The launch of Black History Month proved to be a very special occasion for me. I was very pleased to be part of this event and to make it a public occasion with a speech on the steps of the Guildhall; several members of the public attended.
Afterwards I welcomed some of the attendees into the Parlour and we discussed how I could help publicise other events to promote this month. I look forward to getting more involved and having more to tell you in this column.
This week I also discussed how I can assist the City Council and Platform Housing in the relaunch of the Talk to me Worcester campaign. This campaign aims to promote friendship and neighbourliness, bring people together to talk, create safe places to meet and to welcome new arrivals to the City. The second phase of the campaign was launched in January of this year and would have continued to May, but because of the pandemic the activities have been halted and we are now trying to move it forward again.
On Friday I was very pleased to open the Outdoor Art Gallery Trail, which starts in the Hopmarket. A call was put out to artists to create a piece of art on the theme of Hope and Joy. Eight artists were chosen from around 60 to create a piece of work to sit in a vacant shop unit window. These displays will be in the shops from today and can be found around the City. I do hope when you are out and about in town you will look out for them. This project has provided work for local artists and has also provided inspiration for our futures through the medium of empty shop windows.
Finally, I hope you are all keeping safe and remembering to wash your hands, keep a social distance from others and wear a face mask in all public places. It is proving to be a longer battle than many of us imagined at the beginning of this pandemic. As winter approaches we may find it harder to observe these rules, but it is essential that we do so if we are to keep safe.
Have you downloaded the NHS Covid-19 App yet? You use it to log in to places you visit and it will tell you if you have been near someone who has tested positive. If you have been, it’s essential that you self-isolate for the protection of others to stop the spread of this dreadful pandemic. I have downloaded it on to my phone because I believe it is so important that we do everything we can to slow down this disease. I hope you feel the same way too.
Once again, we held a full Council meeting by Zoom on Tuesday evening. My thanks to councillors and officers for their co-operation and patience during the meeting. We covered many topics and those councillors who wished to contribute to the debates did so and decisions were made. I find it challenging to keep an eye on 43 faces on the screen. Many thanks to officers who are also keeping an eye on who is indicating that they want to speak, so I don’t miss anyone. It’s good to know that Council business continues as usual.
October is Black History Month – an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the culture and heritage of black people in this country, as well as positive black contributions to British society. This morning I will be recording a message to promote the campaign so if you are in town at 11.00am, please come and join me outside the Guildhall.
Finally, I would like to wish all those young people who have gone off to University in the last week or two, the very best of experiences in their studies. University is a whole life experience when young people become independent and responsible for themselves as well as furthering their education. My plea to them is to remember that the present restrictions on their freedom are there for a reason. Please keep yourselves and your friends and family safe by following guidelines. Have a fantastic three or four years – but stay safe and keep others safe too.
I hope you all took advantage of Heritage Week and visited a building or two of historic or cultural interest which you might not normally visit. On Saturday, Frank Southam, the Mayor’s Sword Bearer and I had the opportunity to share stories and show artefacts to residents and visitors to the City as they came to the Guildhall to see and hear about Worcester’s heritage. There was the opportunity to show visitors the City’s “treasures” and look around the Parlour which is not usually open to the public without an appointment. A huge thank you to all the staff who were in the Guildhall to welcome visitors and point them in the right direction to see our wonderful heritage. It was a great success enjoyed by all those who visited.
On Thursday evening Dave and I visited Kingsway House in Foregate Street. Rick and Sue Johns, directors of Kingsway House, welcomed us and showed us around the building which Rick has restored beautifully. This local business was a place of education where international business students were able to learn English to enable them to communicate more effectively within their businesses. Since the lockdown in March and the subsequent difficulties around foreign travel, some businesses have had to diversify and Kingsway House has become a “phoenix risen from the ashes”. It now offers co-working space, event space and offices for individuals and small businesses to work and meet and network.
I had hoped to meet with a number of local professional people to discuss the difficulties which so many businesses have experienced and the innovative ways that they have diversified, but unfortunately that was not possible because of the restrictions on numbers allowed to meet. Sue and Rick were entertaining and informative hosts however, and I wish them every success in their new venture.
My very best wishes and hopes go out to all local business people who are having a very difficult time during this pandemic.
Last Sunday I was very pleased to be invited to a Commemoration Service in Madresfield for the Polish Flying Officer Franciszek (Franek) Surma, who was one of the brave Flying Officers who defended our country against the attacks by German planes in 1940 at the Battle of Britain. It was a special occasion as it is 80 years since these events and in remembering Franek Surma, we also remembered all the brave pilots who were involved in protecting the UK. I was one of several speakers at the event – wreaths were laid and the Last Post was played before a minute’s silence was observed. The story of Franek Surma was uncovered by the local historian Dilip Sarkar and immortalised in his book, The Invisible Thread—A Spitfire’s Tale, and it pays due respect to Franek, one of many Polish pilots who protected our shores.
As I said in a previous blog, sport has never been my strength and so it was with admiration for the daring and skill of the young people present that I opened the refurbished Nathan Spiers Memorial Skate Park in Oldbury Road. This park was created thanks to the fund-raising efforts of his parents in memory of Nathan who tragically died in 2002. It is a fitting memorial as skateboarding was a passion of Nathan’s and the new installations mean that it can be used by young people of all ages. The new notice board I unveiled tells all users about how the park came to be built and Nathan’s love of the sport.
I hope that some of you will come to the Guildhall today to see the Parlour and other parts of the Guildhall which are not always open to the public. It is Heritage Week and many of our beautiful and historic buildings are open to the public to share their beauty and heritage. More about that next week.