Asparagus, moorings and a month of celebration

April 27, 2017

I spent a wonderful day in the sunshine at The Fleece in Bretforton on Sunday to mark St George’s Day and the launch of this year’s asparagus festival.Gus2

Morris Dancers provided other entertainment together with Eddie Grundy (from The Archers) who introduced the Vicar of St/ Leonard’s  Church (right), Bretforton who blessed the asparagus crop.

A film crew from Countryfile were on site to film the event, especially the several Morgan cars on show who would make the trip to Worcester Cathedral with a Hundred of Asparagus.

Gus the asparagus man was on hand to chat to a very lively crowd and  had a ride on the trailer of a miniature steam engine (below right).

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Starting the journey to Worcester with the 100 of asparagus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in the day John and I travelled to Pershore Abbey to take part in the Pershore District St George’s Day Act of Worship.  The Abbey was full of children of all ages and from Beavers and Cubs, Guides and Brownies, Scouts, Explorer Scouts, Network Scouts their adult leaders and past scouts who joined in enthusiastically with the hymns. Some of the older children took part in telling the story of “Scouting Adventure”.

What better place to be than in Wychavon when the sun is shining, sharing countryside pursuits and our famous asparagus.  It was a real treat to be interviewed and filmed by Countryfile – we now wait to see how the filming comes over at the end of May.

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Scouts on parade for St George’s Day

Celebration has been a theme of the last few weeks. It started with a visit to Inkberrow for the opening of the ‘Village of Culture’ event.

This idea came about when Cllr Audrey Steele queried with Wychavon officers why there wasn’t a Village of Culture (similar to the City of Culture), so she decided that she would promote Inkberrow as a Village of Culture with the help of Jane Neal.  They have put together a programme of events for the year to suit all tastes and ages to integrate the new residents with the longer established villagers, bringing together all members of the community. 

The first event was a concert by Tarantara in Inkberrow Church which was packed. Tarantara is an auditioned mixed choir comprising over 60 enthusiastic members whose aim is to enjoy themselves singing and performing to the highest standard.  They certainly did that with a wide repertoire of songs sung by the whole choir, with several solo pieces and even a piece of poetry by Pam Ayres. 

I wish Cllr Steele and the others involved a very successful 12 months promoting Inkberrow as a Village of Culture.  A great idea.

I also attended two presentation services held by West Midlands Ambulance Service in Brierley Hill. Among those being recognised was Phillip Crowther of Evesham who received his Retirement Certificate for more than 40 years service.  (I was delighted earlier in my year to be able to present Phillip personally at a Council meeting with a gift in recognition of his long service).

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Staff and volunteers recognised for their service

Later on the Excellence in the Community Awards took place. This ceremony recognised the many acts of dedication and kindness undertaken by members of the public as well as the Blue Light Service personnel.  There were one or two which involved young children taking care of their sick mothers after calling for an ambulance.  Some amazing stories – quite an emotional evening.

It was an honour to attend these award ceremonies and once again have the opportunity to thank staff on their ‘Outstanding’ achievements.  Without the exceptional skill and dedication such a high standard would not be possible.  We owe thanks to all the blue light services for their commitment to keeping us all safe.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of officially opening the new mooring at The Angel Hotel, which will be a great improvement to the riverside and bring boating visitors to the town and the Mayor of Pershore and I sprinkled a bottle of beer over the mooring area (right).Mooring

The mooring was dedicated to Ambrose Emerson who, for many years has been involved with the Avon Navigation Trust but who sadly died earlier this year.  It was lovely to be able to speak with his widow who was also present at the ceremony

Everyone concerned with this project can be justly proud of what they have achieved.

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Wychavon Chairman goes to prison

March 29, 2017

Wychavon Chairman goes to prison – read the latest blog post from our Chairman

It’s been a busy few weeks which started with a visit to HMP Long Lartin – the category A prison based near Evesham.

After a very meticulous search and having finger prints taken, we were met by an officer and shown around the education rooms and the workshops, particularly the woodwork shop which produces the most fantastic pieces of furniture and garden ware for sale.

At the end of the tour we spent some time with the new lady governor.  I was really looking forward to this visit as John and I had enjoyed a similar tour some years ago when he was Chairman of Wychavon.  Things have changed a lot since the last visit as then we met some of the in-mates but this time the visit was strictly geared to the timing of lessons and mealtime. A most interesting and informative visit.

Sticking with the theme of skills and I was delighted to attend the Worcestershire Skills Show at Sixways Stadium earlier this month. Businesses, employers and organisations were able to demonstrate their services to invited guests and students from most of the county’s  high schools.  It was a very well laid out exhibition and we were able to talk to many people and several businesses.

On Monday 13 March I was proud to raise the Commonwealth Flag at the Civic Centre in Pershore and to give the Commonwealth Affirmation, raising awareness of all that is achieved through commonwealth co-operation, drawing inspiration from our diversity and the opportunities for working together, as a rich source of wisdom and a powerful influence for good in the world.

Me raising the Commonwealth Flag

 

Afterwards we travelled to Hindlip to the headquarters of West Mercia Police to meet the Police & Crime Commissioner John Campion, the Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner Tracy and the Chief Constable Anthony Bangham.

