Mayor’s Week: 1 – 6 February 2019

Mayor’s Week: 1 – 6 February 2019

Last weekend I welcomed the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Major Mark Armstrong, to the Guildhall to officially open an exhibition of images, paintings and pictures commemorating WW1.  This remarkable collection has been curated and put together over the last 30 years by John Noott.  It brings to life the varied aspects of the War, from those who served on the front line to those who worked on the home front.

Art gives a personal view of the horrors of war and immortalises moments in time, for future generations to view. This exhibition is another example of how Worcester has been commemorating the centenary of the Great War. Through the Worcestershire World War one hundred programme which Dr Adrian Gregson and his team have created, we have been able to view amazing pieces of literature, powerful music and thought-provoking films. It is my pleasure that we are now able to host 50 original prints and paintings reflecting wartime experiences.  It is only in place until 1 March, so please do pop in!

I was welcomed into the ‘dodgy end of town,’ as Professor Green so vehemently described it, when I was asked to attend the official opening of the Art House by the University on Castle Street. The official opening was conducted by HRH The Duke of Gloucester – Chancellor and passionate supporter of the University.

The Art House is an ambitious and exciting project for the University to have taken on. It’s a brilliant, magnificent space that respects the original design and conservation aspect of the building as well as its heritage – yet internally it’s been transformed into a bright modern space where creativity can be nourished and original innovative ideas can flourish and flow freely.

Students and the City of Worcester alike should be proud to have such excellent facilities on their doorstep. The news that £2.7m of arts funding was recently granted to the City is a cause for great hope and optimism – especially at a time when national funding has declined dramatically.  One day I really wish and hope that we have the ambition to see Worcester make a successful bid to be the UK City of Culture.

As always, I am blessed and grateful to serve this beautiful City and humbled by the great love and kindness we show to all here.  This is our defining characteristic, our hallmark and seal.  Have a great weekend.

 

 

Mayor’s Week: 24 – 31 January 2019

Mayor’s Week: 24 – 31 January 2019

Last Saturday we honoured Holocaust Memorial Day.  We remembered the mothers and daughters, fathers and sons who lost their lives during a time of unparalleled inhumanity.  We reaffirmed our ongoing responsibility as citizens to live out the admonition, “Never forget. Never again.”

Being ripped away from our houses and our lives seems almost unimaginable today. The emotional impact of having to leave their homes must have contributed to the great ordeal the Jewish people went through. Their belongings and more importantly their memories were being abandoned, as some were captured and others chose to flee.

It is deeply troubling, however, that I cannot refer to this as a thing of the past. As I speak, many immigrants are being torn from their homes in war zones across the globe. Imagine worrying about where your children were going to sleep and what was going to happen to your family.

The holocaust and the genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Yemen and Burma were very real. The persecution of Christians in Asia and Muslims in China are happening before our very eyes: these should be lessons to humanity. But the same pattern of demonisation and persecution repeats. Have we learned those lessons or are we just paying lip service to them?

My theme of ‘Love not Hate’ this year and my aim to unite communities, strengthening the bonds of friendship and understanding between mankind, is the perfect antidote to hate and fear.  My aim is to make this city a beacon for kindness and humanity.

From this year’s  Holocaust Memorial Day we can take away more than one message.  We must help and support those who have been torn from their homes. We must stand up for them in our communities and schools. And we must voice our belief in a UK which cares about the homes of all who live in it.

Our  Jewish brothers and sisters almost lost their history to violence. It is our duty to make sure this never happens, by making sure we always remember what their people endured. Hatred is something that we must fight together, as one strong community, and I am proud to live in a country which embraces people of all backgrounds and faiths.

It takes bravery and courage to stand up to those that seek to divide us and I am so proud of the fact that Cllr Marc Bayliss, leader of the City Council, stood up to a group that sought to spread their hate a couple of weeks ago. Thank you Marc – you lead by example and embraced this city’s moral values and ethos.

 

Mayor’s Week: 18 – 24 January 2019

Mayor’s Week: 18 – 24 January 2019

Now if you didn’t think things could get more whacky after such infamous incidents as the Mystery Clown, Flamingo bombing, and the Flipping Great – all events that we have had the pleasure – or not – to have witnessed in the faithful city, then read on!

Things got really tasty over the weekend when I was invited to the inaugural Wassail at Duck Brook community orchard.  An event surely destined for the illustrious Worcester News Hall of Fame of the weird and wonderful!

Wassail, you may say?

The dictionary definition of Wassailing is:  English ritual intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year.

Well with intrigue and curiosity I turned up on a wet, cold, freezing Saturday evening at the former donkey sanctuary at Duck Brook, along with a number of other fanatical Wassailers.  They were keen as mustard to take part in the first Wassail the city has staged for decades. As it transpired, my initial trepidation turned into relaxation and then to sheer amazement at the events that unfolded before my eyes. Oh, how I wish the whole city were there to see this spectacle.

It was a night never to forget! It turned out to be a quintessentially quirky, eccentrically English custom, that was executed in a monty pythonesque and Fawlty Towers- like manner.

We had zealous morris dancers performing frantically, the public chasing away spirits in a fire lantern procession, followed by a trio of poems sung to disband demons, which then flowed naturally as you would expect into hanging toast on a tree.  The piece de resistance was a completely bonkers short play that depicted a Norman King killing a Saracen, the dead Saracen then rising like a phoenix from its ashes to emerge as Santa Claus. (Historians, please take this with a pinch of salt; revisionists wallow in your butchering!)

We do things well in Worcester and always add our own special touch.  Well done to the organisers for pulling off one of the most extraordinary events this city has seen – long may it live!

Next year’s Wassail is likely to draw Glastonbury-proportioned crowds, so get it in your diaries now!  It was a great evening to cheer up a wet, miserable and cold January. Stay safe and have a great weekend!

Mayor’s Week: 11 – 17 January 2019

Mayor’s Week: 11 – 17 January 2019

You may be pleased to note that true to my word, I joined over 700 runners for my first 5k Park Run last Saturday, which I completed in a respectable time of 28 minutes and 22 seconds.  My sights are set on bigger and better goals, with one eye on the Worcester City Half Marathon in September – watch this space!

Last week I launched the Talk to Me Worcester campaign.  The concept behind this campaign is really simple; I am trying to encourage local people to create some opportunities to bring people together to talk and have some fun, It could be a really small action like inviting a neighbour or two round for a coffee – or maybe organising a lunch or games afternoon for people in your neighbourhood. By taking a little more time for conversation with others, we can build stronger and more resilient communities in Worcester and enhance the well-being of individuals and families. I am pleased to say I have had a very positive response so far! Please do get in touch if you have any ideas.

It is always good to recognise residents who go above and beyond the call of duty, in the background and unnoticed. Hundreds of these heroes in our city go under the radar, often performing the thankless tasks that others shy away from or are unable to commit to. One such person I had the privilege to meet was Allan Poyner of the Royal British Legion, at a surprise party held in his honour on Saturday in Claines.

Allan has served the Legion selflessly for over a decade and has overseen numerous Poppy Appeals and events over the years. The crowning glory were the events held last year to mark the centenary of WW1 and in particular, Remembrance Day where thousands of people saw the Legion and the Worcestershire regiments parade along the High Street.  Allan steps down from his position this year, but will still be involved in the background. Allan – the City and I salute you for your service and dedication to the cause.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, spare a thought for all the volunteers and unsung heroes that keep the wheels turning in the city.  Following in the footsteps of my predecessor, former Mayor Steve MacKay whose mayoral theme was dedicated to honouring volunteers, I would like to take this opportunity to recognise and thank you all.