Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The Mighty Women of Buckingham

Last Thursday, Julie and I had the enormous pleasure of attending the opening of the 'Mighty Women' exhibition at the Old Gaol. (It is still on - do go and see!) This has been put together by Lauren Hutton and her colleagues to honour and celebrate the achievements of local women over the ages. You can find out more from this link

And one of the featured women is Professor Edwards who is working with the Town Council on the joint TC/Uni Pontio Group. I never knew all this about her!

Here is the short speech I gave to welcome the exhibition to the town:
I am going to say only a very few words to offer my support and praise to this exhibition and give my sincere thanks to all those who have made it possible. I am reminded of a quote:
"Continue to speak out against all forms of injustice to yourselves and others, and you will set a mighty example for your children and for future generations" (Bernice King)
Everyone here is a leader in some way - as a parent, or as a manager, or as an artist, or as a politician or as an active member of our Buckingham Community or whatever. We all have a responsibility to show girls and boys, what it means to be mighty. 
And being mighty for me, means helping oneself and others shape dreams and then use our abilities to make those ambitions come true.  
And because we live in an unfair world: where people of colour like Ms King and her father, where women, where people with disabilities and many others are discriminated against we should always look to take positive action to bring more fairness to the world. So that all people, regardless of who or what they are, get to dream dreams and make all their ambitions happen. 
So this exhibition is just positively fantastic because by celebrating the mighty women of Buckingham, this show shines a brilliant light on how these women have helped make Buckingham the town that it now is.  
And may this light, continue to shine and glow for all the girls and women in the town so that they too can feel empowered to add their spirit, their imagination, their energy and their light to this wonderful place.  


Twice a year, the University extends a big welcome its new students to offer and assure them all of the support, guidance and connections available from the institution. Because the University has such a manageable size, this welcome is most warm and personable. I attended one a few months ago and this time (on 18 January) the University kindly gave me a slot after the Vice Chancellor's words to welcome all the students to our wonderful town.

I urged them to all to get to know us and partake of all the great opportunities here for them to enjoy - ranging from our green spaces and walks, our events, our shops and our hostelries. I congratulated them on making such a insightful choice of coming to Buckingham!

Fresh from unpacking boxes all day long (I had moved house the previous day), here I am addressing the students flanked by the University Heads of Schools and senior staff. Thanks to the University for the permission to use the pic.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Barabra Farmer, Mace Bearer Extraordinaire!

Yesterday lunchtime, I was delighted to participate in the regular Well Street Church's networking lunch at the invitation of the Town Council's Mace Bearer, Mrs Barbara Farmer. Barbara gave a presentation to the group on her 32 years as Mace Bearer for the Town Mayor. It was wonderful to hear her stories and about her experience of being in this role. Barbara treated us all with some excerpts from her scrap book.

And all this was rounded off with an amazing lunch provided by the volunteers at the church. (If you have never been, I highly recommend the company and the cuisine!)

Below, I have reprinted the speech I gave last May, when the Town Council honoured her dedication and length of service.

Address for Barbara

Barbara Farmer was appointed to become the Town’s Mace Bearer on 2 November 1987. She has faithfully served the Town and Council since then, a period now of over 30 years. And I have the most enormous pleasure of recognising, celebrating and thanking Barbara for her dedication and long service. 

Barbara’s role is a ceremonial and voluntary one - but one that she has done with exemplary skill, professionalism and panache. I know she will remember for example, accompanying the Town Mayor, Cllr Derrick Isham on the visit by HM the Queen in 1996. And how wonderful a day that was. 

The Mace is priceless. It is made of silver gilt, and dates from the time of Charles II. On the raised flat top are the Royal Stuart arms. And between the letters at the base is an inscription as follows: “In the 12th year of the reign of our sovereign lord King Charles II by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland 1660”. 

So I know I am glad I do not have the responsibility of carrying such a precious piece of history! I would probably have dropped it my now. More than once...

I should add Barbara is effectively my bodyguard at events such as these as the mace was originally a weapon of battle. Fortunately I have not had reason to call on her martial arts skills so far, but I have no doubt that she would despatch any combatant swiftly and without mercy should anyone threaten the Mayor of Buckingham. Indeed I know that Barbara has battled the elements of inclement weather on many occasions with grace, stoicism and determination.

Barbara is from a local family and is one the stalwarts of our solid Buckingham community. She is of course, the first woman to hold this position. And I am told, this was controversial at the time she was appointed by the then Mayor, Cllr Mordue after being nominated by Cllr Isham. Heaven knows why gender should have mattered but I am so glad that times have moved on much since then.

And so here we are, 30 years on Barbara. I am guessing that when you signed up for this role, you may not have expected to be here all this time later. But you are and Buckingham Town Council, Buckingham people and me as the current Mayor are extraordinarily grateful. Thank you so much for your long and dedicated service. 

