Saturday 18 May 2019

My last post on this blog

Last night I handed on the Buckingham Town Mayor's chain of office to my very worthy successor, Cllr Mark Cole. This marks the end of my two years as Mayor of this town. Below is the valedictory speech I gave to offer my reflections on those two years and thanks to many people. And with this, I sign off from this blog.

Mayoral reflections

My term as Mayor of this wholesome town is now very nearly over. Over the last two years, I have represented our town as Mayor on over 330 occasions, many of course with my wonderful wife and consort, Julie. I made a decision, at the beginning of my term, to blog every event I attended. To date that blog has been uploaded nearly a quarter of a million times. I am very happy that I achieved my aim to be a most transparent and accessible Mayor.

But now here we are. It is time for me to hand over the Chain of Office. I deeply and sincerely wish Cllr Mark Cole and his consort Alex, all the very best for the times they have ahead of them. Mark was a brilliant Deputy Town Mayor and I am confident that they will be both serve this town well. Thank you Mark and Alex for all that you have done over the last two years.

You will be glad to know that I am not going to be long reviewing the highlights of the last two years. You can after all, read the blog for all that information. But I will say this: Buckingham is a glorious town. It has been my and Julie’s honour and joy to appreciate all the facets of this community. 

Here in our town, our community, we have been:

  • Marvelled by the sporting talent we have watched 
  • Awestruck by the artistic flair we have seen
  • Delighted in and impressed with the poetry and singing we have listened to 
  • Bowled over by the business and entrepreneurial spirit that glues our town together
  • Reveling in our educational institutions - the schools, the library and the university - such fantastic temples to imagination, ambition and achievement
  • Moved deeply by the local charitable efforts commitments - so many people do so much for so many others
  • Uplifted by our spiritual leaders - who use their grace and care to cradle Buckingham in their hearts and hands
  • Endlessly charmed by the much cared for beauty of our parks and town
  • Amused and entertained by many people and groups - comedy, music, drama
  • And we have been humbled by the welcome and the warmth of our citizens wherever we went.

Our highlights are all around us. And will always be so.

Just before I finish this speech and give some cheques to the three charities I have been raising money for, I just want to say a few thanks.

I want to thank:

  • Russell - our loud and wondrous Town Crier
  • Barbara - our fine and dextrous Mace Bearer
  • Paul - our new Town Clerk who is doing such a brilliant job at the helm of our ship
  • Chris Wayman - our former Town Clerk who was such a help in my first year
  • All the Town Council staff - but especially Katharine (our oracle), Eloise-Mary (currently on maternity leave) and Louise - who have all helped Julie and myself to manage this role. Any deviations from protocol are entirely my fault!
  • My fellow town councillors who have offered wise counsel and helped me stay grounded
  • And really so many others in the town who, in ways that they will never know, have made these last two years such a joy. 
  • And of course, Julie my wife, my Mayoress, my consort, my confidante, my love. I could write another whole speech about how much you have helped me - in more ways than you can imagine!

I will end here.

Thank you my fellow councillors, and thank you Buckingham for allowing me the opportunity to be your Mayor for these two fabulous years!
_________ the Swan on the crest of Buckingham Town Council, I am now unchained and free!

A new Town Mayor is elected!

Last night, Cllr Mark Cole was 'made' Mayor of Buckingham. I wish him and his consort / Mayoress Alex Cole all the very, very best for the coming year. He is joined by Deputy Mayor Cllr Geraldine Collins, who was also elected last night and I too wish her well. Here is a picture of the three of them.

(there will be far better pictures from the Town Council and the Newspaper soon of course!)

Mr Lionel Weston, Friend of Buckingham

Last night at the annual Mayor Making, I had the honour of elaborating why the Town Council had decided to make Lionel a Friend of Buckingham. Here is the speech I gave:

Buckingham Town Council has decided to bestow the title of ‘Friend of Buckingham’ on Mr Lionel Weston for his contribution to the life of our community. It is my great honour, joy and privilege to say few words about why Lionel is such a worthy recipient of this title.

