Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Happy 10th Birthday BAFA

Buckingham Art For All (BAFA) began 10 years ago and they had a birthday party last Friday night. Julie and I were invited to cut the cake for them. And what a lovely occasion it was: so wonderful to celebrate the joy and colour that BAFA bring to Buckingham! (Thanks Emily Pool for the pic)

BAFA describes itself thus:
Whatever our level of expertise and talent we are always learning.  
As Pablo Picasso said "the artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web".
So how do you get onto this road of learning?
At Bafa we want to
  • Nurture our members with constant encouragement
  • Create an environment where it is safe to seek help from other members
  • Where constructive criticism is offered not belittlement, whatever the standard
  • Share our expertise by helping others.
So if you have not painted for years or the last time you held a paintbrush was when you were nine years old, or you would just like to learn a little about art: BAFA could well be for you. I can testify they are a delightful and welcoming bunch of people: friendships are made and tips on painting are exchanged! (Contact details here)

Here is Peter Baker and Julie sharing a smile. Peter was one of he founding members of BAFA.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

HRH The Duke of Kent opens new UoB Academic Centre at MK University Hospital

On Tuesday 20 February, I was invited to take part in the opening of the new University of Buckingham (UoB) Academic Centre at MK University Hospital. As many of you know, the UoB started the first private medical school about 4 years ago after many years gestation. This building will now provide fantastic facilities for the student doctors based up in Milton Keynes.

HRH The Duke of Kent was kind enough to do the official opening and here he is with the Vice Chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon as he gives the welcoming address. It is a fabulous building and I wish all the students great success as they move towards graduation sometime soon! (Local news coverage here)

Being shown around the building

His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin, Sultan Ruling Family, Abu Dhabi is in the foreground and behind him is the Mayor of MK, Cllr David Hopkins and The High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Peter Kara esq.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Town & Gown partnership

Last weekend, Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and I went on a research road trip to Aberystwyth and Bangor to find out from those two university towns (of a similar size to ours) about how they manage the partnership between the town residents and the university (students and staff). We were met by lovely people in both places including the mayors, some town councillors, senior managers of the universities and others. It was fascinating and we learnt lots.

I have just written a report for the full Council which will be discussed on 12 March. Once it is on the agenda, I will upload a link here. Meanwhile, I am aware that Sir Anthony is talking with his colleagues about the implications of the learning to University business. We are both of the view that there is much more to do that could enhance the benefits all round to students, residents, staff and beyond. Watch this space!

Meanwhile here are some pics of our visits to Aberystwyth and Bangor.

In Aberystwyth we met with Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan, Pro Vice-Chancellor for
External Engagement, Cllr Steve Davies, Mayor of Aberystwyth, Cllr Talat Chaudhri, Deputy Mayor of Aberystwyth, Cllr Sue Jones-Davies, Town Councillor and former Mayor of Aberystwyth, Dr Debra Croft, Manager of CWPESI, Caryl Davies, Director of Student Support Services, Rachel Hubbard, Aberystwyth Sports Centre, Jim Wallace, Director of Campus and Commercial Services. And I am enormously grateful to them all for their insights and hospitality. And indeed, I think they got something from inquiry as it made them reflect on all of what they were doing too.

In Bangor we had two meetings with the first being with  Ian Jones (Town Clerk), PVC Prof Jerry Hunter (Pro Vice Chancellor of Welsh Medium and Civic Engagement), and Derek Hainge (Mayor of Bangor). Here we all are.

Later on we met the Vice Chancellor, Professor John Hughes. Here he is talking with Sir Anthony. Both meetings were enormously useful and I am hugely grateful to the time they all gave us, especially Jerry who is an American and fluent in Welsh. Most impressive!

Both University campuses feature brilliant arts centres. Here are a couple of pics of the one at Bangor which bridges the university and town by wrapping itself round a hill. A stunning building and we were fortunate to see a concert by The Gentle Good in the evening. This was a sublime fusion of Welsh and Chinese folk music.

One of the windows in The Pontio overlooking the town and Menai Straits.

Looking down through five floors of innovation, entertainment, performance and study spaces!