In honour of your service, here is small gift for you to wear. For those who cannot see it is a lapel brooch miniature of the mace itself. Thank you again.

Coffee, croissants and kuchen

I enjoyed some wonderful 'continental hospitality' with the Buckingham Twinning Association last Saturday morning. There are lots of brilliant twinning events coming up in 2019! Do keep track via their website.

Thanks to everyone who organised Saturday's most successful coffee morning.

Oliver Patrick Hilsdon RIP

Since becoming Mayor, I have attended several funerals as a representative of the Town Council and in honour of the lives well lived. Oli Hilsdon's funeral was the saddest of occasions. Hundreds of people filled St Bernadine's Church on Chandos Road at the end of January to mark the passing of this young man who died just shy of his 27th birthday.

We were all there to grieve his departure and pay tribute to his valiant, inspirational and popular spirit. My sincere condolences go to all his family, his friends and indeed the many people whose lives he had an impact upon. His memory will live on and Buckingham will remember this young man for decades to come. I am sure his courage and good nature will continue to inspire many.

RIP Oli.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Centenary Home Coming Charity Dinner Dance 16 Feb 2019

You are invited!

One hundred years ago, Buckingham kept the home fires burning to WELCOME HOME the demobbed soldiers after the Armistice. The Buckingham Town Mayor invites you to this 

Centenary Dance to Remember! 

So if you wondering how you might celebrate Valentine's Day this year - why not do it, remembering all the love for the soldiers returning from the Great War, whilst having an amazing time with excellent music and food.

Last year, we had some wonderful prizes to raffle off donated by local businesses and people... so we are looking for more of these this year. Please contact me if you would like to offer a prize - thank you!

I am most grateful to Ausra Glozeckaite-Mohandas who has done huge amount of work to bring all this together!

Saturday, 12 January 2019

A man at peace with himself

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the funeral of a dearly loved local man, Theodore Connor. Stowe Church was standing room only and I estimated there were something like 300 people there to pay tribute to his passing and offer their condolences. The church was brimming with the warmth of the affection and memories that everyone present had for him. People had travelled many long distances to be there. I spoke to woman next to me who had come down from Norfolk.

Theodore and his sister Mary were both made Friends of Buckingham about ten years ago for all the time and care they had put into helping local young people learn to ride and love horses up at Stowe. I was there to honour him on behalf of the Town Council. We held a minute's silence for him last Monday at a meeting of the Council.

He was described by the Vicar in his commendation in many lovely ways but especially as a man who was at peace with himself. May we all aspire to such contentment.

May he rest in peace.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Well Being Walk 2019: 24 March

Last year we had a wonderful walk around town talking about what more we can all do to support and improve the well being of young people. You can read all about what we did here (the initial post) and here (the report of what happened). This will be our second rolling strolling conversation co-organised with the Buckinghamshire High Sheriff and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham. Please make a date and join us!

Here are more details:

The theme for this year is:

What more can we do to ensure that we and our community have great mental well-being, brimming with imagination, learning 
and friendship?

Anyone who cares about this matter, knows something about what might be done or who has the power and can make things better, is welcome. We figure that is probably just about everybody!

So if you are young or not so young, live, work or study in Buckingham (or nearby), are a professional (such as teacher, a mental health practitioner, a community nurse, a doctor etc) or a person who wants to talk about this topic because it matters to you - everyone is welcome!

You can join us for all or part of the journey, as you wish.

You can access the planned route on Google maps here.

We will end up in a marquee on the lawn of the University campus near Tanlaw Mill. There will be an opportunity then to munch through packed lunches and record what you have learnt from the conversations

Our aim is to get some young cadets, scouts and guides to help with marshalling the moving body of people across various roads along the way safely. Although, we do expect people to look after themselves as they would in any case.

Please save this page, as I will be updating it with further information as the day approaches.

We look forward to welcoming you on the journey!

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

A Very Merry Buckingham Christmas

Yesterday on Christmas Day, Julie and I popped into the lunch organised by the local Churches Together. It was great to see so many people enjoying such warmth, festive fun and amazing food! It was lovely to chat to people and exchange Christmas stories and Christmas hopes and Christmas wishes. And top marks to all the volunteers who had decorated the room, packed goody bags for everyone to leave with, created the quiz, served the food, washed the dishes, cooked the food, donated time and/or money to make this happen and so on and on!

This was Buckingham at its best. It was a joy to add a little Mayoral bling to the occasion. And I specially enjoyed the brief conversation with a Welsh lady who had recently move to Buckingham after becoming a widow a few years back. We were able to swap stories of the locality where my Mum still lives. And I was able to dust off one of favourite Welsh phrases:
Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda
Lunch begins!

