Friday, 28 September 2018

Award winning local Youth Club holds its AGM!

On Wednesday night I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Youth Club and it was a celebratory affair. John Barnett, the Chair of the Club opened by saying how well the organisation was doing all four key fronts:
  • The numbers of young people attending the clubs is rising - the evenings are thriving and buzzing
  • The staff are fantastic as evidenced by the long term relationship that staff have with the club - including the rising stars of young people becoming assistants
  • The building is in great shape such that more people are renting it for their own uses (rental income is up 22% against last year)
  • And the club is financially healthy - it has more reserves at this year end than they had last year which means that donations have exceeded costs
Moreover, the Club (as reported in the paper) recently received awards and much praise from the local charity Action for Youth.

Altogether it has been a great year!

Here are some pics and slides from Wednesday night

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Buckingham: full of imagination and enterprise!

Last week, ten of us met to start planning for next year's #EntFest and the town's contribution to it. This is an occasion when the University and the Peter Jones Foundation get together and celebrate the enterprising spirit of young (and older!) people. You might remember I blogged about this year's event a few months ago (here) and mused on what the town might do to support the next one (here). Plans are still very much in their early stages and the group would welcome more enterprising people to join and help make something really special happen in the town next June. The group is meeting next at 7pm in the Cote (Woolpack) on Wednesday 24 October.

You can get a taste of this year's event from here.

Good to meet everyone last week! Here is a pic of Dean Jones (University), Roger Edwards (Buckingham Society), Mary Simons (Finca El-Monte and Buckingham Traders), Brian Taylor (Anglo Scottish Inns - and provider of the room! Ta), Neville Pritchard (People and Flow), Cllr Mark Cole (Deputy Mayor), Kristian MacKie (University), David Hall (Cloudy Group) and Lauren Hutton (Huttonite). (Although I have a nagging worry that I have left someone out...? Not the world's best selfie...)

Civic Service 2019 - a date for your diary!

Back in April, The Rev. Will Pearson-Gee and I hosted a civic service in the town's Anglican Parish Church. It was a lovely occasion to celebrate the joining of the civic and spiritual dimensions of Buckingham. If you missed it - you can read all about it here. So I have been mulling on whether to have one again this coming year and I decided it was definitely worth exploring. And so in the spirit of multi-faith work, I called in yesterday to meet the new Catholic Priest of our town, Father Roy Karakkattu. It was lovely to meet him. We have pencilled in Sunday 28 April 2019. Please watch this space and make a date in your calendar if you think you would like to come along or take part in some way.

I had never been in the church before and it is wonderful light space beautifully designed for worship. They even have a 'crying room' for families with small children who want to attend who can watch and hear the service behind a soundproof window. Father Roy hails from Kerala in India and arrived here after being in Bedford for a number of years. He also looks after St Martin's church in Brackley as well as St Bernadine's in Chandos Road.

Here is a pic of Father Roy and I in the courtyard next to the church.

Royal Latin School book donation

I am nearing the conclusion of my journey around the libraries of my life to donate the biography of Jo Cox in order to spread the idea that we always have far more in common than we have which divides us. Yesterday I was in the Royal Latin School taking part in an assemble for Year 11. Below is the speech I gave them and a pic of me handing the book over to the Headteacher, Mr David Hudson. It was great to be there, not least because I got to hear the other part of the assembly led by a group of students taking action to make the school greener.


Good morning and thank you for welcoming me to your school. It is a great pleasure to be here.

We all live in very turbulent, uncertain and divisive times. Whilst we can all be grateful that far fewer people are dying as a result of armed conflict than at any other period in recent history, we are seeing worrying increases in anxiety, distress, abuse, and mental health problems, in many different forms. We are experiencing this in the UK and beyond.

We only have to look at the news. A few days ago, the papers were reporting on a survey commissioned by the Girl Guiding Organisation. The Guardian on 19/9/18 recounted that “more than a quarter (27%) of young women aged 17 to 21 said they did not feel happy, up from 11% in 2009. Their unhappiness in turn affected their confidence (61%), health (50%), relationships (49%) and studies (39%)... While seven out of 10 girls (69%) identified school exams as the key cause of stress, pressure from social media was blamed by six out 10 girls (59%), and increasing numbers said they had experienced unkind, threatening and negative behaviour online compared with five years ago.”

I don’t doubt that a survey of boys and young men would find similar results. 

There are many reasons for this I know. But it seems to me that we are in the middle of an epidemic of ‘othering’ - where people’s differences are being used against them to make them feel bad about themselves. And this othering can sometimes turn to hate.

We have to find ways to reduce this. And that is a job for all of us. 

So why am I here today? 

The story starts 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 odds of seven to one. (I am not promoting gambling by the way!) 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 each one of these books to the libraries of my life. 

So here I am today, at stage seven of my journey. I began in the school I went to when I was your age, last year - 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. 
Coincidentally where Mr Hudson’s children have also been educated. 

So I bring this book today for your school library, as the Mayor of Buckingham. It is my earnest hope that it will be widely read by you and your fellow students to come after you - and that all will be inspired to work for the kind of world 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 your school library.


Thursday, 20 September 2018

Aren't we worthy?

Just a quick blog to encourage you to visit the 'Aren't we worthy' introductory exhibition up at the New Inn at Stowe (the background to the project) - with the exhibits themselves at the Temple of Venus in the gardens. This is well worth a trip!

I popped into the launch event on Wednesday last before I had to zoom off for another meeting. But Julie and I have already visited the sculptures. Do please go and see them!

Details about the exhibition are here:

Well-being walk #2 - 2019

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of walking and talking with the Vice Chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon and the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Professor Ruth Farwell about next year's Well-Being walk. We are all hoping this becomes a regular fixture in the Buckingham calendar.

