19 August 2023

I know the week technically starts on Sunday, but as I included the Play Street held on Croft Street in last week’s blog, I’m starting this week’s as of last Monday.

Actually, regardless of the day, the one thing that I find myself repeating over and over these days is an apology. People naturally (and rightly) expect the Mayor of Trowbridge to be wearing his Civic regalia, the Mayoral Chains, when attending an event. The unfortunate reality is that, at the moment, I don’t have those chains.

For the last few weeks, they’ve been in the hands of one of the very few civic regalia specialists in the UK, having their faded lustre restored, having the missing names of past mayors engraved on new links, and generally being “serviced”. This work is long overdue, having been done nearly a decade ago. It’s just unfortunate for me that it’s now being done on my watch!

So my apologies to everyone who expects me to turn up at their event wearing the town’s mayoral chains for the next couple of months; that’s just not going to happen.

I have, however, secured a small plastic Town Council ID badge announcing me as Mayor of Trowbridge, so all is not lost; at least you’ll know that it’s actually me and that I’m the genuine article!

Monday and Tuesday were mainly taken up with meetings of some of the town council working groups that I sit on, not as mayor but as an ordinary town councillor. These groups are very necessary for the continued function of the council, and all town councillors take their share of seats on these groups. It’s important to note that these working groups, boards, and panels have no decision-making functions; they are there to look at options and report back to their parent committee with findings and recommendations. However, their ability to ask questions, compare options, and debate opinions and then feed all that information into the decision-making process is critical to making sure that the decision that the Council finally makes is informed, based on accurate information, and not rushed.

The first half of the week also saw the final stages of making sure that we were ready to host the Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations in the Town Park on 24th August. What’s become quite apparent is that nobody (including me up until now) appreciates all the bureaucratic hoops that need jumping through before we can give the go-ahead to an event taking place in a public place like the Town Park. Risk assessments, food hygiene certificates, and public liability insurance all need completing, validating, and confirming, and all that takes time and effort.

This Ukrainian Independence Day event may be being put on by the Ukrainian community here in Trowbridge (with the support and help of St Thomas’ Church), but the Events Team at Trowbridge Town Council has done a lot of work, on at least one occasion working into the night, making sure that all the requirements for a safe and legal public event have been satisfied, so my thanks must go out to these usually unmentioned and often unappreciated public servants, without whose hard work and dedication we wouldn’t have events in our Town Park!

Anyway, back to my mayoral week.

Friday was really rather special; it was the final day of the Active Trowbridge Summer School for Year 5 students held at John of Gaunt School on Wingfield Road. Because it was the final day, it was also the time to award certificates to all those students who’d excelled in one (or more) of the core values at the heart of John of Gaunt’s ethos: respect, responsibility, resilience, excellence, and ambition.

I’d attended the same event as the Deputy Mayor last year, and this year’s offering certainly hadn’t lost its appeal. It was very clear that Aaron and his team from Active Trowbridge had built up really strong, positive relationships with the students in their care. The students had been divided into houses,” and each house had been assigned an Active Trowbridge leader, mentor, or trainer. What was lovely was the (at times satisfyingly raucous) show of support for each of these houses on this final day for their Active Trowbridge leaders. They’d obviously bonded very well.

The one standout part of the afternoon for me came at the very end, when one girl, whom I’d met very briefly once before (at the Youth Parliament), came up to me for a chat. She was incredibly polite, respectful, and erudite for someone so young, but she obviously also had a wickedly refreshing sense of humour. Anyway, we chatted for a bit before she wandered off to meet her mother and presumably go home. The next thing I know, she’s shouting over the hall to me. She’d drawn a beautiful picture during the week, and she wanted me to have it. I was really quite touched. We hear so much that’s negative about youth in our town that a small event like this really makes you (well, me anyway) stop and think. If that one young girl represents our future, then I’m happy in the knowledge that we’ll be in good hands.

On Saturday morning, I was invited by Tasha and the fantastic folk at NJ Dance to come and open their new studio in Kestrel House on Mill Street in Trowbridge.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived was the obvious enthusiasm of the driving force behind NJ Dance, Tasha herself! Tasha really is invested in ensuring the dancers (of all ages, from 2 to?, well, it’s not polite to ask) who come through her doors are happy and enjoy themselves, whatever their ambitions or skill levels may be. It’s about enjoying yourself and being able to express yourself, not necessarily about winning prizes and accolades.

This enthusiasm is obviously contagious, as the young dancers who put on a display for us today were clearly really enjoying themselves. They have been successful as well; they’ve performed at the O2 Arena amongst other national venues, but there’s no feeling of pressure; they just do it because they want to.

It’s also clear that all the staff, volunteers, and supporters who’ve all worked tirelessly over the last eight weeks to get this new studio ready for opening have done so because they really believe in what is being offered here: a friendly, welcoming environment where young folk (of all ages) can come and release their inner dancer!

This light and airy new studio on Mill Street offers a welcome permanent home to Tasha and all at NJ Dance after they’ve rotated through a series of rented venues across town. I can only wish her, her team, and all the dancers every success for the future.

Oh! And then there was the obligatory embarrassing photograph of the mayor in a dance pose. I’m not sure who felt the most awkward—me or the poor children being asked to pose with me! Seriously, though, I was happy to do it; after all, it really was for a very good cause.

That’s it for now, so until next time, keep safe and, please, be kind to each other.

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