Decades ago, Lionel and his good wife Maggie, moved to Buckingham. In 1984, Lionel had the idea of mounting a community pantomime in the then new Community Centre in which we are all currently sitting. And so in January 1985, Lionel wrote and directed the first ever pantomime, which has gone from strength to strength ever since.

As a former England international rugby player (they could probably have used his talents this year) Lionel was employed to teach rugby to Stowe School students. And when he was not doing this he was often to be found dreaming up another idea for a dramatic production. He is our local impresario. Lionel’s focus has always been on what more he can do to bring our Buckingham communities together. Notably a few years ago, he organised a moving (in both senses of the word) performance of the Nativity around the town. A while back he took on the task of producing the musical Annie for and with the community.

Lionel seems to know everyone. He is described with great affection by many. As one person said to me “he is a genuinely very nice guy”. And as a consequence, when he comes up with an idea, others just want to help and support him make it happen. This is the mark of a great leader.

Lionel creates visions and an ability to recruit people to help make those visions come true that is second to none.  As someone else said “Lionel doesn’t see barriers, only hurdles to clear”. He is fiercely tenacious and profoundly inclusive with a massive and infectious charm. And of course he is very well supported by Maggie and their three children. Some people describe Maggie as tolerant or even long suffering. I of course would not comment.

And then of course, there is last year when I got to know Lionel myself.

Put simply, Lionel, like the Tapestry that he organised, wove together a wide range of strands into what became our town’s own Festival of Remembrance.
With the large open air show on Remembrance Sunday, the Silent Soldiers, the Tea Party for the families of those who fought, the Tapestry and other events, Lionel helped make sure that all of us will forever remember the 100th anniversary of the Armistice with great understanding and a deep passion. Of course, many many people were part of these events but it was Lionel’s leadership, focus and verve that made them all happen.

Thank you Lionel. Truly, thank you.

Over many years, you have shown yourself to be one of our town’s greatest citizens. It is my huge pleasure to offer you this recognition on behalf of the Town Council.

I give you Lionel Weston, a Friend of Buckingham!

Thank you, again. 


Jake from the newspaper was taking photographs throughout last night's ceremonies, so there will be pics of Lionel accepting his award to be published. Meanwhile here is a photo of Lionel hosting the cream tea for the families of those descended from Buckingham people who fought in the first world war.

Thursday 16 May 2019

The art of oratory

Last night I listened attentively to a presentation by Dan Hannan MEP on the subject of ‘How to talk so people will listen’. He certainly practised what he lectured. Without a doubt he is one of the brightest politicians around and who is clearly well versed in other areas too. His advice on the subject of his talk was clear and concise:

  • Avoid familiar phrases - use your own usual words
  • Maintain eye contact - avoid word for word speeches 
  • Know what words you will use to begin & end 
  • Deploy silence not umm's and err's
  • Ask questions (almost any question) to wake your audience up!

His argument was that most of us at one time or another, will need to address an audience. Therefore, speech making & debating skills should be widely taught in schools. I agree wholeheartedly.

After he had finished speaking, there were a few questions about his presentation but unsurprisingly there were several questions about Brexit. He gave comprehensive answers to all.

And so this was my last official engagement as Mayor (beyond Friday's ceremony to 'make' the new Town Mayor). It's been a blast!

Monday 13 May 2019

Such stuff as dreams are made on

This morning, in a very lovely way, the Vice Chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon and whole University staff thanked Julie and I for our efforts to forge better 'town and gown' relations over the last two years. Julie was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers and I a delightful framed memento of my time as Mayor seeking to build good relations.

It has been an honour and joy to work closely with the University. Education dominates our town with large numbers of people, young and old, spending their days being taught or teaching others. I reminded the staff of the University that my philosophy boils down to a very simple vision: I want to live in a world where everyone has dreams and ambitions, and the wherewithal to achieve those. I explained to them that they were stuff that dreams are made of, because they spend their time being part of that wherewithal: helping students realise their learning goals, acquiring new skills and insights. And with all these, achieving their ambitions.

Today was (I think) our last official engagement as Town Mayor & Mayoress. It was a fitting place to be, to do so.

Thanks to Nigel Adams for this pic.

