Mayor's Blog

Councillor Tony Jackson

Not Just a Virtual World

I had started out writing this blog under the heading of ‘Living in a Virtual World’ but a gradual easing of lockdown has given me some opportunities to get out and about which is a very pleasant change.  I have therefore renamed the article and hope you this blog gives you some insight into my current life

 For those of us fortunate to do so, lockdown has meant working from home and a whole new world of no daily commute which can only be a positive for the planet.  I had previously said that I never wanted to work from home and whilst it won’t suit everybody I’ve found it an enjoyable experience so far, to the point where I’ve already indicated a wish to continue post Covid-19.

 It is surprising how quickly we have become so dependent on and competent with the technology required to hold Zoom meetings (other media functionality is available).  From a Council perspective, we made the decision to immediately embrace the new virtual world and when we held our first Town Council Meeting on 26 May using Zoom we decided that this would be streamed live via Facebook.

This meeting has now had over 400 views which is fantastic news and ensures greater awareness, openness and visibility.  This initiative has proven so successful that we are now also streaming meetings on YouTube.

 Using the theme of my three Good Causes – Volunteers, People with Disabilities and Exercise & Wellbeing – I have been engaging with various organisations to get a greater understanding of their work and to offer my support and thanks for everything that they do.

 Primarily these meetings have been via Zoom and include contact with Shakespeare Lions, Adult Community Learning, Riding for the Disabled, The Friendship Project and Warks Young Carers.  Please get in touch if you would like to talk to me about your organisation

 Alongside these meetings and various Town Council Zoom meetings I’ve also enjoyed my ‘days out’.  My first opportunity to cut a ribbon occurred when I opened Rohan the outdoor clothing retailer and when face coverings became compulsory I took the opportunity to demonstrate support with a visit to The Refill Box.  As the Town slowly re-opens, I’m hoping that there will be plenty of similar occasions to come.

 I’ve met up with James Pavitt from The Lifeways Centre and really enjoyed my time in their very peaceful and beautiful one acre of land and I’ve also visited Tyler House to meet Phil Cazaly and find out more about the incredible work of the Samaritans.

 I’ve also made another appearance on BBC CWR, recorded a podcast for Stratford Calling and had the excitement of watching my racehorse*, Hurricane Hero finish a close third in a race at Southwell (*not all mine – I’m in a syndicate and my share is one of the front legs).

 Finally, I was down on the Bancroft Gardens for the re-launch of the PING initiative where it was good to match my Table Tennis skills against the Deputy Mayor Cllr Kevin Taylor who has been so instrumental in bringing PING to Stratford.

My Mayoral year isn’t what I expected but it’s not boring.

The Lighter Side of Mayoral Life – The Mayoress's Musings

On 15 May Tony became the 475th Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon, and by association I became Mayoress.  We had deputised for the Mayor and consort the previous year and so had a taste of  Mayoral functions ranging from end of term school concerts, to the High Sheriff’s glitzy garden party.  We were expecting in excess of 200 engagements and so I was bracing myself for the year to come – a whirlwind of social engagements representing the Town at a myriad of events.  The dresses were in the wardrobe, the shoes could compete with Imelda Marcoss’s collection and the fascinators ready to be worn… and then Covid-19 arrived, lockdown had begun and the world changed overnight.  We were all confined to barracks.

The Mayoral year always starts with a bang – the fully robed somewhat archaic traditional ceremonial Mayor Making followed by the very formal Civic Dinner in the evening with all the local dignitaries in attendance.  The Mayor is welcomed into office, dinner is eaten, speeches are made  and, of course, a few glasses are imbibed.

This year was somewhat different – Covid -19 meant that Tony made history at the first virtual Mayor Making ceremony.  This was followed by a quick toast and chat on zoom with the Town Councillors and then an interview on Welcombe  Radio.  Our only celebration that evening constituted dinner with 3 very attentive dogs in attendance.  Although we did feel obliged to keep up the tradition with the wine.

As for many others, our life has become encapsulated at home.  The rooms in the house have been repurposed  - Tony’s Mayoral hub is the breakfast bar and our smallest bedroom the conference room.  Even the garden has now played host to Coventry and Warwickshire Radio in an interview where the birds attempted a takeover of the airwaves.

This year will be very different to previous years – much was made prior to 15 May about whether I had an official wardrobe allowance (no) and was I going to wear hats (rarely), and from some of my cheekier friends – would they need to curtsy (definitely yes!).  It feels very much at the moment like I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go…

Mayor's Good Causes

Historically the Mayor has used their term of office to support three chosen charities and to raise money to be shared across those charities.

In a change from the established practice I have instead identified three Good Causes that I wish to support and promote during my Mayoral Year.

This generic approach will provide me with greater flexibility in engaging with the wide range of Community Groups who will fall under one or more of these headings

My chosen good causes are

a)    Volunteers;
b)    People with Disabilities;
c)     Health and Well Being.

I am trying to be pro-active in reaching out but please get in touch if I could be involved in any way.

I did have ideas for events that would either raise funds or awareness e.g. to:

a)    provide small grants to any particular project / initiative under any of the headings;
b)    fund any opportunity under the banner heading “To Support and Promote” with a view to
        increasing public awareness and engagement.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has put a temporary hold on many of my ideas and the unavailability of the Town Hall has been particularly disappointing.  I am therefore in the process of looking for new opportunities whilst making the most of the new ‘virtual’ world to further my objectives.

