I started April with a cheque presentation, on the 6th, to the Poverty Action Group, gratefully received, on their behalf, by Janneke Blokland.
Then, later that day, I went to a viewing of works by local artists at St Peter’s Church, we certainly have a thriving local art scene.
On the 8th I went around to the Community and Youth Centre to see the Boundary Walk, organised by the Lions, off on its way. It is good to see this tradition of “beating the bounds” revived in Marlborough.
On the 15th the Mayoress and I went to the Mayor’s charity ball in Chippenham, hosted by Mayor Mary Norton, who has done a sterling job this last year.
On Wednesday 18th April, 4 MI Battalion came to Town for some extreme circuit training. They had a stall on the market to sell mementoes and set up a circuit in the Court Room of the Town Hall, then proceeded to do eight full circuits each while collecting for charity. It looked exhausting stuff but they were well rewarded with donations totalling over a thousand pounds to share between the Mayor’s Charity Fund and the Army Benevolent Fund.
Later, that evening, we held the now traditional Peppercorn Rent ceremony where the Merchant’s House Trust paid their annual rent to the Town Council in the form of a real bag of peppercorns. It was also an occasion to formally declare the new Town Museum open and to give everyone a preview. For this our Lord Lieutenant, Sarah Troughton, was in attendance.
Monday 23rd April saw our Annual Parish Meeting, an open Council meeting where we give an account of our activities over the last year and have some public discussion. This year’s topic was the proposal to have 20mph speed limits in the centre of town, which generated a healthy debate both for and against but generally in favour of the measure.
On the 24th it was off to Trowbridge with Cllr Loosmore to try and persuade Wiltshire Council’s Cabinet to let us have some of its land for parking, partial progress was made but there is still someway to go.
On Saturday 28th April it was my pleasure to open the Rotary Club Spring Fayre, in the Town Hall, aimed at raising money for the Brighter Futures Charity, a very worthy local cause.
On the week beginning 30th April, the Deputy Mayor, Lisa Farrell and I gave a talk at St John’s school assemblies each day, working through a different year group each day. This was a very rewarding experience and we managed to speak to around 1,200 pupils about a range of topics affecting young people in the town. Because of the forthcoming exams we were not able to speak to Year 7, but we will be returning on 25th May to do this.
On Tuesday 1st May, 4MI Battalion were back in town, this time to play a Charity football match against Marlborough Town FC. It was an exciting and close game which 4MI managed to win 3-2.
On Thursday 10th May we welcomed the BBC to the Town as they start researching for the programme Britain in Bloom in which Marlborough will feature next year. Filming will take place on a number of days over the course of the year.
Finally, on the 14th May we come to Mayor Making, when I get to retire as Mayor. It has been a very interesting and rewarding year to serve as Town Mayor and the time has gone very quickly. A big thank you to the staff of Marlborough Town Council and my fellow Councillors for supporting me throughout. I now look forward to having a bit of a break but will still serve as Deputy Mayor for this coming year and I give new Mayor, Lisa Farrell, my best wishes in her new role.
March started with bad weather disrupting activities as had happened in February, the Fairtrade event scheduled for the 2nd was cancelled. That weekend also saw the horrible news of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, an event which caused ripples around the world.
The following weekend, on Sunday 11th March, the Mayoress and I travelled to Salisbury to attend the Rule of Law Service in Salisbury Cathedral, where we joined a procession of High Sheriffs, Mayors, Judges and other dignitaries. The service had a particular poignancy, this year, due to the events of the previous weekend.
On Monday the 12th it was Commonwealth Day, which is remembered by the reading of a message from the Secretary General from the steps of the Town Hall and the raising of the Commonwealth flag.
Friday 16th saw a number of us go out litter picking around the Salisbury Road area, where we picked up several sacks full of litter which, with the reductions in service from Wiltshire Council, would probably never get cleared without the efforts of volunteers.
Later that day it was the Mayor’s Charity Lecture, something that I had been working on for some time. I had been thinking hard about what to do as a charity fundraiser this year when the opportunity arose to put on a lecture and Michael Hart very kindly agreed to give his lecture “The Awkward Place of WW1 in German History”. The event, in the Town Hall, was very well attended and was a fascinating talk. We also raised over £920 for the Mayor’s Charity Fund, which will be divided between Julia’s House and Home Start Kennet at the end of the Mayoral Year.