What a charming event

Happy and happen chance timing meant that on Sunday, Julie and I got to visit our third Banner Service organised by the Girl Guiding movement from across the county. It is a thoroughly charming and colourful occasion for rainbow brownies, brownies, girl guides, rangers and members of the Trefoil Guild to come together and show off their carefully crafted (and some very old) banners. Wrapped around a church service, the girls, young women and all talked us through the new Guide themes:
  • Know myself
  • Express myself
  • Be well
  • Have adventures
  • Take action
  • Skills for the future

Below is a 'painted' pic of the assembled guides singing (and signing) Kumbaya! There a couple of other pics too below.

Banbury Mayor Making

It is customary that Mayors from neighbouring towns make a point of visiting each other's Mayor Making ceremonies to foster helpful inter-town relationships - and generally learn about good practice elsewhere. So it was a great pleasure to be at the Banbury Mayor Making once again (Julie and I were there two years ago) to say farewell to last year's Mayor and welcome in the new one (Cllrs Shaida Hussain and John Colgrave respectfully). There was much good cheer from all parts of the council to welcome Cllr Colgrave to the position and his nomination speech was very funny. He seems like a cheery chap and I am sure that Banbury will benefit from his presence over the coming year.

The outgoing Mayor before handing over to the new one.

Sunday 5 May 2019

Glitz and Glamour in Towcester

The Mayor and Mayoress of Towcester (Cllr Peter Conquest and his wife Jonna Conquest) hosted a most wonderful fundraising dinner party at the Towcestrians Sports and Social Club just outside the town last night. Julie and I are most grateful for super evening and it was good to meet lots of people . We had the particular fortune to forge solid civic links with the Mayors of Raunds and Kettering, and the South Northants District Chairman, Cllr Richard Dallyn. More than £400 was raised for the Mayor's Charities (Tove Wetland Pocket Park, Vision Youth Café & Blind Veterans UK).

We were thoroughly entertained by the Lincoln Noel Jazz Trio all evening. The food and club staff were marvellous as well.

UPDATE 150519: Just received this pic from Peter (he and Jonna are in the middle) - a wonderful souvenir of delightful evening

MK Dons rise again

Last year, Julie and I attended the MK Dons game which more or less sealed their fate to be booted down a league. This year, again at the kind invitation of the Chairman, Pete Winkelman (as part of the ongoing link between Buckingham and the club first sorted by Cllr Smith when he was Mayor) we watched a match with a very different story. We had the greatest of pleasures to enjoy the thrill of the team winning back a place in League One. Fab! (MK Citizen match report here)

Aside from the game itself, I had the enormous privilege to join the Mayor of Milton Keynes, Cllr Martin Petchey at the head of a march around the pitch with dozens of young & old footballers to kick out racism all forms of hate from football, just before the game started.

And the other twist to the afternoon was that the Mayor of Mansfield was going to join the MK Mayor & Mayoress and ourselves for lunch before the game. She did not arrive. We later found out why: she lost her position after Thursday's elections by two votes. The new Mayor (we assumed) did not have the fixture in his diary.

Congratulations to all involved, especially the players and all the team and club that support them. Well done! (And congrats to the new Mayor of Mansfield too - hopefully he will be able to attend and support their games in the league playoffs - and they too end up in League One as well)

Jubilant fans spill onto the pitch

The MK Mayor enjoys the game (as he has done all but one home games)

Even hail did not manage to stop MK Dons!

Retina UK: researching and supporting people

Retina UK is a national charity based in Buckingham - just on the Stratford Road - which invests in research into inherited sight loss while supporting people with the conditions. Last week they invited me to visit them and find out more about the work that they do. What a terrific bunch of people they are - wrestling with the complexities of this range of medical conditions and the challenges of helping people of all ages manage their lives. You can find out much more about them and their work here.

They are always looking for volunteers to assist their work, be it for a one off few hours (inputting data from a survey for example) or for a longer commitment (such as becoming a telephone helpline supporter). They are a really friendly team and I was enthused after spending time with Tina Houlihan, the Chief Executive and all her colleagues. You can hear her being interviewed by the famous radio journalist Peter White here.

