Mayor's Blog

Councillor Tony Jackson

A Quiet Year End

4 January, 2021 

In her last article, Mandy mentioned my fall whist out running and the less said about my clumsiness the better.  However, it does provide an opportunity to say thank you to the ambulance crew who were on the scene so quickly to attend to me.

Being temporary indisposed has meant a break since my last update but it does mean I have some events that I need to catch up on.

Firstly, there was a Virtual Volunteer Fair organised by WCAVA.  At the beginning of the year I had various discussions with WCAVA and had offered the use of the Town Hall to facilitate a Volunteer Fair.  The ongoing restrictions have prevented this, so huge thanks to Jane and Fiona for organising a virtual event that I was pleased to attend and contribute towards.

One of the benefits of a virtual event is that the Fair has been recorded and anybody can go to the WCAVA website and watch the Volunteer Fair which is an interesting and informative event.

Remembrance Sunday is always a key event in the Mayoral Year and the lead up this year proved a real challenge for all involved.  The continuing change in the restrictions meant that plans were in place for at least three different scenarios depending on how many people could safely congregate in the Remembrance Garden.  Ultimately, a more stringent restriction precluded any gathering of note which necessitated a cancellation of all plans and a move to a pre-recorded event.  Filmed on the preceding Wednesday this was broadcast at 11:0am on Remembrance Sunday and I also went to the Remembrance Garden on 11 November to lay the wreaths.

Of all the events that have been impacted by Covid the loss of the Christmas Lights switch on and Santa’s Grotto at the Town Hall is the one that I have felt the most.  A virtual message about the switch on can be watched here.  There was a plan that I would switch on the lights early on the Thursday but my fall the day before put an end to my involvement in any events for at least a couple of weeks.

The whole period in the lead up to Christmas would normally be a busy time for Mayoral engagements. This year has been incredibly quiet and a recorded reading for the broadcast of the Christmas Service and a visit to Holy Trinity Church on Christmas Eve were notable exceptions. The latter was a particularly memorable occasion as it was the first occasion this year that I was robed and accompanied by the Mayoress (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Dixon.)

I think we are all glad to see the end of 2020 and hopefully 2021 will bring better fortune for all. My Seasonal message can be found here.

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

4 December, 2020 

November was due to be time when Mr Mayor would make a few personal appearances – albeit to very small numbers – but it was something we were both looking forward to.  And then the second national lockdown was announced and it was back to Zoom again.  Mr Mayor virtually attended morning assembly at Broad Street to congratulate and award prizes for his “painting the Mayor” competition’.  Choosing an overall  winner was a very difficult decision but eventually this was awarded to Sara Clewer.   Hopefully she will be able to visit the Mayor’s parlour to see it on display.  

The next appointment for Mr Mayor was to don his official robes and attend the Remembrance Garden for a recording of the Remembrance ceremony, to be aired on 11 November.  This was followed up by a recorded message to be broadcast on Welcome Radio.  On 11 November he went to the Remembrance Garden again to officially lay a wreath on behalf of the town.  His next outing was to be on 19 November to switch on the Christmas lights.  This is normally one of the highlights of the mayoral year, with crowds outside the Town Hall, Father Christmas, school choirs and a great time had by all.  Obviously, this year had to be very different.  The lights would still be switched on, but at 6am in the morning (you can imagine I was looking forward to getting up that early) to stop any crowds from gathering.  

Unfortunately, Mr Mayor didn’t manage this due to unforeseen circumstances.  I have mentioned previously that Mr Mayor is a little accident-prone.  On 18 November, whilst out for a run, he tripped and fell – fortuitously in front of an ambulance.  No bones broken, but a badly damaged shoulder and shock.  He was checked out, brought home and delivered to the sofa by the paramedics – first-class service yet again from our NHS.  This was followed up by an appointment at hospital and a collar and cuff for two weeks.  So now, not only am I Mr Mayor’s PA, proofreader and general dogsbody, I am his valet as he can’t dress himself.  

