When I took on the Mayoralty of the Borough of Harrogate on May 23, little did I realise how full on the role would be!
With more than 200 events attended, the time has simply flown by and I am told that the next six months of my term of office will, traditionally, be even busier.
When my appointment was confirmed at the full council in March 2016, a hectic period followed with a steep learning curve leading up to the Mayor Making at the council’s annual meeting in the Royal Hall.
Ten days before this however, disaster struck when my wife Linda broke her ankle.
It has not been an easy task being both Mayor and a housekeeper/carer. Very tiring I can assure you!
The role of the Mayor is not an executive one but it mainly involves being the ambassador for the whole of the borough and as its First Citizen I have carried out ceremonial duties, welcoming tourists, visiting schools, care homes, arts organisations, military establishments and charities, opening new businesses and chairing, in a non-political way, Harrogate Borough Council full council meetings every six weeks or so.
The first highlight of my year occurred at the Mayor Making dinner when Philip Wilby, the well-known composer who lives in my Newby ward, had composed a world premier grace for me, sung by the Beati Choir; a very special moment indeed for me and a great honour.
There were a number of memorable events to celebrate the 90th Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen; the street party at St Wilfrid’s Church and the Lord Lieutenant’s great service of thanksgiving at Ripon Cathedral.
There was a fabulous performance of Busker the Musical by the Harrogate composer Keith Humphrey,.Other musical events included attending Harrogate International Festivals’ concerts as well as its 50th Anniversary Ball and also the St Cecilia’s Orchestra’s Anniversary Concert in Ripon Cathedral.
The Gilbert and Sullivan Festival was a real joy too.
There have been three notable annual civic occasions so far. The first was my Civic Lunch at the Great Yorkshire Show where I was proud to invite other civic dignitaries to enjoy this traditional event.
The second occasion was my memorable Civic Service, with over 400 people attending, held in the borough’s cathedral church in Ripon and it has been such a delight to get to know the charismatic Dean John Dobson who is such an inspiration to us all.
Finally, I was moved by the services on Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph in the centre of Harrogate and at Stonefall Cemetery, which were held with gravitas and dignity. I felt honoured to lay wreaths for those who have given their life for our freedom.
Military involvement has included the commemoration of the Battle of the Somme on July 1 with a moving Drumhead service in Huddersfield, memorable visits to Dishforth’s new logistics regiment and to the graduation day and a boxing evening at the Army Foundation College, the successful Freedom Parade in the centre of Harrogate along with two VC Commemorations, a day with the Army Cadets at Strensall and visits to Menwith Hill.
All have highlighted how important our military is in defending our nation.
The Mayoress and I were delighted to accept an invitation to our twin town of Luchon in the Pyreneees, France, where we were entertained at their annual Fete des Fleurs by the Mayor of Luchon, M Ferre. Harrogate had its own float and Tewit Youth Band were also there as part of the parade, as well as many Harrogate residents.
I have had a number of visits to school Speech Days and have been closely quizzed by school pupil councils as to my role. I have also been asked to attend 100th birthday parties and one very special party for a lady celebrating her 105th birthday which was splendid. I take huge pleasure in hosting ‘Tea and Talks’ in the Council Chamber with Brownies, Guides, Scouts and Cubs along with many other groups. It is wonderful to know that people are interested in the civic history of our borough.
There have been many enjoyable visits to Starbeck, which is a thriving and independent community with a wonderful record in the ‘In Bloom’ competitions. As Mayor, I also support many charitable organisations by attending their events and, of course, I was delighted to switch on the Harrogate Christmas lights, open the Christmas Market and officially welcome visitors who arrived at Harrogate station by specially chartered trains from London.
All these events have been enormously enjoyable and we have met many interesting people and I am hugely aware of the incredible talent in our borough. This has been a super six months – roll on the second half!