Saturday, 31 March 2018

Mobile Eco Farming

A week and bit ago, I visited the Green Dragon Eco Farm just south of Botolph Claydon to help donate a spare mobility scooter from the Town Council's Shop Mobility service to the Farm. I was delighted to help Sue Rossforth, the TC's Shopmobility Officer do this. We got to visit the sheds where all the baby spring animals were being born. BeyoncĂ©, a very large pig, looked almost at bursting point..!

(And I really should have taken more pics than I did!!)

But I would encourage everyone to go down there this weekend and see all the lambs, piglets and kids. And if someone in your party needs a mobility scooter, please give them a call in advance.

I got to hold a kid as this pic in the Buckingham Advertiser shows. It was great to meet Ray Marzec (aka Farmer Christmas!) and hear about his vision for the farm. Such a fantastic place for children and adults both.

And there were colleagues there from S J Mobility Solutions who help to keep all the Town Council's mobility scooters in tip top condition.

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Mayor's Charity Ball

Last summer, I decided to take a risk (this was not a Town Council underwritten event) and put on a Charity Ball in order to raise money for the charities I chose to support this year. Never having organised such an occasion before, I was pretty daunted. But last Saturday, it all happened and went very well: not only did lots of people enjoy themselves but the event raised several hundred pounds for the Buckingham youth club, the NSPCC and UNICEF. I am enormously grateful for many people and businesses who offered advice, support and prizes for the raffle. Without all these people, this event would not have happened.

So I tip my hat to:
  • £50 voucher with thanks to Prego
  • Several bottles of bubbly (Moet, Bolly etc) with thanks to 
    • Number 13
    • Michael Graham Estate Agents and 
    • a local resident
  • £20 voucher with thanks to Yuzz-a-ma-tuzz
  • Family entry ticket to the Old Gaol with thanks to Cllr Mike Smith
  • A bottle a good red Claret with thanks to Cllr Ruth Newell
  • A bottle of Armagnac with thanks to Cllr Robin Stuchbury
  • Family entry ticket to Stowe Gardens with thanks to them
  • A ceramic dish with thanks to Finca El Monte
  • £50 voucher with thanks to Secret Messages
  • A clutch bag with thanks to Pasha
  • A huge cake with thanks to Party Bakes
  • A tool box with tools with thanks to Cllr Mike Smith
  • Silk Scarf made by University Entrepreneurs with thanks to the Mayoress
  • A bottle of Black Grouse whisky with thanks to Cllr Mike Smith
  • A meal for two at Duke's restaurant with thanks to Villiers Hotel
The raffle raised over £300 on the night which was amazingly generous by all the people present, so huge thanks to them as well!

I was most grateful to past Mayors and colleagues who helped out with advice on mounting the event and on the night. And Jean Rush from Villiers deserves a special mention for her calming advice and support throughout the last few months especially when I was panicking about whether the event was going to make a surplus or not. Indeed Villiers Hotel waived the costs of the room and the security on the night as well as providing some free advertising for the event. Thank you so much to them! And I should mention that both Villiers and the University block booked two tables of ten each which provided much needed solid ticket sales. Thank you!

And huge thanks to the band - the Estrella's who provided some brilliant music that got everyone dancing and smiling - what more could one want! I will be leaving an enthusiastic review on their Facebook page. 

And thanks to everyone who came along including those dressed up as a punk or a hippy. This was a great night!! 

Here are pics:

The lashings of 1970's party food! Well done to the chef - a fine job!

The band - very well rehearsed and enjoyable

Note the third chandelier at the end!

Easter Crafternoon

The Town Council's Sport and Leisure Centre at Lace Hill organised a special event last Saturday entitled Easter Crafternoon. Julie and I popped in and we were delighted to see hoards of children and their carers engaged in crafting activity and a whole heap of wonderful stalls selling delightful products, ready and many of them sugar free for Easter treats next weekend.

What a lovely occasion! There was of course good cake and good hot drinks (provided by Buckingham Fair Trade) available too.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The Annual Town Meeting

We had a fabulous Annual Town Meeting last night: more than sixty people turned up (the largest number I can recall) and much debate was had. We used a process called "Open Space" which meant 14 mini-workshops were convened on topics chosen by those who came along. The room was humming with ideas, agreements and disagreements, information and questions... for nearly two hours. The Town Council will be producing a summary of the discussions based upon the flip charts produced. Watch this space.