On Thursday 22nd I found myself wearing waders and standing in a very cold River Kennet as groups of children, from St Mary’s School, joined me in the river to release trout, which they had worked very hard rearing in tanks in their classrooms. Then it was quickly off with the waders and off to the Town Hall to chair a meeting, the much-varied life of a Town Mayor!
We were very lucky to be asked to an excellent choral concert on Saturday 24th, which was a performance of J S Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the chapel at Marlborough College. This magnificent work was performed by the combined choral societies of Swindon and Bracknell the Chamber Group Musica Poetica and professional soloists. The performers almost outnumbered the audience for this performance, which sounded incredible.
I finished off this month by becoming a tourist guide on Wednesday 28th when I showed a party of over 30 around the Town Hall as part of their tour around Marlborough. I think that tourism is a future source of expansion for Marlborough’s economy, something that we need to adapt for.
On Tuesday 6th, following a working party meeting to discuss work on the Town Hall basement, I went up to the function room, where Mencap were doing a fund raiser, for a bit of light relief. What I found was a room full of people thoroughly enjoying themselves at a movie singalong. I had never seen one of these before, they were showing Mamma Mia with the words at the bottom of the screen, karaoke style and singing along to the songs. It was a great event and gave Mencap’s funds a welcome boost.
On the 19th I helped to launch the campaign to persuade dog owners to pick up dog mess, which is a big problem in the town’s open spaces, at times making them virtually unusable by small children. We did the launch up on the common and I had to borrow my Granddaughter’s dog, Pepper, for the occasion, not being a dog owner myself. Talking to people about this problem it seems that there are a lot of “old school” dog owners who still think that it is OK not to clear up on grassed areas. This is simply not true as it makes it very unpleasant for people who then use sports pitches or picnic areas which have been fouled and there is also a significant health risk, particularly for small children.
Friday 24th February turned out to be a very busy day which started with the Showman’s Guild luncheon in Swindon. We always maintain a good relationship with the Guild, who put on the Mop Fairs in Marlborough and also help us in many other ways as well. Following the luncheon there was just time to get home, change and go out again for the Civic Dinner in honour of our adopted army unit, 4MI Battalion. This was a very enjoyable event and we were very well entertained by the Adjutant General’s band and our own Community Choir. There was one note of sadness in that Vanessa Lafaye, who conducted the choir at the dinner, passed away a few days later. She had been seriously ill for some time and it was immensely brave of her to come and conduct what was to be her last concert, we will always remember her.
Finally, on the 26th, I had the pleasure of dining with a group of travel agents from Germany and Austria, who were visiting potential tourist destinations along the Great West Way, otherwise known as the A4. It was a good opportunity to sell the town as a place to visit and hopefully, give a welcome boost to our businesses.
January was relatively quiet compared to December, although there were quite a few meetings as the Council got down to business after the holidays.
On Saturday 13th, I and other Councillors were shown the new tennis courts, a very welcome addition to the town’s sports facilities. I look forward to trying them out. We were also given a thorough briefing on the Golf Club and its activities.
One of my charities, Home Start Kennet, was preparing for its birthday party this week, so on Tuesday 16th I visited their office in Pewsey and did a publicity shot for the local press to help publicise the forthcoming event.
On Wednesday 17th I attended the launch of a new charity, Thriving Through Venture, which aims to help young people gain confidence and experience. This was hosted by Dr Nick Maurice and will involve some working in the Gambia, where the town already has established links with the town of Gunjur.
Saturday 20th saw the 30th Birthday Party of Home Start Kennet, held in the Town Hall. This is one of my two Mayor’s charities and the Mayoress and I were very pleased to see such an enjoyable event involving Scottish dancing and then blues bands, a bit of something for everyone! This charity has done very good work supporting young families, in this area, over the last 30 years and continues to be very active.
