Last week was a varied but quieter week for Mayoral engagements. The Mayoress and I had the pleasure of being invited to a Bulgarian dancing community group.
We received a warm welcome of traditional bread that guests dip in a pot of honey, washed down with a glass of Bulgarian red wine. It was evidently a very popular event with people travelling some distance – from elsewhere in the county and beyond. Many of the younger generation were born in the UK and the mums, dads and grandparents understandably want to keep their culture and language alive.
Of course, we were dragged up onto the dance floor and what looked easy when sitting down was actually quite complicated and turned out to be very good exercise. I’ve never been to Bulgaria but my brief encounter seeing their dancing, their warm reception and trying their food certainly made me think about one day visiting their country.
Last Tuesday I received a group of twenty or so teenage students who had travelled from the Palestinian West Bank to learn more about our culture. I chatted to one of the organisers to learn more about why they were visiting the UK. They are here to learn about our culture but also, they are here as ambassadors for their country so we may know them and understand them better too. Teenagers are teenagers the world over – who doesn’t enjoy a selfie holding the ceremonial sword in the Mayor’s Parlour?
The week ended with an invitation to watch the musical show ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ put on by Christopher Whitehead Language School. It showed for four nights and was a sell-out each night. It was a stunning performance and pupils, staff and supporting parents should feel extremely proud – well done! It was all the more impressive given the current funding pressures our schools face in providing drama and music.
After the show I was introduced to Jack Tompkins, the production’s technical manager, a past pupil of the school who set up a very successful shop fitout company, who has been extremely generous with both time and money with his support of the school theatre.
Last weekend it was Chinese New Year celebrations in Worcester. Well over a thousand people attended – it was a truly spectacular occasion. There was a dragon dance, food, Chinese tea drinking, music and lots of entertainment for children of all ages and it was all free to access.
I have to confess that despite this having run for over twenty years, to my shame, this was my first visit. Why was that? Maybe I thought CNY was just for Chinese people – looking at the crowd around me this was evidently not true. If you have not been before, maybe put a marker in your diary for next year.
The celebrations were hosted by the Museum of Royal Worcester – thank you for so generously opening your doors for everyone to see the amazing collection of fine china on display. All things oriental and the love of fine chinaware was becoming ever more popular in the eighteenth century. Glove making and the wool industry were in decline and so it was that a new industry was created in the city with the creation of the porcelain works that became the world-famous Royal Worcester Porcelain works.
There’s a fascinating history to how the factory was started. Step forward Dr John Wall, born in Powick in 1708 as the only son of Mr John Wall a former Mayor of Worcester. Dr John Wall was an incredibly talented man, he studied at Worcester College in Oxford in 1726, developed a love for fine art, became a consulting doctor in 1739 and – as if he was not busy enough – in 1751 managed to persuade a consortium of 13 local businessmen to invest in the risky task of starting a new factory. For more info see the Royal Worcester Porcelain website: www.museumofroyalworcester.org
It’s clear that the UK’s cultural ties with China are long standing and enduring – not least our mutual love of tea drinking and fine china.
In the captivating world of cinema, a concerning trend persists: the low representation of strong leading women both on screen and in roles behind the camera. Despite strides in gender equality, female filmmakers still face significant hurdles entering the industry.
Societal norms and institutional biases perpetuate the stereotype that filmmaking is a male-dominated field. This discourages aspiring female filmmakers and limits their opportunities. Moreover, the industry’s reliance on established networks and nepotism further excludes women.
The consequences are profound. When women are sidelined, storytelling suffers, and diverse perspectives are marginalized. However, there’s hope. Step forward Lily Portman. Lily visited me for a coffee in the Mayor’s Parlour to tell me about her project to make a short comedy horror film called Brave Birds. Unfamiliar with the genre? Perhaps think Shaun Of The Dead but a whole lot more edgy that in her words is ‘a truly ridiculous horror comedy that tackles misogyny and feathers!’
The film industry is a massive part of the world economy. The UK has some great London centric film businesses, but the West Midlands film industry is still relatively small so it’s little wonder that people like Lily are still punching up to get through that glass ceiling. The creative film industry is important intrinsically for art’s sake but it’s also a massive business opportunity for some of our young local Worcester residents. It would be great to see Lily, currently crowdfunding money, make her director debut become a reality. For more information see her website: lilymaeportman.com
For my next fundraising event as Mayor of Worcester, the Mayoress and I will be hosting a Charity Fashion Show at the Guildhall on Thursday 14 March, in aid of my chosen charity Age UK Worcester and Malvern Hills.
Alongside Age UK, I am working with students from Christopher Whitehead Language College, Nunnery Wood High School and Heart of Worcestershire College to make this a sustainability-themed fashion show, It will feature up-cycled clothes and accessories that will be produced and modelled by the students.
The clothes have been donated by staff and parents from the participating schools, and also by local businesses and their employees. The students will re-imagine the items to create a variety of outfits for different occasions – and to help them, they have been given free access to Age UK’s charity shops so that they can choose items to accessorise their collections.
The event will be held in the Guildhall’s spectacular Assembly Room. It will include a drinks reception with canapés, a two-course dinner and entertainment from a string quartet, plus performances by some of the very talented students.
Following the fashion show itself, each outfit will be offered at auction for guests to bid on and there will be a further auction and raffle of items that have been very kindly donated by local residents and businesses to raise further funds for Age UK.
I would like to thank everyone who has already generously contributed to this event.
For further information about the Charity Fashion Show and to obtain tickets, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.