After a short briefing in the Chief Constable’s office we were taken on a very in-depth tour by Tom, who was an absolute fountain of knowledge about the police service.

The highlight of the day has got to be the visit to the dog unit where we were able to see Ivy, now re-assigned to a new police dog handler and doing very well.  There is obviously no petting or fussing allowed of the working dogs but we were given a marvellous demonstration of how the dogs work and how they are rewarded.  We were able to meet and fuss one of the young intake as she was just starting her training – a lovely friendly German Shepherd (pictured below) but we were told that at the end of her training she will become a professional concentrating on what she is trained to do.

We made friends with a 15 plus year old spaniel, now retired from her “sniffer” duties but now living with one of the civilians working in the dog unit.  Most of the dogs are German or Belgian Shepherds, with a few retrievers, spaniels and a very perky Jack Russell all assigned to different types of work – crowd control, chasing criminals, sniffing out drugs and money.

We then visited several other parts of Hindlip, finger-printing, forensics, the main telephone hub where calls from the public are monitored and a brief visit to the gymnasium where an exam was being undertaken.   A very memorable visit  – it certainly raised our awareness of how much we rely on our police force and how much hard work is done behind the scenes to keep our community as crime-free as possible.  There is certainly no complacency from the police as they are very aware they need to keep one step ahead of the criminal and the terrorist.

Evesham’s new fire station was officially opened on Thursday 16 March in the presence of the Chairman of County Council, the Mayor of Evesham, myself and several high ranking officers of the Fire Authority.  A plaque to mark the occasion was unveiled by the Chairman of the Fire Authority, Cllr Derek Prodger.

Cllr Derek Prodger opens the new fire station

After the opening, guests were given a tour of the building and able to speak with serving officers and view the latest equipment before sharing a light lunch.  This facility is a great credit to the co-operation between the fire authority and Wychavon District Council and will be a huge improvement to the former station which served Evesham for many years.

I was honoured to recognise the winners of this year’s Community Recognition Awards during a ceremony at Peopleton Village Hall.

Open to the whole community, the awards give those who have volunteered, coached or helped others in the district a chance to gain well deserved recognition for their efforts in helping to make Wychavon a better place to live and work.

It was a lovely evening and each and everyone of them is a community hero.

The categories and winners in the awards were:

  • Young Volunteer award – this went to Holly Clarke (aged 13) from Droitwich, for the work she does raising money for homeless people.
  • Volunteer award – this went to Pamela Field from Crowle for the many voluntary hours she puts in to setting up the tea rooms and getting people involved at her local parish hall.
  • Arts Recognition award – this went to Dr Sue Ablett from Evesham for all of the hard work she has put in to making the Evesham Festival of words a success.
  • Sporting Hero award – this went to Bradley Smith (pictured) for the time and dedication he puts in to playing and coaching for Pershore Tennis Club.
  • Community Project award – this went to Rooftop Housing for the outstanding efforts they have put into the success of the bowls project for residents in Wychavon.
  • Community Group award – this went to Mr Beestans Gardens in Droitwich for the hard work and dedication volunteers have put in to this garden project for the good of the community.
  • Enabling Healthy Lives award – this went to Richard Morrish from Droitwich for his efforts in helping others feel comfortable and at ease when they attend his local Judo club.
  • Lifetime Achievement award – this went to Sue Collins from Drakes Broughton for her years of time and dedication to the Parish Games and other activities she runs across the Wychavon district.

Bradley Smith winner of the sporting hero award

John and I also recently attended Prince Henry’s High School production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” – a new idea of mixing Shakespeare with the music of Abba thought up by the School’s Head of Drama Maxine Cook.  I couldn’t believe how well this worked, the whole cast were sensational with the audience giving them two  standing ovations.  It was so obvious how hard the cast had worked, learning lines and getting into their characters.

 

Sadly for some of the cast this will be their last production as they move on to their next challenge at university or business, but thankfully there are other talented students ready to take their place in future productions.   Well done Prince Henry’s – you have set a very high standard.

Finally we attended the re-launch last week of The Maltstone Pub & Kitchen at Cutnall Green. Owners Ruby and Gee Gill gave us a tour of the newly refurbished pub which included a function room upstairs.

Ruby (far left) and Gee Gill (far right) with me and two of the chefs

Live music was provided by Blacksmith Hill and we had the opportunity to talk with regulars and other guests and sample the delicious canapes and take a look at the varied menu of wine and spirit selections. The food menu looks good too – I would certainly recommend taking a look, especially now the clocks have changed and we hopefully get some good weather as the pub has a nice outside eating area too.  We wish Ruby and  Gee every success.

 

The future is robotic

March 7, 2017

I had a glimpse into the future recently when I attended a robotics competition hosted by De Montfort School in Evesham.

Robots from across the country attended to compete for a place at both the national and world championships. De Montfort has already secured its place at the VEX World Championships in Louisville, Kentuck, USA in April this year after winning an excellence award at a robotics competition held at Stowe School. There are only four excellence awards for the whole UK.