An important meeting on Wednesday 24th discussed the forthcoming major roadworks, in April, with the resurfacing of George Lane and London Road. It was a good opportunity to impart some local knowledge to the contractors in order to minimise disruption. Let’s hope that it all goes smoothly and we end up with smooth roads.
We both attended a reception in Swindon, on Friday 26th, given by the Girl Guides. It is good to see that the organisation is thriving and interesting to see how it has changed over time. The Mayoress was once a member but, I won’t say how many years ago.
The really big event this month was the official opening of our superb new primary school, Marlborough St Mary’s, on Tuesday 30th. This event involved a royal visit by the Duchess of Cornwall, who told me how much she liked Marlborough and managed to chat to many of the children who, I am sure, will always remember this special day.
December started with our big official event to start the Christmas period in Marlborough, the Christmas lights switch on. This year’s event had a market, fairground attractions from the Showman’s Guild, a Santa’s grotto by the Rotary Club and an entertainment stage featuring local performers. Helping me with the switch on we had BBC Wiltshire presenter Ben Prater and his children. One of the most fun parts of the evening, for me, was riding around the High Street with Santa in his sleigh with the help of the Lions Club. With my red robes I think that the young children thought that there were two Santas!
On the second the Mayoress and I attended the Winter concert by Marlborough Concert Orchestra in St Mary’s Church, a wonderful and entertaining evening.
The next day, the 3rd, we attended the lighting up ceremony and carol concert at Prospect Hospice in Wroughton, equally entertaining, but also quite cold as it was staged outside. Still, there was plenty of mulled wine to keep us warm.
On the 5th, I attended the first get together of the Marlborough tourist group, our first go at coordinating the town as a visitor attraction on the Great West Way tourist trail and later, a rehearsal for the College Carol Service, a quite daunting event when you are Mayor.
The 6th saw the County of Wiltshire Carol Service at the Church of St Mary and St Nicholas in Wilton, attended by Wiltshire and Swindon Mayors and Council Leaders.
I had not realised that we had such a superb Italianate church in Wiltshire, quite wonderful.
Friday 8th was quite a busy day, starting with a photo call for the press at the new Youth and Community Centre where deliveries of furniture and equipment were arriving courtesy of McCarthy and Stone as part of their donation to the centre. Down to business in the afternoon with a meeting with Claire Perry, our MP, to discuss the issues arising from the Neighbourhood Plan work. Then back to the ceremonial side for the Marlborough College carol concert starting with robing and a reception given by The Master, Johnathan Leigh, who is retiring at the end of this academic year. Then on to the carol service where I gave the first reading, this service is always one of the musical highlights of the year and this one did not disappoint.
On Saturday 9th I went to the Town Hall to greet Fred Wilcox, who once again brought his West Country fair to Marlborough with a range of local products. Fred always collects for the Mayor’s charities at the entrance to the Fair, this year Julia’s House and Kennet Valley Home Start. Then, in the afternoon, it was off to the Mencap Christmas Party in Kennet Valley Hall, always enjoyed by all. In the evening the Mayoress and I then attended the Marlborough Choral Society concert where I had the pleasure of sitting in close proximity to no less than six fine soprano voices.
The overnight weather was very poor with snow and low temperatures so my first engagement on the 10th, a visit to the new tennis courts at the golf club, was postponed due to the conditions. This also sadly affected Fred’s West Country Fair who did little business on the Sunday but still made £175 for charity, having had a good day on Saturday.
On Monday 11th we had our last Full Town Council of 2017 after which I had the privilege of taking my fellow councillors out for drinks and cake, a thank you for their efforts.
On the 13th it was back to St Mary’s Church for the Mencap nativity and carols, a very moving performance with everyone doing their best in front of quite a large audience. By now I had just about learnt the words of all of the popular carols!
On the 14th I had an interview to do for BBC Wiltshire, promoting the opening of the new Marlborough Community and Youth Centre. These are usually done by telephone and you have to think very quickly as they only last a couple of minutes, but are live and you do not get a second go, I’m starting to get used to it.
