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.
Fresh from my trip abroad, it was straight back to business with the annual Pancake Race in the Cloisters, courtesy of the Dean and Cannon. For the first time in the event’s history the Mayor and High Sheriff were invited to lead the teams; I had some considerable ground to make up going into the last heat! I stepped up a gear and manoeuvred through the obstacles just in time for a Photo Finish; the inevitable steward’s enquiry deemed it a draw!
On Thursday I joined the Worcestershire Ambassadors for their Prostate Cancer screening event at Worcester Racecourse. It’s a well-known fact that men are less likely to take their health seriously. Men in their 40’s are increasingly likely to develop this form of cancer but if detected early enough, it can be treated and cured. The test procedure is straightforward and simple; you have nothing to fear. It really is a no–brainer, so I urge all men in this age group to get tested!
Then I crossed over the river to the University, where I joined Members of Unison and academics to celebrate International Women’s Day. We recognised the difficulties and hardships that women have had to go through to gain recognition and parity in the workplace. There’s still a long way to go but we are heading in the right direction. Thank you to the great women in my life (my mum and my wife) for making me the man that I am; without you I am nothing.
Giving young people the chance to shine and showcase their business skills is always important. The Young Enterprise programme (www.young-enterprise.org.uk) is the perfect format for them to do this. Being a graduate of Young Enterprise myself, I realise its value and benefit in nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurial talent. I was delighted to award certificates and trophies to the winners of the Young Enterprise Fair held on the High Street last Saturday. All the entries were of a high calibre and well thought out; they were a credit to Worcester and to the business mentors who guided them.
This city has shown incredible support and love to little Oscar Saxelby-Lee, by coming out in their droves to an event I hosted with the DKMS charity at the Guildhall on Saturday. About a thousand people turned up to show their support and I can’t thank the volunteers, Guildhall staff and of course residents for turning out unselfishly, purely through the kindness of their hearts. If that isn’t the embodiment of my theme of Love Not Hate, then I don’t know what is. This city has shown time and time again during my mayoral year that we are a caring, understanding and unselfish community that goes out of its way to help others. We come together in solidarity and unity in times of need.
I feel to a certain extent that I have achieved what I set out to do in this mayoral year as it nears its conclusion: trying to unite the City and make it an even better, more pleasant place to live in, work in and enjoy.