We were sitting next to a couple of guys in the pub on Thursday who were talking about Worcester politics and the mayor etc, when a third person said: ‘well that bloke next to you is the new one’. They were so thrilled and interested in the role and my views; it was a real eye-opener to what the year may bring. We talked about beer and Californian rock bands, cricket and rugby – and most importantly, Worcester and how great it is, with so much to offer. If the mayoral year ahead of me provokes similar conversations in pubs across the city, or better still, across the country, I will be happy.
Talking of music, my first official engagement was at St Clements Primary where Severn Arts had parked their Music Box Bus – full of technology for the pupils to make music with professional guidance. We went to their Year 4 drumming class too. Drumming is important. I was a drummer.
Severn Arts is one of my charities. They are the force behind Light Night and other Arches projects and we plan to do a range of activities through the year across music, art, theatre and culture, fulfilling their aim of offering inclusive activities that focus on widening access to the arts for all, with a particular emphasis on children and young people.
My other charity is OnSide, an advocacy organisation that works with people who find it difficult to navigate the world of bureaucracy we have created. They work in employment support, dementia, loneliness, mental health and wellbeing and I am going to their open day at the Guildhall on Saturday 28 May.
This coming week is all about Elgar and the Queen. When The Hive opened 10 years ago I chatted to Her Majesty about her predecessor’s visit in 1575. I was also pleased to go to a Palace Garden Party before the pandemic (I hope Stephen and Lucy enjoyed their day there despite everything). And the Elgar Festival is back, over the same Jubilee weekend so I hope to see many of you at one or other of the events lined up.
I am now into my final week as Mayor of Worcester before I hand the chain over at Tuesday’s Annual Council meeting. Some of my fellow mayors in Worcestershire have already handed over to their successors at ‘mayor making’ ceremonies across the county. On Tuesday I will open the Annual Council meeting as chairman and the first item following the chaplain’s prayers will be simply to elect a new mayor.
I have five outstanding functions to report. On Sunday the mayoress and I attended the Severn Arts Festival of Music at the University Arena, where over 100 school children and students from across Worcestershire demonstrated their musical skills. We were joined by Laura Worsfold, the Severn Arts CEO, who we have met several times over the past year with the excellent Arches Festivals.
On Monday the mayoress and I attended a Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of Jeff Carpenter, followed by a reception in the Guildhall. A former Worcester City councillor and mayor of the city between 1984/5, he was made an Honorary Alderman in 2016 in recognition of his outstanding service to the City Council. The Reverend Canon John Paul Hoskins led the service that included readings, tributes, and poetry recitals from members of his family.
On Friday a civic reception was held for the International Guild of Town Pipers Festival in the Guildhall. There are delegates from many cities from the UK and the Netherlands who are all members of historic music groups and will be performing in and around the city during 16th-17th May wearing their historic costumes. Thank you to Roger Offord, Chair of the Guild and Sue Pope, member of the historic music group The City of Worcester Waites, for organising this fantastic festival.
Today I will be entertaining Rosemary Hopkins and her guests in the Parlour. This is a prize she won at the raffle at the recent Worcester Competitive Art Festival that the mayoress and I enjoyed attending.
Finally on Monday I welcome students from New College, Worcester to the Parlour.
Last Saturday evening the mayoress and I were guests of WODS (Worcester Operatic and Dramatic Society) to see their performance of the musical Half a Sixpence at the Swan Theatre. The story is based on the H.G. Wells novel Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul and this new version of the musical features new music and lyrics by George Styles and Anthony Drewe. The president of WODS, Mike Astles, made us welcome and afterwards I spoke to some of the cast including Toby Edwards who played Kipps, the principal character. This production was originally meant to take place in 2020 but was put back due to Covid.
On Sunday afternoon the mayoress and I were delighted to be guests at the afternoon tea as part of the Worcester and Hereford Grenadier Guards Association Centenary Celebration. I met old soldiers and there were guardsmen in full uniform. The Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire, Lt Col Patrick Holcroft, a former Grenadier was in attendance. The loyal toast was proposed by Hamish Grey-Cheape, president of the local association, and the response by Col. Richard Aubrey-Fletcher, the national president of the Grenadier Guards Regimental Association.
On Wednesday evening we were at the Huntingdon Hall to attend the Worcester Repertory Company Show: My Dearest Mr Coward, based on the words and wit of Noël Coward. The Worcester Repertory Company were joined by stars of the West End fresh from national and international tours including Hairspray and The Rocky Horror Show to name just a few!
Thursday was election day, and I would like to thank the residents of Warndon Parish North for re-electing me. Congratulations to all those who were either elected or re-elected to the City Council, and commiserations to those who missed out. I look forward to meeting my new council colleagues when I hand over the chain at the Annual Council.
Last Sunday the mayoress and I attended the Worcester District Scouts Saint George’s Day Service which was held in the cathedral. We were met by the District Commissioner, Andy Hopkins, outside the north door which was lined with flag bearers from the scout groups from around Worcester. The service was led by Canon John Paul Hoskins and included contributions from members of the various age groups in the Scout movement.
The service included readings and drama presentations that included a push along dragon in a re-enactment of Saint George and the Dragon by the Beavers. The service was also a first for the Squirrels, a new section that caters for four and five-year-olds, who wear red tops to resemble the red squirrel. As part of the service the various sections of the Scout movement each read out their relevant Renewal of Promises.
After the service the Scouts paraded along the High Street, and I held a reception in the Mayor’s Parlour for the district leadership and representatives from Scout groups.
On Tuesday the mayoress and I visited St. Richard’s Hospice to see their new development, The Green. This has been funded by the two art trails around the city that have proved so popular in recent years, featuring brightly decorated sculptures of elephants and giraffes. Thanks to June Patel, the Chief Executive and Jenny Cowpe for showing us and the other local mayors around.
On Wednesday evening I travelled on a supporters’ coach to Kingsholm to watch the Worcester Warriors win their Premiership Cup semi-final against our local rivals Gloucester. The last time Worcester reached a cup final as a Premiership Club was back in 2008, when my wife was mayor. I wonder if me being mayor was an omen? I won’t be able to make the final on 17th May as it is the same evening, I hand the mayoral chain over to my successor.
Last night I held my charity Mayoral Banquet in the Guildhall, raising funds for Aspie and the Stroke Association.