After six months into his year-long term as Mayor of Harrogate, Coun Mike Newby talks to reporter Alex Johnston
“I’ve been totting it up since you asked me to do this interview, and I’d say Clive and I will have been to over 300 events by Christmas Eve. It’s been a whirlwind!
“That is a lot of engagements, but Clive is surviving! He is being very tolerant, but I don’t
know what I owe him for coming to all of the events with me.”
The Clive Mayor of the Borough Councillor Mike Newby refers to when we meet in the Mayor’s Parlour in the Harrogate Borough Council’s Crescent Gardens headquarters, is his
partner and consort Clive Kirkham, who has joyfully and dutifully accompanied the borough’s civic head to events cross the district since being sworn in on May 20.
“Actually, he had his first solo engagement the other week,” said Coun Newby. “He judged MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough Andrew Jones’ Christmas card competition.”
Pictures of this first solo engagement were posted on social networking site Twitter, a medium which provided light competition for both Mayor and Consort earlier this year.
Having committed to Twitter in Spring, the pair were locked in a head-to-head cyber battle to attract followers from across the district.
However, Clive recently revealed that this competition swiftly became moot: “Mike overtook me ages ago, there’s no competition now,” he told me, with a nod which prompted a quick check to make sure I was following @ClivetheConsort myself.
Coun Newby knows he enjoys a larger online presence than any former mayor of the borough, and this
is a tool he finds invaluable in achieving one of the
aims he made clear before being sworn in - to make his role relevant to younger people.
He explained: “The Twitter and Facebook groups are great ways of getting people to know about what the mayor does, and also for keeping in touch with people.
“The more I update them, the more people are retweeting and sharing what I post, and so they are then more aware of what is happening.
“It’s a hugely helpful way of letting people know what I am doing.”
Coun Newby and I first spoke in March, when it
was agreed he would take on the role. At that time, he outlined his aims to both raise awareness of the role of a mayor and local democracy to schools, and to ensure the continuation of the Harrogate International Youth festival.
Coun Newby summed up where he is in terms of these objectives, just over six months in.
He said: “We get lots of school groups in to Crescent Gardens, school councils have been held in the chamber and we want to offer more of that, I want more schools to contact us to get involved.
“We have groups organised for the festival already, and, again, people need to get in touch if they want to be involved. I will be inviting mayors from across the area to attend, and we will, of course, have cyclists forming part of the parade this year.”
Bicycles are at the forefront of Coun Newby’s mind, his term as mayor coinciding with the district’s efforts to gear up for the July arrival of the world’s biggest annual sporting event - the Tour de France.
Harrogate, Harewood, Knaresborough and
Ripon will all feature as the first two stages of le Tour 2014 pass through the
district in the event’s
first trip to the north of England.
An added twist is that Harrogate’s twin town Bagneres-de-Luchon also features, in stage 16 of le Tour 2014. Coun Newby has visited the town, and is hugely keen to revitalise the link between the towns.
He said: “We are planning to have cyclists from Bagneres-de-Luchon over to take on stage one, then send Harrogate riders across to take on their stage.
“I am working to reinforce the town twinning, and encourage people to visit each town. I went
there earlier this year, and there is interest from both sides.
“There might be more exchanges, I’m doing what I can with the French I can speak. I did once deliver a 20 minute speech in French without notes, and the only mistake I made was getting a name a bit wrong!”
For now, the focus is at home, and on a high concentration of events in the countdown to Christmas.
Coun Newby said: “It is getting very busy in the run-up to Christmas. We’ve been to Christmas fairs, lights switch-on events, it means the offer of lots of mince pies and meeting Santa!
“I am enjoying every minute of it, it’s a great opportunity to meet new and different people, which is what I was hoping for.
“You meet people behind the scenes on conferences and exhibitions, the people who make them tick.”
Schools and groups hoping to be involved with the Youth Festival or learning more about the mayor’s role should contact Secretary to the Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate Lorna Snowden via email firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01423 556033.