 As an example of some initial activity:

It was great that one of my first ‘virtual’ engagements was to do a pre-recorded video for Warwickshire Vision for their Volunteers Awards event.

 My first outside engagement was to officially re-open Stratford Bike Hire conveniently located on the Greenway for safe and healthy family exercise.

 I met up with Stratford Boat Club Adaptive Squad who embrace all three of my causes.  It was good to appreciate their issues and to get a greater understanding of their successes and the value that their rowers place on being able to get out onto the river.   Read more about it here.

My First 7 Days - Living in a Virtual World

In the lead up to becoming Mayor there were various planning discussions to agree on the format of the Mayor Making Ceremony (live filming?), the following Civic Dinner Celebration (Guests, Speakers and Menu) and my first mayoral engagement of leading the Council to Holy Trinity Church for Civic Sunday.

Covid-19, lockdown and social distancing all combined to ensure an experience that I hadn’t expected just 2 months earlier.  So, here is a breakdown of the key moments from my first 7 days in a new and unprecedented world.

Mayor Making still went ahead on Friday on 15  May and whilst this was obviously low key it did enable history to made as I became the 475th Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon but the first to be elected ‘virtually’.  Plans were for the meeting to be streamed live but unfortunately this didn’t happen because of a technical hitch (and I’m expecting many of these in the coming months).

We didn’t realise until the end of the meeting and there was a short period of panic that the event had been lost forever, before we got confirmation that it had recorded safely.  You can watch Mayor Making here.

I had agreed to do an interview with Penny at Welcombe Radio immediately after becoming Mayor so that became my first official engagement.  You can listen to the interview here.

Rev. Patrick Taylor had already been in touch to ask if I could do a pre-recorded video of the reading for a virtual Civic Sunday service (yes, of course I would).  This recording lark is a bit trickier than it sounds especially with some pronunciation challenges (areopagus) so there were plenty of discarded versions before I was finished. T he service also included words from the Rev. Paul Edmondson, the new Councils Chaplain.  You can watch both speeches here.

I was really pleased to be interviewed and photographed by the Stratford Herald.  I’m not sure I will ever get used to seeing and reading about myself in the paper but the first time was certainly an enjoyable experience.  You can read the article here.  I am sure we were all saddened to hear that the Herald had gone into administration and that we all hope they survive.

I have now also got the keys to the Mayors Parlour. At the moment, it feels exactly like moving into a new home although I’m sure that will pass with time. First impressions suggest that social distancing guidelines will allow me to extend my hospitality to guests, and guidelines on what will be possible are being considered.

Introducing the 475th Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon

I was born in Ellesmere Port where I lived for 25 years.  Encouraged by my father, I was always interested in sport and played football, cricket, athletics and table tennis competitively - frequently as captain and organiser.  

I left school with good A level qualifications and went straight into employment with the Chester Office of NFU Mutual and I am still with the Company having now completed 44 years’ service.

Following promotion, I moved to the Stratford Head Office in 1984 where I first met my future wife, Mandy, as we started work in the same department on the same day.

We married in 1992 and our twins Alex and Joe were born in 1994 which subsequently resulted in our moving into the town to be closer to family and amenities.  A decision that we have never regretted and we are proud to call Stratford our home.

Mandy is now a Marriage Registrar and the children are making their way in the world – Alex at the NFU Mutual and Joe at Keko – a Creative Agency based in London.

I am a lifelong supporter of Chester FC and I have recently joined a racehorse owning syndicate.

I have always had a passion for volunteering – primarily linked to sport.  I have been Club Secretary for Stratford Athletic Club for 10 years and am a qualified Track and Field official.  I am still a regular runner often to be seen at the local Parkrun (and on a good day I am competitive in my age group.)

However, my previous volunteering highlight was probably when I was a Games Maker at the 2012 London Olympics.

After 40 years’ service with NFUM I naturally started to think about retirement and the need to do something more to keep myself occupied.  In 2015 I therefore made the decision to stand for election to the Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council and I was successfully elected as one of the representatives for Guildhall Ward.

Sitting on the Finance & Scrutiny Committee and Planning Consultative Committee (amongst other roles) gave me a whole new insight into the town and with meetings usually been held on Tuesday evenings I could manage the time around my work commitments.  

My interest in the community was a key factor in my becoming a nominated Trustee on the Stratford Town Trust in 2016 and this has been a very rewarding role.

Subsequently, I became Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees and I have just been elected as a nominated trustee for a further period.

In view of increasing time commitments, I made the decision to move to part-time work and stepping down to 2.5 days meant I was able to give due time and consideration to these outside roles.

Two years later and I am still really enjoying my work / life balance.

In 2019, I stood successfully for re-election to the Town Council and completely out of the blue I was asked if I would stand as Deputy Mayor. This was clearly not a decision to be taken lightly as family support – especially from my wife, Mandy would be essential.  Family discussions were immediate and the decision taken that I should seize the opportunity and I became Deputy Mayor in May 2019.

I intend to produce a regular Blog during my Mayoral year and the first effort covering my first 7 days as Mayor can be found on this page shortly.