Still on the home front, we had a very “interesting” occurrence in the early hours of 28 November when, for the second time in a few months, we were woken by blue lights and lots of noise.  Last time it was a burst water main; this time a car on fire.  Whilst we could all do with a bit of excitement during lockdown, this we could do without. 

With Tier 3 looming, I wonder what will happen in December?  I’ll be back in the new year with more news from the mayoral diary and home, but in the meantime, Mr Mayor and I would like to wish everyone a happy Christmas and healthy and prosperous new year.

Out and About – Part III

27 October, 2020 

I mentioned in my last blog that there had been very limited engagements involving other local dignitaries so I was really pleased to initiate and host the first Zoom meeting where we could all meet up for the first time and share stories about we were managing in these strange times.  We have all been equally hit by the guidelines we are having to adhere to, and the cancellation of events doesn’t show any signs of waning.  

One such cancellation was that of the Mop and whilst this was fully understandable I was pleased that a token ride was in place to ensure I was able to read the proclamation at the formal opening of this historic event.  The Mayor’s traditional appearance on one of the rides took on a very different appearance this year.

TV and radio celebrity Mark Steele was 'in town’ for his popular radio series.  Held in the Dell gardens the event was different from his usual shows but I am sure it will make for interesting listening when it is aired later in the year. A notable event for me was meeting up with Mark after the show for a pint in the Dirty Duck.

The sad news of redundancies at the RSC featured heavily in the news and I was asked to give a comment for BBC Midlands.  Whilst not the scenario I would have chosen for my first television appearance it was an enjoyable experience albeit that my screen time was very limited.

Stratford in Bloom has featured heavily this month as I did an introductory speech to their first virtual Awards Ceremony. It would have been lovely to present all these trophies in person but fortunately I did have the chance to present the Chairs Trophy to Thomas Tallis-Hathaway and to go to Bridgetown Primary School to present the Schools Award. 

I was grateful to the Rotary Club for once again involving me in one of their projects as I spent a pleasurable couple of hours planting bulbs opposite the entrance to Cox’s Yard as part of their raising awareness of the continuing efforts to eradicate Polio.

Knitting isn’t something I have tried for over fifty years so being tasked to knit a square for the Remembrance Tree was an interesting challenge. I have to be honest and say that the square that appeared in the Herald photo was (due to timing constraints) not my attempt but I was determined to accept the challenge. I have now successfully completed my square and whilst I am pleased with my effort it is recognisable by a slight flaw caused by a dropped stitch.

Finally, after over 5 months in office, Mandy had the opportunity to accompany me to a civic event as we travelled across to Leamington for their Civic Sunday. Social distancing was strictly adhered to which sadly meant no socialising which only served to emphasise the value of the monthly Zoom meetings.

Full Herald articles can be found by downloading the issue published on 22 October.

Mayor Jackson with Stratford in Bloom winner Thomas Tallis-Hathaway.
Rotary volunteers get stuck in to their Crocus-planting campaign.
The Mayor and Mayoress at Leamington's Civic Service.

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

1 October, 2020 

SEPTEMBER was a month of mixed fortunes on both the mayoral and home front.  Mr Mayor and I have managed to attend a few events in person, which has been lovely.

At the start of the month we attended the Christmas Lights AGM so Mr Mayor could thank three retiring, very longstanding committee members – Mick Love, Maureen Beckett and Donna Barker – for their service to the town for around 70 years between them.  I shall certainly be thinking of them when I wander round Stratford at Christmas.

The following day we both played table tennis with Cllr Kevin Taylor, who was raising money for the Shakespeare Hospice.  Mr Mayor acquitted himself admirably, me rather less so, but I’m pleased to say that almost £2,000 was raised.  We were pleased to be invited to the Bowls Club for their finals day.  Again, Mr Mayor acquitted himself very well against the Bowls chairman, Peter Jones, although he was a little miffed that I hadn’t been cheering him on and taking photographs of the ends he won – I have to admit to being side-tracked by the coffee and excellent conversation.  A competition to guess the score had plenty of members rooting for Mr Mayor but unfortunately he didn’t live up to expectations.  However, over £100 was raised for the Mayor’s Good Causes.   