Thanks for the pics below.

Tina Houlihan

Thursday 2 May 2019

A Civic Service for the Spirit of Imagination

On Sunday 28 April, St Bernadine's Catholic Church was filled with around 150 people to celebrate imagination in our town. It was a most uplifting event that Fr Roy, the parish priest and I were delighted to host. In the presence of the Town Mace, we were graced with presentations from three local 'imagineers' who talked of the role that imagination played in their lives. (David Hall's speech can be found here.) The voices of the Buckingham Children's Choir soared to the rafters as they sang a Million Dreams. And everyone sang favoured hymns ably supported by Derrick Matthews on the Church organ. Both Fr Roy and I addressed everyone with our thoughts on imagination and how it fits into the Bible and our Town. We celebrated all faiths and beliefs with a flower ceremony. It was wonderful to welcome The Lord Lieutenant, the Queen's local representative along with fellow Mayors from two neighbouring towns of Aylesbury and Leighton Linslade, and the Chair of AVDC.

Below are some pics, the order of service and the address I gave.

My thanks to everyone who helped make this service the success that it was. We managed to raise £400 for the Mayor's Charities and so I am hugely grateful for everyone's generosity as well! Fr Roy very kindly proposed that all the money went to the charities rather than splitting the money with his Church. That was very generous too!

Photos are from Cllr Warren Whyte, Deputy Town Clerk Claire Molyneux and Dean Jones, Partnerships and Outreach Manager UoB - thank you!

My civic address:

My term as Mayor of this glorious town is soon coming to a close. Julie and I have found our journey over the last two years delightful, intense, enjoyable and enthralling. And all the more so because of the ‘imagineers’ we have met during our travels around Buckingham and beyond.

As many of you here know, I set the theme of my first year as being about ambition. Over this last year, I have been focusing on imagination. Afterall, it is imagination which fuels ambition. It is imagination which makes the world a better place: every positive social change, every piece of technology, every artistic creation… started with someone daring to imagine a something better, something more beautiful, something more elegant.

For let us be crystal clear, as Albert Einstein famously said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Imagination encircles Buckingham too.

Over this last year we have met girl guides in their 70s and 80s who still dare to imagine a world in which everyone is serving others, doing their best, while learning and growing. Julie and I have shared in the excitement of sports women and sports men who dream of victory and achievement. We have seen new and beautiful buildings rise up from the mud to grace our town because someone had the idea to make it so.

We have seen students graduating with wide smiles as they finally realised their dreams. I have shared in the birthday celebrations of our local library which is a haven of imagination, a temple of dreams and a launchpad for new futures. We linked our town of imagination with the garden of ideas at Stowe with an historic promenade up to and through the Corinthian Arch. I spent evenings with some young carers learning about their hopes for their futures and that for the town.

Julie and I partook in a celebration of the heroic imaginations our town’s mighty women at the Old Gaol. And once again, we toured and wrapped the town in a journey of well-being, reflecting on what can be done to maintain and support good mental health.

The Christmas parade was a veritable feast of imagination. In this “world of fantasy”, people delighted in the colour and magic of fancy dress. It was a joy to behold and is a wonderful feature of our town.

We have been entranced by the imaginative spirit that bonds Buckingham with Mouvaux.

And of course, last year, we were greatly moved by all the commemorative events that reminded us of the sacrifices made one hundred years ago on the fields of Flanders and across Europe.

Naturally, I could go on with describing the many, many people, events and organisations we have met, experienced and visited over the last months. There is a deep stream of imagination, ambition, and hope that flows through our town and binds our community together. As the murdered MP, Jo Cox, now famously asserted in her maiden speech to Parliament: we always have far more in common than anything which might divide us. This is as true for the spirit of imagination as it is for the many other facets of our lives here in this thriving and magical river town.

Our river, the Great Ouse flows in and out of our town, symbolising the flow of our magnificent markets & shops, our bubbling businesses, our fluid learning, our effervescent ideas… and our unstoppable imagination.

But let us be clear: human imagination is simultaneously incredibly resilient and excruciatingly fragile.

