The highlight of this week was the opening of the Worcester Festival, 11 days packed with events, many of which are free. Chris Jaeger and his team have done an enormous amount of work to organise this year’s summer extravaganza.
Saturday’s duck race, in aid of St Richard’s Hospice was great fun. I then spent some time dodging those pesky giant seagulls marauding in the High Street, while looking out for the flash mob.
On Sunday, I went to Granny’s Attic, the Riverside Artists’ Market and Bewdley Concert Band.
Over the coming week, I plan to see Ladies Down Under at the Swan Theatre and The Second Best Bed, at the Commandery. Time permitting, I might also get to From A Monastic Herbal, at the Cathedral and the Battle of Worcester City War Walk. With apologies to the other event organisers, that may be all that I and my walking shoes can manage.
My first few months as Deputy Mayor have been a whirlwind of wonderful events. Like so many of us, I was mesmerised by the Olympics and will be keenly watching the Paralympics for Britain’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, whose performance against the Canadians at the Worcester Wolves court was spectacular. It was a marvellous atmosphere and a rousing Worcester welcome for the torchbearers!
In July, local people crowded the streets again for the royal visit. While the Mayor greeted Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip at the Hive and offered them lunch in the Guildhall, I was at the Cathedral for the community celebration, which was packed with school children, community volunteers and dignitaries – not too many big hats, so we got a good view of what was going on. We all sang a chorus of “Worcestershire is our shire” to the tune of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance”, between dance performances from the county’s schools and readings of Worcestershire history. The Queen and Prince Philip arrived in an extremely shiny Daimler and processed into the Cathedral, led by the Bishop. It was a thrilling day, made all the more memorable by a lot of talented local young people.
Community members turned out in all weathers to celebrate the Jubilee in June. My consort, Phil, and I went to Jubilee parties in Britannia Square and Ronkswood. Britannia Square residents kept a stiff upper lip in the rain but their kind hospitality and community spirit more than made up for the inclement weather. Ronkswood is in my own ward of Nunnery, so the party was like one big reunion in this warm-hearted neighbourhood.
Age UK celebrated their silver anniversary at the same time as the Jubilee with an all-singing, all-dancing party – and I do mean, “all-singing, all-dancing.” Some of the retirees were very graceful dancers. It was hard to keep up with them.
June also saw the Mercians, Royal Hussars and Grenadier Guards stage a marvellous homecoming parade and the awarding of medals to serving soldiers. A few days later, I attended the signing of the local Armed Forces Covenant at County Hall. The covenant represents a commitment to assist and support members of our armed forces as they return home to live or retire.
I’ve especially enjoyed invitations to two local schools, including St George’s Primary School, where I planted a tree in honour of the jubilee. It was a memorable morning. We were treated to a magic show and a performance by the school’s brass band. I also attended a leaving assembly for year six at Red Hill Primary School, which the children had written themselves. It was an emotional occasion, and the singing, dancing and speaking were really impressive.
It’s always a pleasure to attend musical events. At the Five Choirs concert in Kidderminster, we were treated to wonderful arrangements of many favourites, including the African Prayer, Nkosi Sikela. The finale, sung by all five choirs, started with Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys and finished with Guide Me Oh Thou Great Redeemer, to the tune of Cwm Rhonda. The Volcano Choir at the Swan Theatre was equally impressive, with a medley of show tunes and pop songs in a high octane style.
Worcester Civic Service is an annual highlight of the Mayor’s year and it was pleasing to see such a good turn out. It is a time when councillors pause to reflect on what it means to serve the city. We particularly gave some thought to the Mayor’s themes for the year, co-operation and inclusion. The Mayor’s charities were also in our thoughts, namely, St Paul’s Hostel and Maggs.
I’ve been delighted to attended two citizenship ceremonies at County Hall. These are occasions when new British citizens are awarded their citizenship certificates and promise to be faithful citizens. It is a moment of great pride and some emotion.
The St Swithun’s Day service at St Swithun’s Church was a little unnerving at first, because the Mayor or his/her deputy has to sit on a throne-like seat facing the congregation. However, I soon realised that everyone was concentrating on the really beautiful singing and it was easy to do the same. The ceremony was very much like a walk back in time in this lovely restored church, which is a venue for occasional dance or poetry events and organ recitals on Friday lunch times. It is well worth a visit.
The Phillippino Barrio Fiesta was another absolute delight. Marquees with all kinds of businesses and food lined Perdiswell sports field. I hadn’t realised a Phillippino English language newspaper was available in the West Midlands, but have since been able to buy it in a local supermarket. The fiesta organisers, Ms Mary Padilla and Mr Edwin Vargas, did a superb job of bringing the Phillippino community together for what I hope is the first of many more village style fiestas.