The De Montfort team

The competition began at 10am and the presentations were made at 3.30pm by four judges and myself.  It was quite fascinating to see the scope of the different robots, which were built mostly under teacher’s guidance at the various schools, although there was one young student, aged 12, who designed and built his own robot completely on his own – no mean task.

One of the team’s explaining the way their robot worked

The moves these robots can make and actions they can take in a competition  is really quite stunning.  I came away with a wider knowledge of what young students, boys and girls, can achieve.  Some of them, I am sure will be the engineers of tomorrow.  I wish the De Montfort team every success when they travel to Kentucky in April.  They really deserve to do well.

John and I attended The Guildhall in Worcester on 24 February, to take part in the Mayor of Worcester’s charity auction in aid of his charities – Midlands Air Ambulance, YHA Breaks for kids and Action for Children.

After light refreshments, the evening commenced with singing by Sass Cappella – a group of six sassy ladies who love to sing in harmony and who offered the chance to choose the final song they would sing from their entertainment to whoever made the highest bid – which was £50.

Something in the region of £2,015 was raised on the auction itself, with lots ranging from original paintings by local artist Peter Carey, tickets for rugby and cricket matches, family membership for the Wildlife & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge, afternoon tea and a tour of the House of Lords to a miniature replica of an original statue by Ken Potts of “The Presidents”.

The full sized statue depicting US Presidents Adams and Jefferson will be erected in Fort Royal Park, Worcester

A light-hearted and enjoyable evening spent in The Assembly Room at The Guildhall ablaze with its beautiful chandeliers.

We returned to Worcester University last week to listen to the third annual Judy Dale lecture delivered by Prof Ilora Finlay (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) entitled Dying and Living.

This was an excellent lecture which investigated the use of palliative care, not only in hospitals but in hospices, and went further  into the difficult discussions and decisions based around assisted dying and euthanasia.  Whilst the UK is one of the top countries for its palliative care services, Prof Finlay stressed that as a country we must not get complacent, there is still much work to do with the way we deliver these services, bearing in mind that as a nation we are living longer.

Mark Jackson, Chief Executive of St Richard’s Hospice (my charity for the year), myself and Prof Ilona Finlay

Several examples of how Oregon (USA), the Netherlands and Swtitzerland deal with assisted dying/euthanasia were quoted – quite different to the UK but after discussing various points on this subject Prof. Finlay concluded that we should not change the laws of this country on assisted dying/euthanasia.  Several cases were quoted where patients had insisted they wished to die, only to find their conditions had improved and with palliative care they could lead acceptable lives, and had, indeed, lived longer than their original prognosis.

Professor Finlay is an extremely talented lady, not only is she still a GP, she has many interests within the health field, is a mother and sits in the House of Lords.  She travelled up to Worcester yesterday afternoon, after sitting for the Brexit vote and was returning to London after the lecture.  A most interesting and thought-provoking lecture delivered in an easy to understand manner by a very approachable and friendly lady.

Paying tribute to community servants

February 13, 2017

I had the tremendous pleasure recently of hosting the Diamond Jubilee Community Recognition Awards 2017. They were set up to mark the 40th anniversary of The Queen’s accession to the throne and the service she has given to the nation since, by honouring those groups and individuals who selflessly serve their community.

Each year town and parish councils are invited to nominate one, or more people, they believed have made a real difference to the place where they live.

This year there were nine nominations and those considered worthy of recognition were invited to attend a ceremony at the Civic Centre in Pershore.

Those nominated and the reason for their nomination:

Badsey Morning Coffee Ladies for raising funds for the Royal British Legion and other charities at weekly coffee mornings.

St Leonard’s Bretforton Churchyard Working Party for improvements to the churchyard

Lady Anne Judge a local campaigner for the Parish Plan, Wychbold Youth Club and helping residents with noise pollution on the M5 motorway.

Helga Peeters  for setting up and running a social media group.

Alan Scrafton for running Question Time events, coaching young cricketers and for being a member of the Mental Health Team in Malvern.

Bob Hare who assists with anything horticultural for children to allotment holders.

Michael Egan for his travelling museums, ensuring public appreciate wartime history

Christine Bowden for running Droitwich Stroke Cub, a small social club set up to give stroke survivors a place to meet and socialise.

Norton WW1 Group for drawing up and displaying the parish’s history around the Norton Barracks/Worcestershire Regiment.

It was very difficult to choose a 1st, 2nd and 3rd but wonderful to know that in Wychavon we have so many upstanding members of our community.  The winners were:

3rd place:  Michael Egan for his work putting on exhibitions for schools and communities around Worcestershire.

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Michael Egan came third for his work putting on exhibitions for schools and communities around Worcestershire

2nd place:  Christine Bowden for her dedication to providing stroke survivors with a small social club

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Christine Bowden came second for her dedication to providing stroke survivors with a small social club

 

1st place:  Norton WW1 Group for creating a memorial garden, providing new village signs and five information boards set at strategic locations around Norton telling the story of the Worcestershire Regiment and Norton Barracks

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Norton WW1 Group was selected as the winner for creating a memorial garden, providing new village signs and five information boards set at strategic locations around Norton telling the story of the Worcestershire Regiment and Norton Barracks

It gave me great pleasure to present certificates to all nominees and prizes to the three winners – all very well deserved.  Well done everyone for all you do to make our community of Wychavon a better place.