We next found ourselves at another sporting event – the Stratford Athletic Club Track and Field Championships at the High School.  It was a fabulous sunny day and all the competitors excelled themselves.  Mr Mayor was supposed to be having a Mayor v Chair, Paul Hawkins, competition but both cried off saying they hadn’t been able to practise and would compete later – a likely story.  Mr Mayor was going to host a small party of civic heads to tour Stratford and go on a boat trip, but unfortunately the advent of the “rule of six” put paid to that.  Mr Mayor has now organised a regular Zoom meeting for civic heads so that at least they can now meet virtually.  

Finally, Mark Steel was in town for a recording of his popular radio show, hosted in the Dell to a restricted, Covid-safe, social distancing audience.  This was certainly a unique experience and Mr Mayor was particularly excited to meet up with Mark after the show for a drink.  

In terms of the mayoral home, we’ve had a few challenging incidents this month.  It was certainly strange to have someone ringing the doorbell at 11:00pm and slurring through the door that they would be grateful for a glass of wine as it would make them a better person. I suggested water and bed might make them a better person – or words to that effect!  Mr Mayor slept through, as only the righteous can.  Our daughter, who as you may remember has just moved to her own home, called to say “I’m OK but...” – the “but” being she had fallen in the bathroom, hit her head on the washbasin and was at Warwick Hospital having the gash on her eye sorted.T  his is not a completely unexpected scenario as both our children appear to have inherited Mr Mayor’s penchant for damaging himself, as anyone who knows him can testify by the scars.  And, as if by magic, as I sit writing this article, our son has texted to tell me he’s on antibiotics to prevent infection following an injury to his toe whilst playing football.  I rest my case.  Who knows what will happen in October, but I’ll be back to give you the highlights.

Out and About – Part II

21 September, 2020 

There has been a significant gap in the Mayor’s diary regarding contact with other Civic dignitaries but after 4 months in office I finally got the opportunity to meet the SDC Chair Cllr Chris Kettle.  We met at Billesley Manor where we had both been invited to the official opening of the hotel following their £5m renovation.  This was particularly interesting for Mandy who, as a Registrar, has performed many wedding ceremonies at this venue and could fully appreciate the changes that have taken place.

I mentioned in my previous blog that I had opened the three day market and I was back on Waterside a couple of weeks later to open the National Youth Market.  This event is a huge coup for the Town as stall owners from all around the country come to Stratford for the final of this prestigious competition.  Congratulations to the overall winner Tipsy Cakes, but the commitment and skills of all the stalls were very impressive with many travelling hundreds of miles in the early hours of the morning to ensure their stall was ready on time.  It was lovely to hear their different stories and to see / sample their excellent offerings.   Several purchases were made and I have followed up with a couple of businesses to discuss further purchases.

Stratford Rotary Club host an annual duck race on the River Avon to raise funds for The Shakespeare Hospice*.  However, this year the event was very different with Covid restrictions meaning a virtual series of races instead.  As the ‘virtual’ Mayor this was an event I was pleased to be hugely supportive of, to the extent that I sponsored my very own Mayors Good Causes Gold Cup.  This race featured 20 charity / community groups representing a wide range of my chosen good causes of Volunteers, People with Disabilities and Exercise & Well Being.

All of the entries were also included in the Grand Final and the Town Council had an entry in the Veterans Chase. 

If you missed these races you can watch them again via these links (NB: I had no influence over which duck won!)

 Mayors Good Causes Gold Cup.

 Duck Race - Veterans Chase.

 Duck Race Grand Final. 

*To date over £1,700 has been raised but it is still not too late to donate, either text DUCK to 70450 to give £2 (texts cost £2 plus their standard message rate)


go to 

I attended the Stratford Lights AGM which saw the end of an era as three distinguished members of the committee have decided to step down. Mick Love, Maureen Beckett and Donna Barker have given over 70 years’ service to the organisation and the Town owes them a huge debt for their efforts in delivering such a wonderful display year after year. 