Another full day on the 15th starting with the Marlborough St Mary’s KS2 Carol Concert in St Mary’s Church, in the morning, where I presented a gift voucher for the best Christmas card design, from that school, to Rachel Darby. There were two designs of Mayor’s Christmas card this year, one designed at Marlborough St Mary’s and the other at Preshute School. Then, in the evening, we had the opening party for the newly refurbished Marlborough Community and Youth Centre which was well attended by people from the community, donors and of course, local children who had a disco and party food. It is very satisfying to see this project come to fruition due to the hard work of many people and my fellow councillor, Lisa Farrell, who’s sheer determination has kept the Community Youth Project going. After making a short speech and chatting to everyone it was then up to the Savernake View care home to switch on their Christmas tree lights. For this I was accompanied not just by the Mayoress but also the “Mini-Mayoress”, my seven-year granddaughter, Genevieve, who did the lights turn on.
On Sunday 17th we had the St Mary’s Church Carol Service at which I gave a reading, this was the last carol service of the month and again, a wonderful occasion.
On Monday 18th it was off to the Marlborough St Mary’s KS1 nativity play, attending in my capacity as a grandparent and then in the evening the Rotary Club, of which I am an honorary member, Christmas party.
On the 19th I attended the morning assembly at Preshute school where I presented a gift token to Emily Nelson, for her winning Christmas card design.
Finally, on Christmas Day, after giving presents to very excited grandchildren, I attended the Christmas lunch for the elderly, in the Town Hall, where I chatted to the diners and thanked those organising and helping at the event.
This month’s activity started on a serious note with the annual Brandt Group lecture on the 2nd. It was given by Mark Goldring, Chief Executive of Oxfam and titled “Ending Global Poverty”. This not only gave a lot to think about but also some cause for optimism, things are getting better.
On Tuesday the 7th we had the Marlborough In Bloom AGM in the Town Hall with an opportunity to thank local groups for their contributions and to hand out the awards that we had received back in October in Torquay.
On the 9th I attended the Wiltshire Assembly Conference at County Hall in Trowbridge. This brings together local groups and Councils from around the County. Wiltshire is one of the most complex counties in the country with some 252 town and parish councils. This year we discussed closer military civilian integration, a very fitting subject with some 4000 soldiers and their families, moving in to Wiltshire from Germany, a group larger than the population of Marlborough.
Saturday 11th November was Armistice Day, the start of Remembrance Weekend. The ceremony on the Town Hall steps, started by an air raid siren and followed by the High Street falling silent, is very moving and atmospheric. This year we were joined by Lady Marland, the High Sherriff, who complimented us on the way we do things in our town. We followed by laying wreaths at the 7th Wilts Memorial on London Road. These men did their training in Marlborough in 1915 and were then posted to Salonika to stop the Bulgarians from invading Greece.
On the next day, Sunday, we had our Remembrance Day parade, with a very large number of people turning out in freezing cold weather. We were joined by soldiers from 4MI Battalion, Claire Perry MP and the town’s many youth organisations. Following the ceremonies and Church Service a group of us went up to the town cemeteries, where there are eleven war graves, and laid poppies on the graves. There are five graves in the Victorian Cemetery from the First World War and a further six from the Second World War in the current cemetery. There is an interesting background story behind each one, a subject for further research.
It was off to Trowbridge again on the 17th for a training day giving useful information about council issues such as strategic planning.
On the weekend of 18th November, we had the first of Fred Wilcox’s West Country Fairs in the Town Hall. This is a craft fair and Fred puts a lot of effort in to putting together a collection of stalls offering mostly hand made items. He always does a collection for the Mayor’s charities and this one raised over £350.
On the 29th I went up to the Greatwood Charity to present them with a cheque, from the Town Council, to buy safety equipment. When I posed for a picture they brought out the most enormous stallion I had ever seen, he was, however, very good natured. He was called Louis and only understood French, I thought, at one point, he was going to eat the cheque but, all was well!
Later that day I visited St John’s school to meet with the College Captains, Head Boy and Head Girl. We discussed matters of interest to young people in the Town and had a very good discussion.
This looks like a quiet month but there were a lot of meetings, not listed here, particularly to organise the Christmas Lights Switch-on and the opening of the new Community and Youth centre, more about those next month.