My other recent engagements included attending the launch of the Safe Place scheme at Evesham Rowing Club.

The scheme provides locations within the town that vulnerable people can go to should they need reassurance and support for a problem or something that’s worrying them whilst out and about.

All Safe Place locations are identified by having a Safe Place sticker displayed. Locations have trained staff members that are able to give reassurance and also help people contact other appropriate support.

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The types of places that display the Safe Place sticker in their windows include shops, businesses and public buildings. In Evesham the Safe Place locations are Bridge Street Kitchen, Cobwebs Tea Room, Evesham and District Mental Health Support Services, Herbies Coffee House, Moo Moo’s Café Bar and Moulton Hair and Beauty.

The Safe Place scheme was started when a group of vulnerable young people from Our Way discovered that their friends felt worried and anxious when out and about in their community. The scheme initially started in Kidderminster, but as it is proving to be so popular, and thanks t support from Wychavon District Council and the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner – it is being rolled out across Wychavon, with Pershore soon to follow.

It was interesting to hear from volunteers how this can help the community.

Making a splash with Paralympic medallist

January 27, 2017

Our policemen and women do a difficult but essential job in keeping us all safe. That’s why I was delighted to be at the launch of the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner’s ‘Behind the Badge’ campaign on Tuesday (24 January).

West Mercia PCC John Campion launches the 'Behind the Badge' campaign

West Mercia PCC John Campion launches the ‘Behind the Badge’ campaign

The campaign aims to ensure officers and staff of the Wet Mercia Police Force are given the same level of support as any other victim of crime, tougher sentences are imposed on those found guilty of assaulting police officers and for the risks and issues faced by officers to be recognised by government.

Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion, the Deputy Chief Constable Chris Singer and a member of the Police Federation, Russell Yeomans, spoke on the subject of police assaults followed by a video produced in support of the campaign.  We were also treated to a physical demonstration of how a police officer dealt with someone trying to assault him.

That day we also saw Droitwich’s very own Paralympic medallist Rebecca Redfern open the new Perdiswell Leisure Centre along with the Mayor of Worcester Cllr Paul Denham.

Rebecca Redfern and the Mayor and Mayoress of Worcester open the new centre

Rebecca Redfern and the Mayor and Mayoress of Worcester open the new centre

Rebecca made a splash by swimming two lengths quickly followed by members of the swimming club and pupils from Royal Grammar school, giving swimming and life-saving demonstrations.  A tour of the new facility followed (which made some of us quite tired watching people and gym equipment and working out) – so much so that we were glad to share a light lunch.  Quite an impressive facility which I hope will continue to be well used.

Paralympian Rebecca Redfern tries out the new pool

Paralympian Rebecca Redfern tries out the new pool

We ended the day by viewing a touring exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society’s “International Images for Science” in the Charles Darwin building at Worcester University.  There were some extraordinary photographs covering a wide range of subjects, but I think my favourite was “Warrior of the grassland” – a fan-throated lizard pictured in open ground in a sparse forest in India – beautiful colouring.

At the exhibition at the University of Worcester

At the exhibition at the University of Worcester

I had recently attended the university to listen to a fascinating and thought-provoking lecture by Professor John West-Burnham.

Professor West-Burnham is a writer, teacher and consultant in education leadership with a particular interest in leadership learning and development and innovative approaches to learning in schools and communities.  He has been a schoolteacher, teacher trainer, education officer and has held posts in six universities and is the author or editor of 28 books.

His lecture was entitled – “The end of improvement? Alternative perspectives on educational policy and practice”.

Prof West-Burnham referred to recent statistics which indicated that our education system had a long disjointed history of low attainment, with policies which aim to “find and fix” rather than “predict and prevent”.  He felt improvement was too slow, transformation too complex and strategic planning was too naïve and problematic and in his opinion early intervention was the key to prevent failure.  He suggested GCSEs should be abolished and the current assessment should be replaced with a model based on ABRSM grades (music grades), with collaborative working based on experience, an extension to early years development learning pathways whilst respecting the uniqueness of individuals and focussing on well-being and developing cognitive confidence.

Prof West-Burnham’s lecture argued that there is a need for a more radical approach moving from reforming what we have to rethinking for the future.  He proposed that this alternative perspective needs to question current orthodoxies on the basis of the increasingly sophisticated evidence and knowledge base now available and focussing on securing equity and providing an education suited to living a good life in the future, not reliving the past.

Professor West-Burnham was a most interesting man to talk and share thoughts with, so thank you Worcester University for giving us the opportunity to meet such a forward-thinking interesting gentleman.

 

New venture marks new start for Evesham venue

January 18, 2017

It may be a little late to be saying this but I will say it anyway – Happy New Year to you all and I hope 2017 is treating you all well so far.

For me it has already started on a positive note as I had the pleasure of opening The Valkyrie Café and bar in the Market Square, Evesham on Saturday, 14 January.