The annual bowls challenge match between the Town Council and Avon Bowls Club had to be cancelled this year but I was keen to retain relationships with the Club.  The invitation to attend their Grand Finals day provided the opportunity to stage a Chair v Mayor Challenge Match**. Played over 12 ends I exceeded my expectations by winning four ends before going down to a gallant 16 – 6 defeat. Huge thanks to Peter Jones and the Bowls Club for inviting me and a competition to guess the score raised over £100 for my Good Causes.

**If there any other sporting ‘Chairs’ out there who would like to challenge me then I’d love to hear from you.

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

10 September, 2020 

As Mr Mayor’s takeover of the mayoral home continued unabated it was with relief that during August we have finally been able to get out and about.

Mr Mayor has been brushing up on his ribbon cutting skills having been invited to open Carluccio’s, Burger Priest, and Café Rouge.  We were also given a tour of Billesley Manor following a multi-million-pound refurbishment.  It’s great to see some old favourites opening their doors again and Stratford gradually returning to life.

We had an invitation to attend the reopening of the Stratford Town walk and the opportunity to go on a tour which kept us entertained and interested throughout.

Another wonderful event was the National Youth Market on Waterside.  Stallholders attended from all over the country to compete for an overall winner, which eventually went to ‘Tipsy Bakery’.  It was great to hear visitors complimenting not just the market, but the town in general, and saying they would be returning.

We also met up with Escape Arts where we learnt more about the work they do within the community.  They have a great exhibition in the windows of Debenhams at the moment which is well worth a look.

We also visited Rowley Fields Community Orchard which is a fantastic space up near the Welcombe Hills open to anyone wishing to enjoy the scenery and the fresh air.

Meanwhile, on a more personal level our home seems to be quite calm at the moment.  Alcohol and food consumption has increased as we have been doing our very best to support local businesses.  Stress levels have lowered, probably due to the aforementioned alcohol intake and our last child has flown the nest.  Mr Mayor did have me under 24-hour surveillance in case I was overly distraught, but fortunately she has only decamped to Wellesbourne.  The only wave on this sea of tranquillity was when he walked into the house brandishing a parking ticket saying he was probably the first Mayor to get a parking ticket whilst parking in his own bay outside the Town Hall – I think he may have used slightly different words! (But it was a fair cop as his pass had fallen off the dashboard).

Being married to Mr Mayor can sometimes be quite surreal.   I recently found him on a Zoom drama session hosted by ILEAP.  He was showing them one of our dogs playing the drums – think Phil Collins, gorilla and Cadbury and you are there!

This was followed by an equally strange sight when I found him shouting at the laptop in the kitchen –  cheering on the ducks in the annual Duck Race, hosted by the Rotary Club to raise funds for the Shakespeare Hospice, which for the first time this year was hosted virtually.

Hopefully, everything will continue in the right direction during September and I’ll have more to report on consorting with the Mayor.

Out and About
1 September, 2020

I ended my last blog by mentioning that I was beginning to get the opportunity to get out and about, and I’m pleased to say that the last few weeks have seen plenty more days out that dovetail nicely with the continuing need for Zoom meetings.

Meeting up with the mayors and dignitaries from neighbouring towns would normally be a key part of my mayoral year, but this has been particularly badly affected by Covid-19.  It was nice therefore to be invited to the Warwick Mayor Making ceremony held in St Mary's Church.  Limited numbers, masks and social distancing were in operation but at least there was an opportunity to meet some of the other mayors and dignitaries, and share notes on the issues we are facing.  Unfortunately, the incoming Mayor of Warwick had just returned from holiday in Spain so was in isolation and present at the meeting via Zoom only!

 The town continues to re-open and whilst we are still some way from normality, there is a notable change in the past few weeks with far greater footfall out and about. This has coincided with more attractions and premises opening and it has been great to be a part of this restart, often with Mandy at my side.

 On consecutive days, we had the pleasure of opening both the Shakespeare Walk and the Stratford Town Walk and to have two lovely – and different – guided tours.  It still surprises me that there is so much about Stratford and Shakespeare that I don’t know.

 Restaurants have begun emerging slowly from lockdown and there is no doubt that that the government discount scheme has given this sector a huge boost. I have had the pleasant duty to officially open Carluccio’s, Burger Priest and Café Rouge.

