My first comment is to congratulate all those A level, GCSE and BTec students who have received their exam results in the last seven days. Unfortunately, some BTec students are still waiting for their results, and the method of awarding A levels was flawed to begin with, but has now thankfully been corrected. I am sorry that this has caused problems for some students applying for University places and hope this will be resolved as best as it can be. I remember what an anxious time it is waiting for exam results to come out, both as a student, parent and teacher. This year our young people have had so much uncertainty and anxiety whilst waiting for their results and need our best wishes and support.
Last Saturday was a very special day in the history of peace and freedom. The 15th August 2020 marked 75 years since the surrender of Japan and the final end of the Second World War. VJ day is a day when we remember the sacrifice and bravery of our armed personnel in the Far East, who continued fighting after peace had been declared in Europe. I was joined by Brigadier Roger Brunt who is the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Mark Jackson who is the High Sheriff, Councillor Bob Brookes who is the Chairman of the County Council, Dave and Jean Waldron from the Royal British Legion, my Chaplain Sarah Northall and representatives from the armed forces and City Council. A moving and meaningful act of remembrance took place in front of the Guildhall which was followed by a small parade to the Cenotaph outside the Cathedral where wreaths were laid. I was proud to be part of this – thank you to those members of the public who joined us for this event.
I welcomed two guests to the Parlour on Tuesday. They are old friends who it was a pleasure to meet up with again; we were able to discuss support for events which they are involved with in the community. It is always encouraging to hear about acts of support and kindness to each other, which is so badly needed in these unprecedented times.
I am relieved that the extremely hot weather at the beginning of this week has been replaced with a cooler and more bearable temperature. I am sure that some of you sun seekers will have loved it, but for some of us it became almost impossible to go outside for much of the daytime. We now seem to have muggy weather with thunder storms and grey skies which is not what we want for the last few weeks of the summer holidays. Can’t we have something in between these extremes?
It was very hot in the High Street on Wednesday evening when I joined the City Guides and David Saunders from the Civic Society to unveil the latest Blue Plaque to be erected in Worcester on the wall of Costa Coffee. David Birtwhistle, a well-known and talented local artist, unveiled a plaque to the famous English actress of the late 18th and early 19th century, Sarah Siddons. Sarah attended school at Thornloe House in Barbourne, later known as the Eye Hospital, and she performed in the “Barn” which was in the yard of the “Kings Head” pub, opposite the Guildhall and where Costa Coffee is now situated. Sarah was one of the most famous actors of her day and performed before King George III at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. A worthy lady to be remembered in our historic city and a positive addition to the many interests which visitors can experience when they visit us.
Finally, I hope that those young people who in the last few days have received their ‘A’ level, BTec and other exam results are able to continue with their chosen course of study or career. It has been a very difficult time for you with the disruptions to your education that lockdown caused and the way that your final grades have been calculated. Some of you may find that you have not received the grades you expected – nevertheless, I hope that your chosen path works out for you. Good luck to GCSE students for your results next week.
Has anyone tried the Government scheme Eat Out to Help Out? Dave and I did on Monday. It was not planned and we had forgotten it came into force on that day, but we were having breakfast in a Premier Inn where we had been staying for a few nights and when we were settling the bill to pay for the breakfast, two of us ate for the price of one. A rather nice ending to a spontaneous break of a few days near the sea.
If you get the chance please take advantage of the scheme, because as well as helping you by paying for half your bill it also helps the cafes and restaurants who badly need our custom to retain their businesses.
I am delighted to discover that Worcestershire Community Foundation, who have been supporting community groups and charities across the county during the COVID19 pandemic, have distributed £400,000 to 125 organisations county-wide since March 2020. These include foodbanks, hospices, community centres, homeless centres and volunteer groups. WCF has also raised £20,000 of local funding from individuals, businesses and local trusts.
We all hope that this support of Worcestershire communities will continue long into the future, so if you feel that as an individual or as a business you can donate to this fund please go to www.worcscf.org.uk
During my few days away, I realised that you can get a break from home and see different surroundings without endangering yourself or others. It is so important to remember the advice we have all been following since March to wash your hands frequently, stay socially distanced by one metre plus, avoid enclosed spaces where possible and wear your face where required, including in shops and on public transport.
We live in a beautiful country and many people are staying safe by holidaying in the UK this year. As coronavirus cases start rising in some areas of the UK it is vital that each one of us does not endanger ourselves or others by our actions. Let’s keep Worcester a safe place in which to live and visit.
This is turning out to be strange year as far as being Mayor is concerned. When I became Deputy Mayor in May 2019, I realised that traditionally it could result in me being made Mayor in May 2020 – and I would probably be very busy up until May 2021. I expected that that I wouldn’t have time to take a holiday and anticipated a busy but very happy and satisfying year of mayoral activities. How different life in the Parlour has turned out to be.
I am actually taking a short break and as I write this, the sun is shining and I am looking forward to a reprise from Council work. I have a few engagements in the diary alongside my committee work and other responsibilities in my ward and for other organisations. However, life is much quieter than I ever thought it would be.
Exciting things are going on at Worcester City Council with the Future High Street Fund submission, which we hope will see us awarded up to £25m for renovations and improvements to our city centre area. I am pleased to be a member of the Policy and Resources committee which met on Tuesday to oversee the bid and how the money will be spent. Potentially, it is something which Worcester can look forward to.
The Guildhall is open for visitors; 15 people are allowed in at a time, and the Tourist Information Centre is open too, so come along and see us and let’s try to bring some life back into the city centre. The Guildhall attendants are organising a Welcome Back Worcester showcase from Monday 3 August in the Guildhall forecourt so that the Council, Worcester Festival and Freedom Leisure can show what they have been doing since lockdown was eased. It’s worth a visit and will help to bring Worcester back to its pre-coronavirus days.
Please take care and keep yourselves safe, think of your neighbours and keep them safe too, and remember one day this will all be over and we will return to normal life.