Meanwhile here are some pics of the event taken by our Committee Clerk, Nina Stockhill and me. And below are all the topics that were posted for debate. (I should add that I attribute the great turnout to two things: the brilliant social media campaign that Nina led in the fortnight running up to this meeting and secondly the increasing energy and passion to build an even better Buckingham amongst the townsfolk. Thanks to both!)


Buckingham Primary: The new Headteacher

Following up my visit last week with the NSPCC to Buckingham Primary School, I was invited back on Tuesday to meet with the new Headteacher: Mrs Naima France. And what an impressive teacher she is! An hour slipped by as she talked about her plans for the school and how she working with her "amazing team of staff" to create a step change of improvement in the school. She is evidently very focused on making sure that the whole school is heading in the same direction - one that will ensure that each pupil becomes all that they can be.

As she says on their website:
At BPS you will find dedicated staff who work hard to ensure that all children are happy and successful learners. We have high aspirations for all of our children.  We aim for them to flourish in to emotionally resilient, confident, life long learners that become the very best that they can be. We encourage this through our exciting curriculum which is planned to challenge and inspire all of our children.
As always, I am so delighted to meet people who see it as their job to ensure other people, (in Naime's case, some very young people), achieve all that they possibly can. Indeed, in every word she said to me, came through a burning commitment to great teaching and brilliant support for all the young people and their families and carers in her school. BPS have recruited one excellent Headteacher!

Well-being in the snow

Despite the chilly weather and some snow underfoot, an intrepid and committed group of around 50+ people took part in the walk around town to discuss "what more can be done to ensure that young people have good mental health and well-being". I'd like to think that had the weather been sunnier and warmer, we would have had at least double that number. Certainly, my plan is for this happen again next year, perhaps with a similar but slightly different topic of conversation.

Before I go onto my own personal learning and reflections on the discussions, I would like to thank several people for their support:

  • First of course, it was simply wonderful to work with the current High Sheriff, Peter Kara and the University Vice Chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon on pulling this event together. Thank you to them both for their energy and support.
  • Their colleagues Kathryn Hobbs (PA to the High Sheriff), Diana Blamires (Publicity Manager for the University), Purnima Anhal (Private Secretary to Sir Anthony Seldon) and Dean Jones (Development Coordinator for the University) who all helped massively in coordinating the logistics and hot drinks at the end
  • Waitrose Community Champion, Carly Burgess who organised water, fruit and cereal bars at the beginning of the journey - thank you! The provisions were much appreciated.
  • We were honoured to have the Vice Chancellor of the Open University,  Peter Horrocks with us on the walk who had also generously sponsored lots of sandwiches, fizzy drinks and cream cakes at the end. Thank you!
  • And two students, Maia Okoloba and Daria Ermolenko who made and sold cakes at the end of the walk too. I am told by Maia that they have made £220 for MIND so far. Well done and thanks!
I am also grateful to Kathryn Hobbs and Corrinna Martin for the pics below. There are many more, and with a good write up on these news pages.


Warmth, tea and cakes at the end!!

So what learning and ideas was I left with at the end of this journey? It's a mixture:
  • Mental health first aid should be taught as much as the 'ordinary' first aid in schools, sports clubs, scouting/guiding groups etc
  • One preschool teacher said that in her many years of teaching, she is now seeing children arrive with far less social and language skills. In her opinion this is due to parents not engaging as much with their offspring (eg reading night time stories or just playing with them) as parents used to. Is this this true for others? And is this storing up problems for the future?
  • I talked with several people about how our imagination can help us stay well and healthy. One person suggested that we don't allow young people to get bored these days which might mean their imagination is not being stimulated... I am still pondering on this.
  • Relevant to the post below about the University graduation ceremonies, the VC of the OU told me about how many of the students that he congratulates on graduation, walk across the stage in tears of joy. He told me of one chap in his 40's who was crying so much that he could not initially climb onto the stage: getting a degree meant that much to him (having being told in his youth that he would never amount to anything..). So that left me wondering: what more can we each of us do to support young people's ambitions, hopes and dreams (and not crush them)
  • And I was struck again about how much good exercise and good cake is good for our mental well being!
  • And I learnt about the fantastic work being done by Lindengate - a charity which is literally growing good mental well-being for the people (young and old) who are involved with their services. 
So all in all, a pretty darn good way to think about action and ideas concerning mental well-being amongst young people. We will do this again!

