can only be described as bittersweet. As news broke of the terrorist attacks in New Zealand in which 50 men, women and children were brutally, viciously murdered, my heart sank. I experienced a whole spectrum of emotions from disgust, loathing and resentment through to disbelief, shock and horror.
What do you say in such circumstances? I was lost for words. However, I was determined to join forces with our MP Robin Walker to speak out about the very real threat of far-right extremism, racism and Islamophobia that festers beneath the surface and which gave rise to this atrocity. I once again thank Worcester residents and faith groups for showing solidarity. I pray for the victims and their families.
The mood was lifted on Friday evening as I welcomed dignitaries and guests to the glamourous Guildhall for my Charity Ball. I am glad to say that the evening was a huge success. Although the final total is unknown, we raised well over £12,000 on the night!
I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the volunteers and staff at the Guildhall. A special mention goes to Moira D’Adda, Tracey Hopkins, Tracey Collinson, Gill Preece and Ben Schiffman for their extraordinary support. I must not forget to mention all the wonderful businesses that supported my charities and of course to all the guests that made it such a special and beautiful occasion and donated so generously; thank you!
On a blustery Saturday morning I joined scores of dog walkers for a walk around Pitchcroft, organised by the Reconnections charity as part of the ‘Talk to me Worcester’ campaign. It was thoroughly enjoyable and yes, I did clean up after my pooch!
On Sunday morning I joined Daniel Walton on the second leg of his attempt to walk the perimeter of the County – a whopping total of 187 miles – in just over a week! He was on his way from Hagley to Studley. Daniel is raising money for Onside Advocacy – a fantastic county-based charity that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. He needs to hit his £5,000 target so please support him! Come rain or shine, or a massive hailstorm in our case, we carried on to complete a fantastic day’s effort and a well-deserved rest at the aptly named Boot Inn.