It has transformed the old PJ’s which had been closed for 12 years and was a cause for constant concern from residents living in Evesham. Many others have tried to reopen this facility but have always found the challenges too great to overcome.

The opening of the new bar in Evesham

The opening of the new bar in Evesham

But Landlord Steve Richford has finally done it thanks to his expertise of re-opening struggling bars elsewhere, his hard work, determination and a considerable personal financial investment.  The Valkyrie will operate as a café bar during the day (serving refreshments and light food, with a pavement café facing into the Square) and in the evening it will operate as a pub and music venue.

I wish Steve and his team every success.

The day before was Friday 13th and although they say it is unlucky, John and I found ourselves sharing some choral favourite show tunes and music from the ‘60s with the Mayor and Mayoress of Stourport at the New Civic Hall.  Stourport Choral provided the music and invited the audience to share the singing of favourites from Elvis, The Beatles and many of the shows from the 60s era.  At the interval we enjoyed hot pork baps complete with stuffing and apple sauce.  An enjoyable and nostalgic evening.

These both followed my first engagement of 2017 which was the Wychavon Visualize Awards – a spin-off from the WOW awards.

The Visualize awards were awarded for art exhibits based on the theme “Our Country”. There were two prizes – one for 11to 13-year-olds and the other for 14 to 18-year-olds.  Quite a few exhibits were submitted but students from Prince Henry’s High School, Blackminster Middle  School and Drakes Broughton Middle School were among the finalists.

Winners were Lily Spiers from Blackminster Middle School in the Junior section with her painting of a country village and Eleanor Ritchie from Prince Henry’s High School with her painting of a story in pictures and prose.

Lily Spiers with her winning entry

Lily Spiers with her winning entry

It was really lovely to see the talent which we have in our schools and thanks must go to Jenny Davis, from Wychavon, for all her work in putting this competition together.

Spare a thought for your postie this Christmas

December 22, 2016

Plenty of people will be working hard over the festive period, but spare a thought for our dedicated postal workers who will have to deliver all those letters and parcels.

On Monday, 12 December, I paid a 7.30am visit to the  Pershore Royal Mail sorting office to see just how hard our postmen and women work over the festive period to get our cards and packages to us before Christmas Eve.

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Me with one of our hardworking posties

We were shown round by Dale Martin and I was impressed to see how extremely tidy the office was with the staff working quickly and efficiently sorting things into post code areas before they would set out with their vans to go to outlying areas as well as the town of Pershore.

We owe our postmen and women a huge debt of gratitude for all they do throughout the year but especially at Christmas in getting our post to us so efficiently.

That day also saw us mark a new milestone in the history of the fire service in Evesham as the town’s fire station on Merstow Green was officially closed. The building had been stripped of all it’s past except for the engines which formed a parade down Abbey Road to the new station by the Leisure Centre.

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Posing with Steve (i/c at Evesham) with Cllr Prodger, the Fire Chief and John outside the new station.

What a splendid building with great facilities for our valiant firefighters to use. After a short ceremony and specches we were given a brief tour of the new building before meeting present and past fire fighters over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.  Evesham can be truly proud of these wonderful facilities whilst now awaiting the demolition of the old station and the development of the new Waitrose store on the site.

At 12 noon we joined members and staff of Worcestershire County Council for their annual carol service.  Always a lovely occasion for members and staff to share.  Saturday, 11 December , saw us join  the Mayor and Mayoress of Stourport for a pre-Christmas dinner at The Black Star in Mitton Street.

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Singers from Prince henry’s High School who provided Christmas songs together with St Bede’s Junior School.

Lovely Christmassy atmosphere with crackers, nice meal and a draw for the Mayor’s charities (RSPCA and Midlands Air Ambulance) which raised something over £200 on the night.

The following day was Council, at which several presentations were made.   To Karen Kempton, PCSO for Safer Schools Evesham, I presented  the Wychavon Police Trophy 2016 for using her professional curiosity to identify a number of young people who are at risk of significant harm – protecting vulnerable people from harm through partnership working.

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PCSO Karen Kempton receiving her award

Secondly Rev Philip Jones, a member of the “Faith at work in Worcestershire”,  was recognised for his service as chaplain at Wychavon since 1997/98. He is  taking up a new post in Stoke-on-Trent after a short period of study leave and finally to Elaine Dicks, who received a long service award for 30 years service at Wychavon which she joined in 1986. After undertaking various roles she finished up as Electoral Services Manager in 2010 and looks after all elections which take place in the district. (794 with PCSO Karen Kempton) After Council had finished I managed to get to Prince Henry’s High School for the second half of their annual Christmas Concert.

Another great example of some of the best local talent culminating in over 150 students performing on stage together for the finale.  Lots of traditional music, audience participation, big band, barbershop, community orchestra and brass group to entertain a very appreciative audience.  Well done again Prince Henry’s.

On Thursday 15 December, it was the turn of Pershore High School for one of their annual carol services in Pershore Abbey at 11am.  Another traditional service but with some rather special ideas.  Five candles were lit each accompanied by some words.  The first candle was for HOPE – for the future;  the second candle was for PEACE – to commemorate the battle of the Somme; the third candle was for JOY – for Pershore High School and the Community; the fourth candle – LOVE for Humanity and the fifth candle – JESUS CHRIST.