It is our imagination that keeps us going when times are tough, sometimes very tough. Our imagination gives us hope, supports our faith and boosts our spirit even in times when we are struggling. Our imagination is like a golden sun, burning brightly inside of all of us, illuminating a path to the future.

But it is also oh so easy to allow ourselves to ignore our creative and imaginative spirits: to think that our imagination is just the floss and fluff of dreams and fanciful worlds. It is also frighteningly easy to crush someone else’s (a child’s maybe?) imagination with a swift and ill considered remark, or merely by not paying attention. Sometimes we scorn the imagineers around us, overlooking the fact that we are all imagineers, if we allow ourselves to be.

So let us today, and every day, celebrate our own spirit of imagination and look for it in others. And when we see it shining brightly, or indeed just shimmering in the background somewhere, let us all do what we can to help this light to grow and sparkle even more.

As the poet and author Alice Walker said “If you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit. It will go anywhere, and it can do anything.”

I feel so fortunate, and I know Julie does too, to have spent the last few months bathing in the brilliance of the verve and imagination of so many people. We have been charmed, stimulated and uplifted by our bountiful town. This is a great place in which to live, work, study, visit and play!

We are today in the middle of this Civic Service, in a place of worship and faith, and so I would like to highlight the link between imagination and the spiritual dimension of our town and all those here.

Faith is about hope. And hope turns into imagination. And imagination turns into action, which changes the world. Together we work for a world in which all live in peace, security, health and friendship. We dare to imagine such a world. Our deep wells of hope, faith and beliefs keep us daring to do so.

And it is at this point that the spiritual meets the civic and together work for our community in building an even more vibrant, safe and healthy Buckingham.

And this is what today is all about: reflecting on the spiritual in the civic and the civic in the spiritual. Let us all rejoice in the myriad of ways in which Buckingham people are using their imagination, determination and hope for a better world for everyone.

In this way, our Town will continue to be the very special place that it is: a place for amazing imagination and wonderful ambition.

Tuesday 30 April 2019

Springing into action

A few years ago the Buckingham Transition Group convened a Fair for local environmental and associated crafting groups to get together and sell their wares, as it were. The Town Council took over this fair a while back and this year's Spring Fair was held in the cattle pens last Sunday. The weather was middling and so there was a good footfall of people interested in the various stalls on offer ranging from the Woodland Trust, Men in Sheds and the National Trust. The local scouts provided some cake and hot dog sustenance while the Brackley Morris Men provided some of the entertainment. I popped in on my way to the Civic Service. (See later blog)

Here are some pics taken by me and Robin. (And note the environmental 'activist' cleaning up our town!) Also below is a programme of events coming up at the Old Gaol - not to be missed!

Monday 15 April 2019

Thank you Buckingham Rugby Union Football Club!

Here is a pic of BRUFC Chairman Simon Smith presenting me with a cheque for £500 for the Mayor's Charity Fund. Thank you to everyone involved in the club's fundraising efforts. Not only did my three charities benefit but, at the lunch, I heard about the amazing efforts to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. A bunch of the young players decided to have a sponsored head shave to raise money for this trust after learning of one of their team had been diagnosed with cancer. They have managed to raise a stonking £22k - which is just in incredible!

So, as last year, it was wonderful to be a part of one of the BRUFC lunches with lashings of sumptuous food and (more importantly) mountains of camaraderie and good cheer. Rugby is a growing sport and is drawing many more young women and girls to play as well as the young men and boys teams. And I can see why: the spirit of community and friendship is frankly awesome and evidently lasts a lifetime!

Thanks to Julian Cook for the pic above.

Keeping Mayoral links strong

One of the jobs of a Town Mayor is maintain good relationships with neighbouring towns and parishes. As a consequence, I have always tried to get to events that I have been invited to by local town Mayors. Last Wednesday evening was one example: Julie and I were hugely delighted and most grateful to be part of this fund raising evening in a local Chinese restaurant in Leighton Buzzard on the invitation of the Mayor of Leighton Linslade, Cllr Clive Palmer.

