So this is 2020? I’m liking it already!
If it shapes-up even half as well as the out-going year did, it will be a great year.
The new Parkway train station will be the big thing of course. Now with most of the hard work done and with it, an end to the worst of the traffic nightmares, we can get on with the crucial job of developing Worcester and maximising the city’s endless potential. Result? An increase in population and its diversity, and a raise in our standards and aspirations.
As I’ve said before – several times, I’m reminded – watch this space!
If my opening duty as mayor is to herald things to come, then bring it on! Saturday’s high-action classical and colourful community cultural event staged by some three hundred members of South Indian families that have made their home in and around the city, left me and my wife Naseem impressed beyond words. I’ve visited Nunnery Wood High School on many an occasion but rarely have I left so speechless with admiration. Quite magical!
On Tuesday this week, yet another reason for my boundless confidence in the city’s future was brought home – the induction of new employees to the City Council. Numbers are not increasing, but at this crucial period in the development of the city, all the pointers are that the calibre and promise of new staff is – the implication being that Worcester is still good at attracting new blood from outside – and that speaks volumes for our future.
It’s not often I look to Birmingham to show Worcester the way ahead, but I found myself edging that way on Wednesday when I was invited to The Second City to hand over the prizes at the Ashiana Community Projects’ Cricket League presentation. The ACP League, created some fifteen years ago to enhance the quality of life in some of the more deprived Birmingham quarters, is absolutely inspirational, and now includes more than 40 teams, all getting along just fine. Now that’s got me thinking….!
The generosity of Worcestershire folk never ceases to amaze me, and few days go by that I’m not left truly humbled by the actions or the sentiments of people here in a city and county that I never view as anything less than wonderful. As an illustration, the hundreds of Christmas cards I’ve received, not only as mayor but also as a private individual. For which, my sincerest thanks.
I’m additionally grateful for this opportunity to wish you all – with no exception – the happiest and most joyful Christmas ever. It’s a time for bridging those small differences in race and religion. A time for peace and harmony. And a time for family. Be assured that just as you and your family come together over the festive days, so will mine and the other non-Christian families, all as one in marking this very special time of the year.
This too is a time of hope. For the immediate, a hope that you will be celebrating the occasion in the manner that befits its importance and that you will extend your generosity to your neighbours, many of whom may be facing their Christmas alone and friendless. So my most fervent hope is that you will show them that they are neither.
It’s also the time of hopes for the future. That 2020 will prove prosperous for you all and that the message of peace and goodwill extends to every day and not just over this brief period of joy and thanksgiving. My sincerest best wishes to you all.
‘Change’. That appears to be the theme of my diary in a week that even saw me in a Santa suit, white beard and all! But more of that later.
The University’s carol service proved like no carol service I’ve ever attended before: but then any event organised by Students’ Services and the Students Union is unlikely to conform and was all the better for it. Quite brilliant. Also diverging from the norm, the Rev. Ray Khan’s officiating at Bromsgrove Community carol service the next day broke every festive tradition in the book, fully deserving the same starry accolade.
Nor is my official Christmas card like any other in the past; its youthful designer, James Allison from Hollymount School, fully deserving his prize which I was only too happy to present in the Guildhall on Wednesday.
At least the King’s School carol service in the Cathedral fully restored the tradition of Christmas, to the evident delight of the sell-out audience. Mine too!
Yet more change when a new chapter in Worcester’s incredible social history – or in this case anti-social history – burst on the scene with the launch of local author Bob Blandford’s book on the City and County jails in the Parlour – me playing my part by conducting tours of the cells in the darkest and deepest depths of the Guildhall.
And so to the man in the Santa suit… this was me aboard Worcester Lions’ Santa Sleigh, to be left me humbled by the generosity of people.
The Rotary Club accounted for most of my time over the weekend – from filling the bags for Christmas parcels, to delivering 540 parcels to residents of almshouses and elsewhere, followed by the traditional Christmas lunch at the cricket ground.
The week ended with me chatting to Chris Jaeger about changes to next year’s Arts Festival, followed by a reception for City Council staff who very quickly demolished my wife’s own special bhajis, pakoras and samosas –all making for a very joyful week. No changes there, then!
A Merry Christmas to you all.
‘Tis the season to be joyful – and why wouldn’t I be when my days are filled with meeting wonderful Worcestershire people all doing wonderful things at this wonderful time of the year? Just to give one example – it’s as good as impossible to put into words the honour of being asked to dig the first footings for a new scheme of 70 self-contained independent living units for the elderly at Whittington.
The next day, I had the absolute joy of watching toddlers from the King’s St Alban’s pre-prep school perform their nativity, while the official opening of the Christmas Tree Festival showcasing 89 charities’ trees in the Cathedral just filled me with so much admiration for every single group represented.
Small Business Saturday gave me the opportunity to visit five local firms that the City Council has helped to start-up, while being asked to choose one of dozens of worthy works from the Worcestershire Society of Artists at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum proved well-nigh impossible. Cinderella at the Medway Community Centre was a sheer delight and I have to admit that the words to describe the perfection of Worcester Male Voice Choir’s concert in Pershore Abbey simply don’t exist.
Of course, the season inevitably involves a hectic round of carol services. The Freemasons’ Grand Master service, BBC Hereford and Worcester’s Celebration of Christmas concert, County Council Chairman Peter Tomlinson’s Christmas Carol Concert, the Worcester Scouts’ and the University’s annual carol services were all worthy of the highest accolades. There was not a moment in any of these house-full events that was less than enchanting.
Sandwiched-in between this whirlwind of a calendar were even more events, including the Crossroads Caring for Carers Christmas Charity Event. The talent on show for the final of RGS’s Star Search at the Grange proved a serious eye-opener, while the Mayor of Stourport’s Pre-Christmas Charity Dinner quite made my week. Phew!