So next year, the date set is Sunday 24 March 2019. We will start at 11.00am again and have a set stroll around the parks and byways of Buckingham ending up at the University at Tanlaw Mill around 1.30 - 2.00pm. There will be more details to come.

Meanwhile, we have settled on this theme for next year's walk:

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

Please watch this space, as the plans are firmed up. Please also mark this date in your calendar. Hopefully next year we will have better weather than this year's one!

Here by the way is last year's blog about the event: and my write up of it:

Friday, 14 September 2018

Per Ardua Ad Astra

RAF Wings Day and the commemoration of the Battle of Britain happens this weekend. A few weeks ago, the Town Council office was contacted by the local Royal British Legion to request that the RAF Ensign be flown from the Town Council flagpole over this weekend. This was briefly discussed and agreed at the Committee at the end of August. There was no request for a ceremony at all. But on reflection, and prompted by the social media post from John Mellors (see below), I thought it would be good and appropriate if at least I were present while Katharine McElligott hoisted the flag this morning. (All organised late yesterday afternoon)

So we let the RBL know and we were joined by former Squadron Leader Peter Hay. Peter joined the RAF in 1951 and stayed until 1993, a career spanning more than 40 years! My Dad was in the RAF just after the war (national service) and so I wore his old Essex tie in memory of him too.

I briefly read out the famous stanza:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

HM The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

I had the greatest of pleasures to be present at the award of this highest honour to Community Care North Bucks yesterday afternoon, This award of The QAVS represents recognition of the amazing work that the Charity does for people in our area. I met some wonderful volunteers yesterday who told me about their work transporting people to hospital and supporting carers young and older. Here is a brief summary of what CCNB does:
The overall aims of CCNB are to:
  • Reduce social isolation for carers of all ages
  • Improve emotional well-being and self-confidence for carers
  • Give young carers a better future by providing opportunities for personal development
  • Enable GP referred patients to attend their hospital appointments without the additional stress of worrying about how to get there and back again
With these aims in mind CCNB:
  • Offers support groups and clubs for carers; offering personal support that focuses on putting the carers first.
  • Runs a Hospital Car Service which provides a personalised service from doorstep to appointment and back again, that reliably gives peace of mind.
You can find out more on their website. They are always looking for new volunteers! Well done to all!

Here are all the volunteers and trustees together with the Lord Lieutenant who handed over the award on behalf of HM The Queen. You would struggle to find a more wonderful and happy bunch of people!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Cool dogs

The rescheduled Town Council dog show was held on Sunday after the original date had to be cancelled (due to hot weather). It was great fun!! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves: dogs and humans! 8 Classes and best in show were expertly judged by Kimberley Cox with prizes provided by many doggy suppliers including the top prize by Vets4Pets. Here are a few pics taken by Amanda, the TC events coordinator.

Best in show: Polly with her young owner


Conversations we avoid?

It was nearly two years ago that I first had the idea for a 'Funeral Fair'. And so it was great that finally on Saturday 8 September, Buckingham Town Council convened its first 'Good Endings Fair'. This was a unique event and was all that I hoped it would be. We had 20 stalls in all and over 120 people visited the event. (And the WI provided tea and cakes were scrumptious!) The stall holders I spoke with all said that they would come back again for a future occasion. Many people have asked me why it is important to have conversations about death and dying, and for this event in particular about the logistics of how to make someone's passing as good as it can be. Here are a few of the reasons why:

1) When someone dies, usually the arrangements have to made under great time and emotional pressure. If we talk about those arrangements beforehand, the whole process can be so much easier, allowing more time for people to reflect and grieve for the person who has died.

2) Funerals are an expensive business, costing hundreds and thousands of pounds. Making plans in advance can help to manage those costs and perhaps reduce them when choice A is made over choice B. Again there is enough grief when someone dies. Adding huge worries about money to that does not help and can cause severe stress and tension between family members.

3) There are many more choices these days about how to conduct a funeral in terms of (say) where the person is to be buried, in what and with whom officiating. Equally there are many lovely ideas as to how to use someone's ashes to commemorate them. Talking about all this before the moment that someone dies means that more choices can be considered and made.

4) Most of us know of someone who died without a will and the problems that can cause. Only last week I heard of someone whose mother had died intestate (without a will) and it took four years to sort out her estate. That was four years of administration and hassle that I am sure that person could have done without.

5) And there are arrangements which can be put in place for people who are approaching their end which means family members can help to manage their financial affairs and even choices over medical care.

There are many more reasons I am sure. This is why conversations are important: such discussions can help the worst of times become just that little less painful.

So thank you to everyone who helped make this event happen (several town councillors and staff), all those who ran one of the stalls (including the refreshments), and everyone who came along. Some good conversations were had.

We do have lots of leaflet packs left over, so if you would like one, please contact Amanda at the Town Council offices. There is some very useful information inside. And reading it won't bring death any closer!

Some pics from the people setting up.


And the list of who was there:

Dogs Trust Kenilworth -

Willen Hospice -

Salvation Army Buckingham Corps -

Buckingham University Law Dept -

Chandler Ray -

Gilroy Steel Solicitors -

Country Funerals -

Heritage & Sons -

Spratt Endicott -

Ian Noakes, Civil Funeral Celebrant -

Aylesbury Vale Natural Burial Meadow -

Cosgrove Green Burial Meadow -   

Buckingham Wills & Probate -

The Co-operative Funeral Care -

Buckingham Town Council Cemetery History -

Feet First Coffins -

Lorimers – Buckingham -

Book Corner - c/o Buckingham Library and the Mayoress

Cantlos music -

WI -

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...