The Gentle Good playing "The Immortal Bard". Wonderful and a great way to round off the trip before travelling home on Saturday morning.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Story telling at Hamilton House

Last Thursday, Hamilton House hosted their "Celebration of Story Telling" and I was called upon to act as judge for the paintings and fancy dress costumes which formed the afternoon of entertainment for the residents, several related children and the staff of course. It was delightful and I enjoyed some fabulous cake and squash, whilst chatting with the residents and staff. And below is the story I read out which was composed around all the ideas from the residents. Wonderful!

I also had the great pleasure of visiting former Mayor, Hedley Cadd who now lives in Hamilton House. It was wonderful to catch up with him and hear some of his stories of the time when he was Mayor. 

And here are several photographs taken by Charlotte Fenton, the Recreation & Leisure Co-ordinator which successfully captured the warmth, controlled chaos and colour of the afternoon. Thanks to her, all the staff and all the residents, of course, for their welcome. There is such a friendly, family atmosphere in Hamilton House! 

The three little pigs...

And the big bad wolf

Reading out the story

Awarding one of the prizes (best drawing)

Once upon a time, story (with resident's contributions)
The number 60 bus from Buckingham came round the corner. They were all off to see the Wizard of Oz pantomime. On The bus was an old Greek lady doing her knitting, her grandson carrying a teddy bear and a colouring book, a young man on his own with the dog, and several children from the local primary school, with colouring books and crayons.
The bus was on an excursion, eventually ending up at the performance of the Wizard of Oz, but stops are planned for coffee, lunch, and a visit to spooky woods in the afternoon before getting to the theatre in the evening.
At the coffee stop, the children played with the ball, and had squash and jelly biscuits on the village green, which was provided by the old lady doing her knitting. The sun came out from the clouds and shone brightly on the last few daffodils, and snowdrops. There was a church with the bells ringing out as there was to be a wedding that afternoon there. The church clock struck 11. The old lady, a young man with a dog, and the children got back on the bus.
The lunch top was planned for Woburn Safari Park. The old lady and young man escorted the children into the Safari Park. They were very excited and wanted to see all the animals, particularly a beautiful Jersey cow, several elephants that never forget some bright yellow canaries, a white rabbit, and several dormice, an octopus and a tortoise. Being the autumn there was a lot of gorse in flower. They had a picnic lunch, sandwiches, biscuits, chocolate, and ice cream.
They got back in the bus, and journeyed to the spooky wood. On the way, the Greek lady fell asleep and dreamt of her journey across Europe to Paris. The young man with the dog got out his crossword book and started solving clues. Magic flowers and elves inhabited the wood. There was a brook leading to a lake with fairies, and one fairy with only one wing - she had lost the other one somewhere. There was a ginger cat by the lake sitting watching the plentiful goldfish, ready to pounce. Nearby stalked a peacock with all its feathers up, but this was too much of a challenge for the cat so he remained by the pool. There was a garden by the lake with wild roses, white and pink. The children played a game of football by the lake, before getting out their computer tablets and playing on them.
Finally, it was time to board the bus again to set off at Aylesbury to see the Wizard of Oz. They all sang God Save the Queen as the curtains opened.

100,000+ !!

Thank you. This blog has now been browsed over 100k times.

I will continue to blog about my journey as the Town Mayor of Buckingham, letting people know about what I am doing for and on behalf of the town. Thanks again for reading!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Just too wet!! (But with a good ending!)

This morning was scheduled to be the annual Pancake Race organised by the Town Council on the town green next to the parish church. But sadly, even though it was (almost) sunny at the start time of 11am, it had been raining too much all morning. The ground was very wet and it was judged by the Town Council officers that it was going to be just too risky to allow youngsters to race with frying pans. Everyone was sad... including me and Russell, the Town Crier...

It was just too wet...

But, I waited around and then enjoyed the Buckingham Parish Church Pancake party which was very popular! There must have been around 150 children and their parents / carers / grandparents on top of that. Here is the impressive team of pancake makers who did a brilliant job of feeding the masses!