We sat on a table of six with the Deputy Mayors of Ampthill and Leighton Linslade, and their partners/consorts. We had great conversations about housing, cemeteries and health commissioning as well as more usual subjects such as families, holidays and the like. And the food was fabulous too!

Saturday 6 April 2019

A journey through the laughing glass

Last night Julie and I went along to the Royal Latin School to listen to Andy McConnell of Antiques Roadshow fame. (He is their resident glassware specialist, we were told.) It was a fundraising evening for BACAB which supports the local Citizens Advice service. Neither Julie nor I are particularly into antiques and (dare I say this) do not tend to watch the BBC programme on Sunday evenings (unlike six million other people apparently). So we went expecting a couple of glasses of wine, a canapé or three, chat with some of the good people of the Town and (we thought) a fairly tedious presentation about antique glassware. How wrong I was!

Not only was the part of his presentation about glassware fascinating: who knew that old pieces of glass contained so much social history (which does interest me)!? But also, we were treated to a whistle stop tour through his earlier life where he explained how he worked with Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa no less, among many other household rock star names! And thorough all of his, Andy held his audience in the palm of his hand with a heady mixture of laugh out loud humour, poignant candour, some slightly risqué stories and a whole array of provocative opinions. We enjoyed ourselves hugely.

It was one of those occasions as Mayor that I have been blown away with something so unexpected and so delightful. Thank you to everyone who helped to organise and run yesterday evening - and of course - great thanks to Andy who entertained us so well. I might even have to start watching the Antiques Roadshow now!

Monday 1 April 2019

Building UK / USA relations

Julie and I spent Friday night on the base of RAF Croughton, among other dignitaries from nearby towns (which stretched as far afield as Newbury!) and districts. It was the USAF's annual reception where they celebrate their links with the localities in which they operate. I spent a good chunk of my time encouraging the servicemen and servicewomen I spoke with to come and visit Buckingham.

There were lots of interesting people to get to know including representatives of the US Army as well as their Airforce. I learnt why the army has different colour trousers to the their tunics. It dates back to when they were (in the words of the officer I spoke with) 'fighting with the American Indians'. Pics below are the all the 'Voluntary Commanders' who work with the base's officer team to help them build relationships with British services, councils and business. One of the Commanders appointed was the 'Director of Beer' for Arkell's Brewery (Swindon) for example!

The invites are shown too which explains the purpose of the event.

Friday 29 March 2019

Well Being Walk #2

This year's walk was blessed with beautiful weather. All the participants were treated to blue skies, great company and conversations, energy snacks and water at the beginning (care of Waitrose - thank you), and sandwiches and refreshments at the Vinson Building (care of the University - thank you) at the end.

The walk was organised by this year's High Sheriff (Professor Ruth Farwell), the Vice Chancellor (Sir Anthony Seldon) and myself. Both last year's and next year's High Sheriffs also came along as well as many local people and others from further afield. We had a glorious time reflecting on what more could be done by us and others to ensure that we have good mental well being in our town and beyond.

Here's to next year!


Every year the Rotary Club organises the Annual Swimathon which enables local charities to raise money - with medals, prizes and cake (with help from the Inner Wheel) help them do this. Julie and I popped in briefly to support the team raising money for the Buckingham Youth Club (after a day at the Graduation Ceremonies).

Well done to everyone involved - swimmers, supporters and organisers!

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Graduation ceremonies

Julie and I spent all day at the University Graduation ceremonies on Friday and Saturday last weekend. Such a wonderful and (to quote Sir Anthony Seldon, the Vice Chancellor) sacred event for the hundreds of students gaining their degrees. As last year, it was pure joy to see the relief and pride on the faces of the students as they shook Sir Anthony's hand. (The shoes were something special too!) It was good to represent the Town at these events. We want these bright and dynamic students to consider making Buckingham their home. They are most welcome of course. And it was important to honour their efforts and learning.

Moreover, this year, one of the inspirational speakers was the Vice President of Ghana, no less. Julie and I presented them with bouquets as they arrived in the town. It was good to meet Mahamudu Bawumia and his wife, Samira Bawumia if only very briefly.

Flowers for the Vice President of Ghana and his wife

Treasured Mayoral Days!