 Waterside has also seen the return of the markets albeit social distancing has meant a reduced number of stalls. This year sees the celebration of 25 years of the Sunday Market and I was invited to open the three-day market. This was followed by a tour of the different stalls and it was lovely to meet the stallholders and see the wide range of offerings.

 I also had the opportunity to visit the Community Orchard on Rowley Fields and see how this is maturing into a lovely space under the guardianship of the Town Trust and the Friends of Rowley Fields.

 In case anybody thinks that there is any semblance of full normality returning, the 75th anniversary of VJ Day was commemorated via a virtual programme of events. Special thanks to Welcombe Radio, Escape Arts and the Town Council for their work in putting together an excellent and varied programme that was broadcast on the 15th August. I had the privilege of contributing two pieces for the programme: a reading of the poem by Bruno Peek titled ‘Tribute to the Millions’ and a personal reflection on the importance of remembrance.

Escape Arts gets three further mentions as they invited me onto an international zoom call to see the results of a student collaboration that reached as far as Thailand and Australia.  I followed that up by a visit to the Heritage Centre and a meeting with Karen Williams on the challenges that they have faced as a result of Covid-19.  It was particularly interesting to hear how they have fully embraced the virtual world and grasped the opportunity of reaching out to their followers.  The recent changes in the road layout has enabled High Street to be pedestrianised from 11- 6 each day and for anyone enjoying this space can I recommend you take the opportunity to look at the lovely artwork display Escape Arts have put together in the windows of the old Debenhams property.

And finally, I featured prominently in the latest edition of ‘Bridging the Gap’.  This has been produced as an online version for the first time and can be viewed here.  However, paper versions are still available if required.  Copies can be picked up from the Town Hall or from your local Councillor (and if you are able to have a supply for residents to pick up we would particularly like to hear from you).

The Lighter Side of Mayoral Life – The Mayoress's Musings
15 August, 2020

As not a lot is happening in terms of officially ‘consorting with the Mayor’ I thought I might give you a glimpse into the chaos that is the Mayoral Home.

Mr Mayor is fully embracing the current situation attending in person wherever possible, but otherwise meetings and events are virtual.  The latter of these obviously take place at home and I think in my last article I referred to our home being repurposed to accommodate this.  However, what seems to be happening now is a full scale coup!

Mr Mayor’s office is the kitchen, the small bedroom his private conference room, and he seems to be quietly infiltrating other areas.  He needs Town Council, Town Trust and salaried work areas. The Mayor’s Parlour at the Town Hall is out of action so that’s the sitting room gone.  Oh, and I nearly forgot, Mr Mayor also needs me to be photographer, proof reader and PA.  All this and our daughter and I working from home and attempting to keep a vestige of home-life normality led to one or two minor skirmishes and her coining the phrase ‘Attila the Mum’.  That was when I decamped to my office.  You’ll be pleased to know it has been much calmer (if perhaps slightly untidier) at home since.  I’m sure this will resonate with most people as they try to grapple with home life, work life, schooling and now the summer break all under the same roof.

We did recently have a problem with our electricity failing which, as you can imagine, caused meltdown as all our technology failed.  The chaos then spilt over into our neighbourhood as the installation of a car sized diesel generator made so much noise it led our neighbours to believe they were under invasion, especially when the contractors returned at 2:00am the following night heralded by flashing lights, warning sirens and the deafening roar of a mechanical grab.  Whilst we admire the tenacity of the contractors to get the job done it would have been a little more politic if they had enabled us to warn the neighbours that they would be woken to what would sound like an air raid that night.

So, for now we all soldier on as restrictions begin to be lifted and something closer to normality returns.   This weekend saw my first official invite to accompany Mr Mayor to cut the ribbon for the official reopening of the Shakespeare Walking Tour from Tudor World in Sheep Street – which coincidentally has been the home of at least two former Mayors.

Not Just a Virtual World
25 July, 2020

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
2 July, 2020

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
18 June, 2020

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
27 May, 2020

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

18 May, 2020

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 Stratf