Well done to the Parish Church for organising this: a great idea!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

RAF Croughton Winter Reception

Julie and I were welcomed by our USAF hosts at Croughton last night along with many other local civic leaders from Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. There were representatives from both RAF Croughton (headed by Colonel Eric P Oliver, Commander of the 442nd Air Base Group) and RAF Alconbury (headed by Colonel William H Kale III, Commander of the 501st Combat Support Wing) present.

I had some fascinating conversations including with one of their chaplains and one of their physicists. Julie and I also had a lovely chat with the Deputy civilian commander of the base and his wife about how much lovelier it is to be here than in the USAF airbase in eastern Turkey a couple of years ago

Naturally, I spent some of my time persuading those whom I talked with to come and visit Buckingham, and the Old Gaol as a rich cornucopia of local artefacts and historical items. Indeed several of the senior officers live in in the town already and we may well be welcoming many more as more USAF officers, staff and their families arrive over the next couple of years.

And it was good to catch up with the Mayor of Brackley (we are off to his Ceilidh in a couple of weeks time) and the Mayor of Bicester and his wife. 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Reuniting treasures

This morning, I met the team of police officers and staff who are working methodically and meticulously to reunite the stolen property found a few days ago, with their owners. Indeed Sgt Nick Perks (second from the right) said it has been good to phone people up and tell them their tool has been recovered and would they like it back sometime soon?

Nick the local problem solving sergeant, has been leading the operation to tackle the tool thefts. As a former tradesman himself, he knows how important the gear is to the people who had the items stolen. (It also means he can identify some of the more exotic and complicated items that have been discovered!)

Good solid police work managed to uncover the stolen property near to Buckingham a week ago which led them to find some more containers full of stuff in Milton Keynes a couple of days later. (Fortunately, the MK police are sorting out that haul, as our local bobbies have run out of space as you can see in the photograph!)

Supt Tim Metcalf (on the right of the pic) explained that some of the items are clearly counterfeit too which will lead them to a whole new line of inquiry on this fraudulent activity as well. He reckons that currently they have about £100k+ worth of gear to work their way through. Some of the individual items are worth hundreds if not thousands each. He is optimistic that the people they have arrested will receive custodial sentences. Indeed, both Tim and Nick will be tracking down victim statements that will be read out in court in order to explain the impact on people's lives of these crimes. This will influence the sentences issued. (in my view, the thieves deserve to have the full force of the justice system brought to bear on them.) The police also hope to use the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover money from the convicted felons too, in the fullness of time.

This was not just a local haul either. Some of the items recovered have come from miles away including (for example) Bridgend in South Wales.

I left the team working hard on this investigation. They asked me to make it clear that they will do their level best to make sure that as many of the items are returned to their owners as possible. Of course, this is not helped if there are no identifying marks on the equipment.

So the message is: if you have such equipment - please, please make sure you have marked it in some way (with a UV pen or scratched it etc) with your name / business name / phone number / post code etc. And/or keep a record of the serial numbers - just a photo on a phone will do.

And, if people are buying second hand gear from car boot sales - be careful that you are not buying counterfeit items. If the price is too good to be true... the price is probably too good to be true...!

And don't forget the public meeting next week in the Library - in Verney Close of course!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The Society of Local Council Clerks

I had the pleasure of attending a regional training day run by the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) up at Whittlebury Golf Clubhouse. The SLCC is the professional body for clerks to local parish and town councils. They offer a wide range of services including qualifications in clerking as well as access to advice on whole range of legal and insurance matters.

Chris Wayman (Buckingham Town Clerk) and I had been invited to present to the 80 or so delegates about our experience of mounting the health festival last year. But the day was jam packed with useful guidance and support for town and parish clerks. I was surrounded with clerks from Bletchley, Stoney, Thame, Princess Risborough, Aylesbury and so forth. Here is the agenda we were given:

It was great day for me: networking and learning a little more about the world of local council clerking.

Here are the slides from the presentation that Chris and I gave (with grateful thanks to Sam Hoareau who was the TC officer who coordinated the festival and prepared many of the slides). If you click this link, it will take you to a pdf of all the slides.

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...