The Chefs with two of the volunteers waiters

The rest of the kitchen team

The goody bags to return home with

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

A Christmas for all our children

At this time of year, my head is crowded with memories of Christmases past, especially ones from my childhood. At school of course, the build up had been building up for weeks: drawing pictures, making cards, constructing paper chains and meeting Santa at the school Christmas party. And then at home, I can still recall and feel that simple overwhelming almost excruciating excitement of going to bed on Christmas Eve with such expectation and delight. I can conjure up than one Christmas morning when my brother and I got up at 4am to open our present of a Skalextric set and watching the cars race around the track in the darkness with their tiny headlamps shining.

So many memories, so many feelings.

And here I am, here we are, about to dive into Christmas 2018. Please accept my deeply heartfelt Christmas good wishes: please have wonderful time over this season of good will. May you be surrounded by love, joy and peace with your family and friends. And may you feel refreshed come the beginning of January to face the year ahead with all that you need to have an amazing year, full of love, hope, peace, friendship and good times.

And in addition may I ask you to always think about our children over these coming days and beyond into 2019. And I mean this collectively: we all have a part to play in the upbringing of all children and young people in our town. Every action we take, every word we say, and every piece we post: all help to shape the future in which our children will live. And I believe we all have a responsibility to make that future the best it can possibly be so that the next generation, and the next and the next... can all live lives full of ambition, joy, creativity, freedom, love and fulfilment.

Merry Christmas!!


I sat in on a committee meeting of the Friends of the University of Buckingham last night: and what an amazing organisation it is! I was thoroughly impressed with the range of activities they put on for students of the university and their own members during the course of the year. These include English language conversation classes (see below), a games evening for new students, arranging meals for students in local people's houses, cookery lessons for the 'domestically challenged' students and so on it goes. And it is only a fairly small group of active stalwarts who make all this happen! For the members there are annual meetings involving lectures, Pimms, BBQs and more!

So if you wish to join: please visit this page and sign up! There is more information about the group here

And back to the conversation classes: one member of the committee - Marilyn - has been running these for some Japanese students over the last few months. Below is how they thanked her. Wonderful!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

What a glorious (and dry!) Christmas Parade & Community Fair

It was wonderful to see the whole town turn out for the annual parade on Saturday. Such a fabulous event that brings such delight and joy to the town. As I was in it, I don't have any pics, but they are all over Facebook and will be in the local paper next week. I would just to pay huge credit to all the work that goes into organising this occasion and pay a massive tribute to all the imagination, sweat and tears that no doubt went into the floats and walking groups too. The results were fantastic. Well done all!

Here's a pic of the Town Council 'bling' group just before we strode proudly up through the town centre, accompanied by the Deputy Mayor Cllr Mark Cole, Cllr Robin Stuchbury (thanks for the pic) and Cllr Paul Hirons. Most of the other councillors and staff were making sure the road closure barriers were respected.

Afterwards lots of people retired to the Community Fair for warm drinks, amazing cakes and all the fabulous stalls. It was enchanting to be serenaded by the Buckingham Children's Choir (like last year). Again well done to all who organised and took part in this Town Council event too. Fabulous effort. 

Given that this is one of the very few occasions when the Town's Mace is on show out in the town (although you can always see it in the Old Gaol), I thought it worth highlighting its age and importance to the town. It is the most notable and precious article in the Town Council's regalia.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

The Mayor of Milton Keynes' Carol Service (Trefoil #2)

It was a joy to be part of the Christmas Carol Service hosted by the Mayor of MK Cllr Martin Petchey and his consort Ms Debbie Thomson. We sang all the traditional carols (which seem to be in a higher pitch these days - or maybe my voice has dropped an octave?) and heard some excellent pieces by the Cornerstone Choir. There was also a beautiful song by the children of Jubilee Wood School. And to top it all we had some hand bell ringing by the Woburn branch of the Trefoil Guild.

I had not been to a service in the Church of Christ the Cornerstone before - it is a wonderful building with rich acoustics. It was good to see old friends including the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Professor Ruth Farwell. Money was being raised for the the MK Bus Shelter (homelessness action project).

Christmas lunch for older residents

Buckingham School provided their regular Christmas get together for older members of our community. I popped in to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and I got a good seat to see the dancing and listen to the school choir. We all got to see an extract of Singing in the Rain too! Delightful and very well organised by the school students: well done!

What glorious feeling!

The Buckingham School put on a performance of Singing in the Rain this week. And it was marvellous! For those of us that know the film well (it is one of my all time favourites) you will know how tricky it is to replicate and stage. But it was done with great panache, verve and skill by all concerned. Not only was I impressed with the acting - the costumes were amazing and the direction / stage management were seamless! Well done to all concerned!!