The following day Wychavon  had it’s own carol service in the Council chamber.  This was the first time Wychavon had held such a service and it was heartening to see some members and staff joining other “chains” to celebrate the story of Christmas.

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Me with MPs for this area Nigel Huddleston MP, and Harriett Baldwin MP

Pupils from Holy Redeemer Catholic Primary School in Pershore accompanied by their music teacher Mr. Oliver Lister joined in with audience carols and sang beautifully four separate pieces of Christmas music – all without books but with enthusiasm.  My consort read a lesson and at the last minute Vic Allison, the deputy Managing Director stood in for my cadet (who was unfortunately taken ill)  to read another lesson.   My chaplain, Rev Mark Binney said prayers, and following words of thanks from me and a poem “Christmas is a time for sharing” we all enjoyed refreshments in the Committee rooms.

That night John and I joined the Chairman of Bromsgrove District Council at a Charity Spectacular Christmas Extravaganza at the home of Mr Dick Gardiner where about 130 people enjoyed a buffet meal, carols and entertainment in a lovely Christmassy setting, with proceeds going to the Chairman’s chosen charity – Sunfield.  A lovely end to a busy day.

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Carol singers

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Me with compere for the evening

We attended another lovely carol service on Sunday, 18 December, held in the traditional manner.   This one was at St. James Church, West Malvern – a civic service of lessons and carols by candlelight with the Chairman of Malvern Hills District Council, Cllr John Raine.  Cllr Raine also plays the organ at St James’ so he was busy playing the main organ and a smaller organ for choir carols, rather than sitting with the rest of the “chain gang”.  His wife is also an organist and read one of the lessons.  Some lovely pieces of music reminding me of when I sang with Evesham Arts Centre Choir singing many of the pieces we heard during this service.

Wednesday 21 December, I accepted an invitation from Worcester News to attend their carol service at Worcester Cathedral.  The Dean welcomed a packed cathedral to another lovely service of readings, carols and Christmas music, led by the cathedral choir.

Trees lining Worcester Cathedral

Trees lining Worcester Cathedral

Finally, on Thursday (December 22) I joined the Deputy Managing Director, Vic Allison, on a tour of the Civic Centre and the Community Contact Centre at Evesham to greet staff, thank them all for their hard work during the year and to congratulate them on helping Wychavon to be the third best place to live and to wish them a Happy Christmas and an even better New Year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

400 Santas dashing on a sunny morning (sadly no snow)

December 16, 2016

I never thought I would see 400 Father Christmas’ all in one place, but that’s exactly the sight that greeted me as I attended the Santa Dash at The Valley in aid of St Richard’s Hospice, which as you will know is my charity for the year.

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Santas warm up for the off

There were young,  (very young) and old and the in-betweens taking part in the race around the lake.  Although it was a cold morning the sun was shining and everyone was enjoying the event which started in front of the promenade of shops then went off around the lake.

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Me, a St Richard’s helper and John waiting for the Santas to return

One or two parents were carrying children in baby slings and one little 5-year old mastered the course with the help of her father.  As the runners came back to the finish John and  I and volunteers from St Richard’s were on hand to distribute goody bags, medals and water.

Away from the festive period, and I attended a very special meeting of Droitwich Spa Town Council on Monday, 5 December to see former Droitwich Town Councillor Peter Pinfield given the status of Honorary Alderman in recognition of his eminent services rendered to the Council and for his meritorious services to the town in both a civic and non-civic capacity.

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Peter Pinfield, his wife Pat and me after the ceremony

Mr Pinfield has been involved in politics for over 30 years, although no longer a councillor, at Town, District amd County level.  He is now chairman of Health Watch, a body which scrutinises local health activities.  In his reply Mr Pinfield thanked his family for their support and the many people in the room for their encouragement during his years on the various councils.

I was also delighted to attend the official opening of the latest extension to our local first school, St Andrew’s C of E. The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev John Inge, did the honours.   Also present was the Chairman of Worcestershire County Council (Cllr Tony Miller) and his wife Kath, the Rev. Mark Binney (my chaplain) and Vicar of St. Andrew’s Church, Hampton and representatives from many organisations.

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Some of the students and invited guests wait for the opening

The children’s choir sang for us before we all went outside to the new extension where the Bishop cut the ribbon and declared the building open.  The children went back to their classrooms whilst invited guests enjoyed very healthy fruit snacks before heading off with a senior pupil for a tour of the new building.  As both John and I attended the old Hampton School (many years ago), we were amazed to see the brilliant facilities today’s pupils have  and as the Bishop told the children how lucky they are to be able to learn in such fantastic surroundings and reminded them of children in Syria and other places of conflict which do not have such facilities.

After a few hours catching up on paperwork at the Civic Centre – and selling a few raffle tickets for my Christmas Draw in aid of St Richard’s Hospice – John and I took a tour of Pershore Community Hospital. We were met by the Matron Daniel, who gave us an interesting tour of the building, meeting patients and staff and learning how the hospital meets the needs of the community in Pershore.  Like Evesham, with its own community hospital, I think we are extremely lucky to have such facilities, giving patients the opportunity of care closer to home.  Long may this continue.