Ambition in amazing abundance

Some readers will recall that I set the theme of my Mayoral year as being all about ambition. Over the course of the last few months I have been looking for every opportunity to praise, support and celebrate ambition in everyone I meet. Last week I had this in bucketfuls as I sat in on all the graduation ceremonies of the University of Buckingham. Julie and I were simply entranced and delighted to see and applaud every single graduand become a graduate as they shook hands with the Vice Chancellor.

Being there, gave me the opportunity to get to know the University staff and students even more and continue the building the relationship between 'town and gown'. We are already cooking up some ideas around civic engagement: watch this space!

One thing to note is that some of the shoes worn by the graduates were amazing! Many of students sought to highlight their style and individuality (underneath the same academic gown & mortar board being worn by all) with some shoes ranging from DM boots to a pair of shoes that looked like a small discotheque!

It was a big commitment of my time but I know from feedback from the VC and his colleagues that the 'gown' very much appreciated the presence of the 'town' at these ceremonies - to celebrate ambition and aspiration.

One final note: please don't presume that all the graduates are young people in their twenties. Many - and I mean many - of the graduates were a good deal older. Our University is very much a place for lifelong learning. So... if you were thinking of studying for a degree whether you are in your 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's or even 80's... do have a look at the opportunities available to you on your doorstep!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Our commonwealth

On Monday morning, I raised the Commonwealth Flag next to the community centre. It was a moving moment for me, as the Commonwealth embodies so much of what I believe in, as indeed described by the Secretary General:
By working together in practical ways in our local communities, and by interacting and cooperating across national boundaries, we build and sustain a more strongly connected Commonwealth that is mutually respectful, resilient, peaceful and prosperous and that cherishes equality of opportunity and inclusiveness.

Our Town Crier introduced the event in his usual amazing style!

And I then read the statement from The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, the Commonwealth Secretary-General

And then just before I hoisted the flag, I read the Commonwealth Affirmation:

“Joining together as members of one worldwide
Commonwealth community, and valuing the personal dignity
and worth of every citizen, we raise this flag as a symbol of
the ties of kinship and affinity that we cherish. We draw
inspiration from our diversity, and the opportunities for
working together, as a rich source of wisdom and a powerful
influence for good in the world. We affirm our commitment
to upholding the values set out in the Commonwealth
Charter, to serving one another in a spirit of respect and
understanding, and to advancing development, democracy
and cooperation locally, nationally and internationally.”

(Thanks to Amanda for the organisation and these pics and to Katharine for helping me get prepared)

Town & Gown vision

On Monday morning (12/3/18) I was invited to address a 100 or so staff of the University at the Radcliffe Centre. It was a great honour to do so. Here is what I said:

Thank you for inviting me here today to share some brief thoughts with you about the future of our Town. I will apologise now that I will have to leave swiftly after my allotted time as I have a Commonwealth Flag to hoist as today is Commonwealth Day. I am hoping that some of the students and staff from Commonwealth countries around the world will be joining us down by the Community Centre at 9.45am.

But to return to the subject in hand:

For more than 40 years, I have lived in towns and cities, where a significant feature of the place has been the University. I have lived and loved living in Reading, Oxford and now here in Buckingham. And one of the main reasons I have loved living in these places is due to the presence of a university.

For me, here in Buckingham, the university provides melodies, harmonies and rhapsodies in our Town’s symphony. These complement, of course, the music provided by Buckingham’s local communities, commerce, history, architecture, culture, sport and all the vibrations that come with a growing and dynamic market town.

The question is now: what even better music can be made by the ‘Town and Gown’ working in even greater harmony together? How can we make the Buckingham symphony an even richer composition that makes our Town an even better place in which to live, work, study, play, visit.. and grow?

As many of you know, the Vice Chancellor and I went on a road trip a couple of weeks ago to Aberystwyth and Bangor to find out how those two (broadly comparable) towns managed their ‘town & gown’ relations. We went in search of what worked, what didn’t and their ideas about what we could do to improve matters here in Buckingham.

And when I say, improve, I absolutely mean: build on all the existing the ways in which town and gown are already working together. There is no criticism implied whatsoever - just so I make myself clear.

And we found out lots and lots. We discovered how the arts provide a fulcrum for joint working. We learnt about how students & lecturers volunteer and do research in various communities of those two towns. We found out about how the presence of a large student body helped protect local services from losing viability. We were also told about some of the problematic issues like noise, rubbish and parking. There are ceremonial attachments between the offices of the Towns and the Universities. There is a great deal of shared sport: the community power of students, staff and residents sweating together, side by side, is never to be underestimated!