Trefoil Guild #1: 75th anniversary

The Trefoil Guild was founded 75 years ago and on Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending their tea party to celebrate this. It was a most warm and welcoming afternoon of good company, good cheese, good cake and good tea. What more do we need!
Trefoil Guild is a branch of Girlguiding and its members agree to support the guiding ethos - including the pledge to help other people. Many members pass on their skills and knowledge to local guiding units, from helping Brownies work towards a badge to preparing older girls for a camping adventure. Many members are unit leaders or helpers in Girlguiding units.
Here are some pictures taken by Valerie Shaw (thank you!) and one by me of the cake! It was lovely to be invited.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Journey beginnings (and one ending)

The Buckingham School held their Celebration Evening last night. I had the greatest of honours to hand out all the awards to their high achieving students. It was such a wonderful occasion to see all these young people and their parents/carers beaming with pleasure and pride. Whilst the job of teacher can be most challenging, it must also be so rewarding to help launch these young people on their journeys through life. And as Mayor, I was privileged to have a small smidgen of that joy last night too. It was also the end of a journey for me too...

Last night I donated the tenth and final copy of the book about Jo Cox that I have been giving to the libraries of my life for the last year and half. It was a most fitting place and time to end my quest. My speech is below which explains why I have been doing this.

But meanwhile, here are couple of pictures from last night including Mr Andrew McGinnes, the Headteacher, Mr Matthew Watkins, the Chair of Governors and Cllr Robin Stuchbury (former pupil at the school). All the students who won awards had the picture taken but please check out the school website for those pics. The programme is also below.

Handing over the book about Jo Cox.

The speech I gave:

It is wonderful to be here this evening to celebrate the achievements of so many young people at this school. One of the great pleasures I get as Town Mayor is to witness, delight in and appreciate all the energy, ambition, hopes and realised dreams of so many people in the town, of all ages. We are all so lucky to live in a wonderful place with some very special institutions including this glorious school of course. It is very easy to take all this for granted.

But please let us be very clear, none of this happens by accident. The successes of the young people we are glorying in tonight have come from tough and detailed work by them, supported by great and hard working teachers and with the immeasurable patience and guidance of their parents and carers. And all of this is done within a community that wants our young people to do well. I believe that we all want all young people to do well.

But we live in divisive times where people, young and old, can so easily become the victims of hate or anger. This can happen online or in real life. Sometimes to extremes. Tonight this community, our community, is celebrating the success of our young people. But let us not forget that we must never take our community for granted. We must always be renewing our hope, our love and our understanding of each other. That is what community means.

In this regard, I have come with a small gift this evening to donate to the school.

The story of my gift begins with the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP by a right wing terrorist during the EU referendum campaign. It was a moment that shocked and saddened me deeply, as it did most other people of course. Here was an MP working hard to listen to and help her constituents in Batley and Spen. She was on her way to a regular surgery on 16 June 2016 when a man stabbed and killed her. As the world reacted to this event, much about Jo became to be more widely understood.

In particular a paragraph from her maiden speech in the House of Commons delivered by her on 3 June 2015, just a year previous, became well known:
“Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
Just to repeat that last bit:
“we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
And so wind forward another year and the general election of 2017 was called. I placed a bet of £20 on how many seats the Conservative Party would win (within a 25 seat margin) at the odds of seven to one. And I was right and I won my stake and £140 back. So then I thought, what should I do with the money? I could have blown it all on a night out or given it to a charity. But I decided instead to purchase 11 copies of the book about Jo’s amazing life and tragic death. And I decided at the same time to donate ten of these books to the libraries of my life.

So here I am today, on the last stage of my journey. I began in the secondary school that I went to - a school called Purbrook Park just north of Portsmouth. I have been back to my University in Reading and also the Oxford school where my own children were educated. I have been to the other libraries of Buckingham and there is even one now lodged in the public library of Mouvaux, our twin town.

So I bring this book today for The Buckingham School library, as the Mayor of Buckingham. It is my earnest hope that it will be widely read by all the students here in the school now and in the future. And I hope that all will be inspired to work for the kind of world, the kind of community, that Jo was working for.

A world in which everyone recognises that we have always far more in common than anything we have that divides us.

A world in which there is less hate and more love.

A world where people experience interest and compassion, not othering and bullying

A world in which there is more delight in difference, where all forms of diversity are celebrated and enjoyed.

I have the greatest of pleasure in donating this book to this school’s library. And in so doing, I bring my small journey of ten book donations to a very satisfactory close. I can’t think of a better place for this tenth book to be.

And so on with the show: let’s all admire, celebrate and simply love all the talented young people we are honouring this evening!

Thanks to Robin for the pics.

The Mighty Women of Buckingham

Last Thursday, Julie and I had the enormous pleasure of attending the opening of the 'Mighty Women' exhibition at the Old Gaol. (It...