This week I was delighted to visit Regency High School, which is in my Warndon ward. The Headteacher, Tania Dorman, welcomed Dave and I to the school to meet with the School Council, who asked some questions about my responsibilities as Mayor and what my year in lockdown had been like. The Head of the Council then took us around the school to show us their marvellous facilities. It was good to see the school in action and meet the wonderful students and staff who make up the community at Regency High. Thank you so much for inviting us to join you. We enjoyed it very much.
It was a week with an international flair to it again. On Wednesday I zoomed with Rolandas Janickas, the Mayor of Ukmerge, our twin town in Lithuania. We were celebrating ten years of twinning and there were 24 of us on the call. The skill and expertise of the Lithuanian interpreter made communication so easy. Many people in Lithuania speak English – but very few here speak Lithuanian. English is such a universal language all over the world, and we are spoilt because so many people speak and understand it. The Lithuanians are a proud people with their own culture and traditions and since the break with the Soviet Union thirty years ago, they have begun to re-establish their own identity. They very much value the twinning relationship with Worcester, as we do with them, and we all agreed that we have much in common with each other in wanting to promote peace and friendship.
This is the last time I will write to you as Mayor. I will miss this weekly review of what I have done, who I have met and what I have seen. Elections have come and gone with some shocks and upsets, cheers and regrets as we move into another municipal year. Soon a new Mayor will be writing and sharing with you their week of events. I must say that I have enjoyed this chance to reflect each week. I’d like to take this final opportunity to wish you all good health and happiness.
Last Saturday was Polish Heritage Day and I was so pleased to join members of the Polish Community in Worcestershire to celebrate the occasion. We were honoured to have the Consul General, Mateusz St siek, join us for the day for the raising of the Polish flag in Cathedral Square and the laying of flowers at the War Memorial. We were all presented with a gift of bread and salt, which is a traditional greeting in Poland.
Later the Consul General and other members of the Worcestershire Polish Association joined me in the Guildhall forecourt for the unveiling of the bust of Polish pilot Franciszek Surma, about whom I have written before in this diary. I also opened the Battle of Britain exhibition which is a panorama about the brave Polish pilots and airmen who came to Britain’s aid in the Battle of Britain in WW2. It was a pleasure and an honour to be part of the celebrations and to meet the visitors who had come for the occasion.
It has been an international week. On Tuesday I had a Zoom meeting with the Mayor and Council in Gouzeaucourt to sign the Twinning Agreement, which was passed at our Council in March. Speeches were made and thanks to the skill and expertise of our translators, we could all understand what was being said. Jacques Richard, the Mayor of Gouzeaucourt and I signed our copies of the agreement at the same time. Then the National Anthems were played and we all drank a toast to friendship and co-operation – and long may our twinning last.
The City Council, County Council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections have taken place this week and by the time you read this some of the results will have been published. The right to cast a vote is a privilege we have in this country which is not shared all over the world – and many have fought long and hard in the past for that privilege. I hope you voted; whether your choice of candidate was elected or not, democracy has been exercised, with the resultant winners and losers.
You will have seen in yesterday’s paper that work has begun on Worcester’s Arches cultural hub near to the Hive building. More of the railway arches in that area, which have been underused for many years, are being transformed into useful and attractive buildings. The City Council, the University, Severn Arts, The Arch Company and Worcestershire County Council are working together to create a space for cultural activities in five of the arches there. I was delighted to join representatives from the other organisations for a photo on Monday to launch the £3m project, which has been awarded a grant from Government’s Cultural Development Fund. The work on these five arches, together with the work that has already taken place on other railway arches, is transforming the area from Foregate Street Station to the Hive and the riverside.
I had a very enjoyable, interesting and informative Charter 400 walk on Wednesday with Paul Harding from Discover History. We went through areas associated with Edward Hurdman, who in 1621 became the first Mayor of Worcester after the City was awarded a Charter by King James 1. Hurdman came from humble beginnings and through marriage and enterprise, became influential in Worcester – and eventually was in the right place at the right time to become our first Mayor. It is interesting to note that 400 years ago, fortune and fame was often as much down to luck and chance as it is today. Charter 400 is a new walking tour created by Discover History (www.discover-history.co.uk). I recommend it to those of you who want to find out more about Worcester’s history and also be entertained whilst doing so.
The Twinning Association of which I am President had another entertaining Zoom presentation on Wednesday evening. Members from France, Lithuania and USA joining Worcester and Droitwich representatives for a presentation on the role of a Magistrate in our judicial system.
As you read this on Saturday, I will be involved in Polish Heritage Day, but more about that next week.
This week has been busy with electoral commitments. As Mayor of our city I play a neutral role, avoiding any political discussion and not expressing political views when performing the role. I am, however, only able to hold the privileged position of Mayor because I am a City Councillor and was elected as Mayor by my fellow councillors last May. If I was not a councillor, I could not be Mayor, and so it is true of all past and future Mayors that first we have to be politicians in order to hold that office.
I have been honoured this week to be able to take part in the fifth Polish Heritage Day to be celebrated here in Worcester. I recorded a message which will be put on to a video to be presented and promoted by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London on 1st May, Polish Heritage Day. It is an opportunity for me to thank the Polish pilots and airmen for the part they played in WW2 in protecting Great Britain from invasion during the Battle of Britain. I was also able to say thank you to the Polish people living here who have shown a true community spirit during this year of pandemic, helping and supporting their neighbours.
On Friday and Saturday, I launched a series of talks and demonstrations for the City Council’s ‘Know Your Place Worcester’ and the NHS’s ‘Life Stories Worcestershire’. These free online platforms give access to hundreds of archive photos, historic maps and pieces of data which will enable people to discover more about their local area and explore the city’s heritage. This is a valuable and much-loved resource for local people to reconnect with their past – I was happy to share some of my memories with others at this launch.
I hope that you are enjoying the good weather and the new freedoms of being able to join with another household, or as part of a group of six, in the open air. Small steps to be taken with caution towards a more familiar way of life.