Even with the experience of twelve months as Deputy Mayor to my excellent and dedicated predecessor Councillor Dennis Drewett, I was not prepared for the whirlwind of events with which the Mayor of Wiltshire’s county town is expected to be involved. That said, it has been a fabulous ride, with the opportunity of meeting many hundreds of our residents at dozens of fascinating and sometimes extraordinary occasions which fully reflect the vibrancy of Trowbridge and the dedication, creativity, commitment, good neighbourliness and enthusiasm of its marvellous community.
My memories of my time in office are entirely positive. We live in a fantastic town which offers incredible opportunities for everyone, whether ‘Baby Rhyme Time’ at the library, the University of the Third Age with its 600 members and forty interest groups which meets at St James’ Church Hall, Hot Tap (learn to tap dance at the Guide HQ – beginners welcome), our community choirs and theatre societies, our two orchestras and innumerable interest groups from martial arts through chess and bridge to bowls and basketball – the range is incredible for a relatively small town. The highlights, which bring so many of our townspeople together, are the deeply moving Armistice Day ceremony, the fantastic Armed Forces Celebration and our amazing carnival, but there are some other highlights that I would like to share with you . . .
Each month, one of the Wiltshire Deputy Lord Lieutenants representing Her Majesty the Queen, hosts a Citizenship Ceremony at County Hall. As Mayor of the county town, it is a privilege to welcome new citizens to the UK. They have arrived from all over the world and they want to live here, with us in Wiltshire: it is an emotional occasion for them and I am not ashamed to tell you, it is for me too.
I was delighted to be elected as a trustee of Trowbridge Town Hall, our magnificent building gifted to the town over 130 years ago by William Roger Brown, a local wealthy mill owner ‘for the benefit of the residents of the town for ever’. There are exciting plans being developed by the new team working within the building, and Trowbridge Town Council has arranged that any resident can become a member with no charge.
As Mayor, I said in my speech at the Civic Service in July, “The overall objective of my mayoral year will be to attract more volunteers by raising the profile of and more fully integrating the work of local community groups and charities whether they ferry the elderly and infirm to and from appointments, manage cadet forces, encourage leisure and sporting activities, keep our meadows, parks and cemeteries pristine or care for the lonely and vulnerable of all ages. I believe that everyone can benefit from conversation, cooperation and collaboration by bringing together the many dozens of volunteer groups, associations and societies which are so active in Trowbridge. I believe we can help the community and help each other.”
This vision culminated in ‘Celebrating Trowbridge’ which was held in collaboration with Trowbridge Town Hall on Saturday 8th February. Over 90 voluntary and leisure groups packed into The Civic and the Town Hall and we welcomed almost 2,000 visitors. I am delighted to report that the event was judged by all to be a resounding success. Everyone I spoke to was thrilled with the response and all appreciated the opportunity to speak to and share ideas (and problems) with other groups.
My visits to the Monday/Wednesday Club, Alzheimer Support parties and other community gatherings and support groups have been an enormous pleasure and my wife Angela and I have also enjoyed meeting so many representatives of our surrounding towns.
I have received immense support from all of my fellow councillors and in particular our Deputy Mayor Councillor Peter Fuller, who will take on this fascinating and challenging role shortly. As he has been deeply involved in Trowbridge for many years, he will not learn as much as I have but I wish him every success and I know he will enjoy what is an exceptional experience.
This is not to imply that everything in the garden is as it should be: it is part of the commitment of my fellow councillors to continue to improve all those aspects of our town over which we have influence. There are those of all ages within our community for whom the mesh of our social security net is not sufficiently fine and although they are not the direct responsibility of the Town Council, we do much to support the infrastructure which has been created by charities and other organisations to look out for them. It is also the case that the behaviour of some residents, now as always, gives cause for concern but their numbers are small and the work of our marvellous volunteers through our many active and dedicated churches and groups, social services provided by Wiltshire Council and our local police means that our problems are significantly less than any of the other towns in which I have lived – and Angela and I have moved around a great deal since finally settling in Trowbridge thirteen years ago.
The sudden death of GoFish’s founder David Baker and past winner of our annual Civic Award was a shock and his guidance for young entrepreneurs in the town will be greatly missed, although I am pleased to report that GoFish will continue through his wife Pat Baker, Trowbridge’s greatly valued photographic archivist Kevin Hartley, and the young ambassadors the charity has appointed. We also lost, happily through retirement in this instance, the driving force behind Trowbridge in Bloom, Jennifer Polledri. Another past winner of a Trowbridge Civic Award, Jennifer is making arrangements for the annual ‘Young Voice of Trowbridge’ public speaking competition to continue, and I have been very pleased to be invited to help with advice and the preparations.
When I chose my mayoral charity at the beginning of my year in office, ruksak45218, some looked askance, but the simple idea of providing much-needed everyday items to vulnerable and deprived children has caught the imagination to the extent that the idea has been widely copied – not least by Wiltshire Council. My congratulations to Rory Donaldson, whose brainchild it was, who has worked tirelessly to establish an important resource for many young people in Trowbridge.
In my various speeches through the year I have often referred to Trowbridge as a vibrant town which all too seldom fails to reveal its unique qualities and enormous range of activities. The achievements of our residents are amazing and should be shouted from the rooftops. I sincerely thank you, my fellow councillors, for electing me as your Mayor, and providing me with the wonderful opportunity of being able to meet so many incredible people involved in so many brilliant community organisations.
Finally, my thanks to all our people working for Trowbridge Town Council, especially the Information Services Team who, as well as all their other responsibilities, have kept track of my mayoral engagements throughout the year and provided me with a great deal of much-needed support.
However . . . I am not going away: I know I will continue to take an active interest in all aspects of Trowbridge both as a councillor and proud resident of a wonderful, vibrant town.