So we both returned with a renewed focus and energy on how to develop the relationship between town and gown. Tonight, I am taking a paper to the Town Council on all these matters. I hope the TC will agree to my recommendation that a small but dynamic joint planning team is established which will provide a platform for taking all these ideas forward.

And I would urge everyone here this morning, to consider what more ways are there that the University and the local communities of Buckingham can work together for sake of everyone here. How can you go out to the town more - and how can the town come here more too.

My vision for the Buckingham is one in which town and gown are much more than just happenchance neighbours sharing the same geographical space - I want a deep intricate symbiosis of all parts of the University and all parts of the town - where we all become so much more than the mere sum of our parts.

And so I am greatly looking forward to being part of your graduation ceremonies this week, celebrating the achievements of your students. And by being here, I am also praising your expertise as teachers and administrators towards helping those students realise their educational ambitions.

And may you continue to provide the opportunities for people to learn, realise ambitions and make dreams for better lives and a better world come true.

On behalf of the town, thank you for doing this! And let’s do even more together!

NSPCC: helping children speak out and stay safe

I popped into Buckingham Primary School this morning to visit a workshop being run by the NSPCC to help children avoid abuse. Before I became Mayor, I spent a lot of my spare time, working as a volunteer for the NSPCC running these "speak out stay safe" workshops and assemblies. It was a delight this morning to catch up with some of my NSPCC colleagues and meet the new Headteacher of the school. And of course the children were wonderful: it was great to hear what they had learnt from the assembly that they had yesterday. 

The NSPCC work with local schools - here in Buckingham and all round the country:
Helping a generation of children stay safe 
Our Speak out Stay safe programme gives a generation of children the knowledge and understanding they need to stay safe from abuse and neglect. Pupils are taught to speak out if they are worried, either to a trusted adult or to Childline.
This is why I am raising money for the NSPCC along with the Youth Club and UNICEF - children need education, support and care so that they live full and happy lives. (And don't forget the Mayor's Charity Ball on 24/3/18! Click here for more information) And... please join me, the High Sheriff and the University Vice Chancellor this Sunday (18/3/18) for a walk around town discussing what more can be done to ensure young people have good mental health and well being. Information here.

Here is the NSPCC team for Buckingham School for today: Kelly Middleditch (NSPCC Schools Service - Area Coordinator) on the left and Frances Powell (Volunteer) and Buddy. And in between are Naima France (the Headteacher) and myself. (Kelly coordinates a team of about 30 volunteers covering MK, Bucks and West Berks)

Thanks to Laura Gibbs the School Administrator who took this pic

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Ahoy! What a glorious evening!

The Brackley Mayor invited us to his ceilidh last night and we went along. I must admit my expectations were not exactly high: public dancing to someone else's instructions has, in the past, resulted more in frustration than pleasure. But last night was very different! Despite my general early caution, it was an occasion of delightful abandon and slightly organised chaos with a bunch of very friendly people!

We had 'stripping the willow' and the 'lover's knot' and all manner of do-si-do's and arches etc! Pure simple fun, raising money for the local Sea Scouts (the Mayor's chosen charity) with lots of laughter and trodden toes! We even had some sea shanties!

So well done Cllr Don Thompson, Mayor of Brackley for organising such a fab evening. Thanks!

And here is Don, the Mayor, playing us a sea shanty.

There were probably around 70 people there last night.

Raising money for Brackley Sea Scouts

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Fairtrade 2020!

This morning, at the beginning of Fairtrade fortnight, I and the Deputy Town Mayor, Cllr Mark Cole, presented the new certificate celebrating Buckingham being a Fairtrade Town for another 2 years to Cllr Margaret Gateley who has worked very hard with her colleagues to obtain this accolade. Our Town Crier was on on hand to herald this achievement!

Buckingham first became a Fairtrade Town in 2007. Well done to all the Town's 'fairtraders' and the volunteers who support them.

Here is the certificate itself and display surrounding it.

I also helped the local group achieve the 90Kg challenge by buying 2 bags of Fairtrade rice. If 90 bags are sold, one young person will get to go to school for a whole year. Look out for some of the bags near you!

And if you want to know more about Fairtrade and how you can become a Fairtrade trader or supporter, please visit these pages. The more we can all do to encourage positive trade with poorer countries, the more we will all win: the entrepreneurs in those countries, us here in Buckingham and the wider economy. It all makes sense!

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...