On Friday, 9 December, I presented certificates and plaques at the Wychavon Building Awards ceremony at the Civic Centre.  In total 25 nominations were received for awards for building design and the panel had a really difficult task to choose the winners. Among them was Hanbury Hall for a commendation in the Heritage category for their windows and Pershore College for their innovative Atrium design.

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Some of the winners of the Wychavon Building Awards

Following the awards ceremony John and I went to St. Mary and All Saints Church at Kidderminster for the Chairman’s carol service – a very traditional ninr lessons and carols followed by light refreshments (mince pies etc) at the rear of the church.  (I think we shall know most of the carols by the end of the Christmas season but it is always nice to visit other towns for their celebrations).

And finally, I was delighted to be invited to present the Wychawards – the annual staff awards of Wychavon District Council. So many people work so hard throughout the year helping to run the various activities and services we all rely on and they often go unnoticed so it was lovely to be able to offer some recognition for their efforts.

Playgrounds, certificates and fundraising

December 6, 2016

As regular readers of my blog will know, my chosen charity for the year is St Richard’s Hospice. It is a truly fantastic organisation offering free excellent specialist palliative care and compassion to patients living with cancer.

I recently took a tour of the hospice together with other civic dignitaries. Mark Jackson (CEO of the charity) escorted us around the building explaining the many facets of work undertaken by staff at St. Richard’s.  As well as the in-patient unit (with its dedicated and skilled nursing team who are exerts in the field of specialist palliative care, on hand 24 hours a day to manage patients’ symptoms and where if they choose patients may spend the last few days of their lives in comfort and dignity), they have family support teams, community volunteers, out-patient clinics and a Hospice at Home team which helps patients who wish to stay at home and Hospice nurse specialists.

I was also delighted to attend the hospice’s Snowdrop Ball. We had a great evening with lots of laughter, fund and good food.  By the time we left something in the region of £21,000 had been raised for the charity and every penny will make a huge difference.

Action at the gambling table

Action at the gambling table

The Wychavon Parish Games presentation evening, held at Bretforton Sports Club, was a remarkable event. Some 27 parishes take part in the games throughout the year, with about 1,100 players participating in various competitions including angling, bell boating, bowls, crib, cross country, darts, dominoes, rounders, skittles and others.

The Bretforton team that won the Champion parish cup.

The Bretforton team that won the Champion parish cup.

After the presentations, a gold clock was presented by Ken Rowe (Chairman) to Gary Robinson who was one of the original instigators of the Parish Games which started back in 1978 with Droitwich Town playing a main part.  In thanking the organisers of the Games Gary paid tribute to Sue Collins for all the work she continues to do to promote the competitions.  I was able to say a few words on behalf of Wychavon, thanking the organisers and encouraging everyone to continue with the competitions.

John and I spent another very enjoyable evening at Prince Henry’s High School for their Evening of Music on Tuesday 22 November.  Their Community Orchestra played pieces from Handel’s Water Music to a Wizard of Oz medley, there was also a Senior String Ensemble, a Flute Ensemble, an Oboe Quartet, brass and clarinet ensembles and solo singers Jonathan Deakin, Katy Haffner, Jessica Thompson and The Decorators close harmony group and finally the Big Band. We were all entertained by some very talented young people who so obviously enjoy music.  They are all a real credit to Prince Henry’s and their teachers.

Last Tuesday (29 November) I got to officially open the new play equipment at Cookhill Playing Fields.

Children enjoy the new play equipment in Cookhill

Children enjoy the new play equipment in Cookhill

Following consultations with the community the parish council sought funding from the Localism Panel (of which I am a member) under the New Homes Bonus scheme, to provide parishioners with the adult play equipment they had requested.  Together with this the parish council was also successful in having grant funding from Section 106 monies to update the childrens’ play equipment. A great way for me as a councillor to see how New Homes Bonus monies are being spent.

There were more celebrations at Evesham Sea Cadets unit, where I presented certificates to several cadets who had taken part in exercises over the last few months.  The work of Evesham Sea Cadet unit is well known around the area, including being present at Remembrance Services, selling poppies and generally helping the community.  Cadets are able to travel to other units to share experiences and even take part in the activities at Portsmouth and other bases.  A great way to build up a young persons confidence.

Some of the cadets with their certificates

Some of the cadets with their certificates.

Last Friday morning (2 December) I spent with Phil Merrick, Wychavon’s Head of Economy and Housing, and Sharon Bell, from Pershore College, who gave us a most interesting tour of the college, explaining how the college has moved on over many years, not just in horticulture but other areas of learning.

We spent some time in the new Atrium building with his lovely plants and ferns, saw the trees and shrubs for sale and visited the garden centre, aglow with cyclamen, poinsettias and all things Christmassey.  About 12 noon we joined an invited group of business people for the launch of the Business Lounge at the college.  This space is ideal for small businesses looking for extra space to meet clients, for meetings or professional working space,  The college offers reception services to meet and greet, modern furniture and surroundings, bean to cup coffee making, wi-fi and laptop sockets and stunning views from a great location.

A delightful visit.  I wish Pershore College every success with their new venture.

Are you hanging up a stocking on your wall?

December 6, 2016

I’ve definitely been getting into the Christmas spirit over the last few weeks as a number of my engagements have involved the festive season.

On Thursday, 24 November, I attended the opening of the Worcester Christmas Fayre by the Mayor of Worcester.  We assembled in the Guildhall, enjoyed canapes and mulled non-alcoholic punch and were entertained by Deaf Direct, a group of people who did sign-language to various Christmas songs – something  very different and enjoyable.  After the voluntary Cathedral choir has sung on the steps of the Guildhall we processed down to the Cornmarket area where a brief service was conducted by the Dean of Worcester Cathedral Peter Atkinson, with the voluntary choir and the Salvation Army band.

Representatives from Worcester’s twin towns in France, Germany and Lithuania said a few words and the Mayor then officially opened the Fayre, giving all the VIP’s the chance to enjoy a ride on the Carousel (built in  1890) – oh what childhood memories, no not of 1890 but of the times in my childhood when we regularly had carousels at local fairs.

Me enjoying a carousel ride

Me enjoying a carousel ride

The same evening we travelled to Stourport-on-Severn for their town lights switch-on.  We parade around the town, where at intervals the lights are switched on, finishing back at the Civic Centre for prayers and the switching-on of the christmas tree lights outside the civic centre by Claire Cashmore (Paralympic  gold medallist) and the Mayor Ken Henderson, accompanied by the Carnival Queen and her attendants and, of course, Father Christmas.

Saturday 26 November was the turn of Evesham’s lights to be switched on.  There was a huge crowd in the Market Square where John and I joined the Mayor and Mayoress of Evesham, Fred Kaler and Sue Amor, the Town Crier (John Raphael) and Father Christmas (this fellow gets everywhere, he must be very busy!!)  Evesham Community choir led the carol singing prior to the switch-on and a great firework display.

Lights on - Evesham Town Crier, Father Christmas, me, John, Shawn Riley and the Mayor of Evesham.

Lights on – Evesham Town Crier, Father Christmas, me, John, Shawn Riley and the Mayor of Evesham.

The following day we saw the generosity of the public on display as we visited the theT4U (Teams 4U)unit  on Davies Road, where a good number of people had gathered to wave off the first lorry to travel to Romania with shoe boxes laden with goodies for the children of that country.

The event started with prayers, a couple of Christmas songs then Bob (local organiser of the shoe box appeal) told us some facts about the scheme.  9,643 shoe boxes were loaded on this lorry (packed into 977 larger cartons) with 23 bags of squigy items (toys etc.), 14 tubs of liquid (soap, hand creams etc).

Bob and I with some shoe boxes already received for next week’s journey.

Bob and I with some shoe boxes already received for next week’s journey.

This was the first time liquid had been allowed to travel with the boxes (not allowed to be packed into shoe boxes in case they split open and spoilt all the items contained in the box, so were sent separately in large tubs supplied by Dawn Foods)  Shoe boxes are still being received at the unit and will make up another consignment travelling next weekend.  The end total of shoe boxes will be almost 18,000.

This is a fantastic way to help children in other countries and has been on-going for many years.  (Previously under the title Overseas Christmas Child).  We wished the drivers well on their long trip to Romania – they expect to arrive Thursday afternoon (1st Dec.) – after their arrival in Romania the boxes will then be distributed to the many children in need of toys, games and clothing etc. for Christmas.  Five volunteers from T4U will be travelling out to Romania next weekend to help with the distribution and hope to bring pictures and many stories back of how these gifts are received.  Very well done to Bob and his team.

Last Thursday (1 December) was a lovely night for the annual switching on of the Evesham Rotary Club Tree of Light which I had been given the honour to do as Chairman and as a member of Evesham Rotary Club.

Me at the Rotary Tree of Lights switch on

Me at the Rotary Tree of Lights switch on

Although it was a cold evening, there were many people sharing non-alcoholic mulled wine and mince pies waiting for the ceremony to commence.  The President of Evesham Rotary Patrick Staines introduced the evening and welcome the Revd. Israel Selvanayagam(Methodist minister) for prayers, the District Governor for Rotary Richard Purdon and myself.  After the usual count-down the 2016 Rotary Tree of Lights  glowed in the darkness across the river and all those present the opportunity to remember loved-ones.

The following evening saw me at Pershore Abbey for the Worcester Male Voice choir Christmas concert.  Having been present in May at their last concert we knew we were in for a great evening.  The choir with their conductor Nicholas Wright, organist Keith Hearndhaw (organist), Joanne Jefferis (cello soloist) and Samuel James who sang some beautiful pieces, the audience were treated to great music to get us in the mood for Christmas.  To cap it all we had Dave Bradley from Hereford & Worcester Radio as the compere.  Dave kept us all laughing with his anecdotes and tales and the whole evening was a real pleasure.

Part of the choir performing

Part of the choir performing