Mayor-Trowbridge-Chains-Robe-Park

3rd March 2024

My first scheduled event last week was meant to be on Monday evening. I was scheduled to attend the showing of a film made by the Trowbridge Town Bowls Club about their club’s centenary that took place last year. That centenary had prompted a “Club vs. Councillors” bowls match, which, for all attending, had turned out to be an extremely enjoyable sunny afternoon’s entertainment. This was mainly because it hadn’t been about winning; it had been about gathering together to celebrate something worth celebrating. A good job, really, as I think 90% of those who came to represent the Council had never even seen a bowls green before!

Anyway, back to last Monday. Unfortunately, and I’m not looking for any sympathy here, just stating a fact, the persistent winter cough that my wife and I had put up with since just after Christmas had started to come back during the preceding week, and the idea of sitting through a film whilst coughing loudly and incessantly seemed both anti-social and disruptive, so I ended up sending my, genuinely sincere, apologies.

Those who did go have told me that it was a very enjoyable evening, and I’m just sorry I wasn’t there. I’m still looking forward to seeing the film that the club made at some stage in the future. It just wasn’t to be that night.

***

On to Wednesday.

Now, it seems that there’s always one (at least) activity that I undertake as Mayor each week that just reaffirms my belief that Trowbridge is a truly wonderful place to live.

This week, that accolade must go to Castle Mead Primary School. This was an outdoor engagement, so I felt quite confident that even if I did start coughing, it wouldn’t be too disruptive.

I was there on Wednesday morning to formally “cut the ribbon” and open their new classroom block. This is the first fully carbon-neutral school building in Wiltshire and consists of two classrooms, a break-out room, and toilet facilities.

The building has some marvellous features that contribute to its carbon-neutral status. Solar panels, heat pumps, and an incredibly efficient layer of insulation, to name just three. But there are some other almost science fiction features to this building as well, such as the sound deadening panels that are installed high on the walls in every room and are designed to absorb the inevitable noise that any primary school classroom will generate.

The driving force behind this new block was the need for more resource-based places for children with special, sometimes very complex, needs in this part of Wiltshire. Castle Mead Primary already has a well-deserved reputation for providing such places, and the addition of these two new classrooms allows the school to build on this established offering and offer more places to more children from the local community.

As well as opening the new classroom block, I was there to help bury a time capsule that contained letters to the Castle Mead pupils of the future from those of the present (oh, and one from me as well). Each class had written a letter that was sealed in the capsule and buried with due ceremony next to the new block.

The children were marvellous. Two year six classes and the school’s representatives from the town’s Youth Parliament were gathered outside (luckily the drizzle held off), and after I’d delivered my speech (yes, like it or not, there’s always a speech), the Youth Parliament reps and I buried the time capsule, and all the children helped cut the ribbon wrapped around the building.

Cakes, of course, were served, photographs were taken, and I even managed to have a chat with representatives of the main contractor (Bray & Slaughter Ltd.) and project manager (CMS Group). The building itself had been funded by Wiltshire Council,and we must thank them for their faith in Castle Mead Primary School and their investment in our community.

Lastly, a new community defibrillator has been installed as part of this project that is available without having to enter the school grounds, just by the school gates on Mascroft Road.

Here’s the full speech I delivered to the assembled staff and children just before we cut the ribbon and buried the time capsule.

Good morning, everyone. I’m very happy to be here on this very important day for Castle Mead Primary School.

We’re here today to celebrate this school’s and this county’s investment in the future.

Firstly, there’s the future represented by this wonderful new building. It’s a building that will provide facilities designed to provide the children in our community with the best possible start for many years to come.

Because of this building, which was started in May last year and has only just been finished, Castle Mead Primary School will now be able to offer more places to more children in the future.

We know how big it is, how many classrooms it contains, how long it took to build, what it costs, and how many children will use it each year.

That’s the measurable contribution to the future that this building represents.

Then there’s the second investment in the future—the type of investment that’s more difficult to measure.

William Shakespeare, one of our most famous writers from the past, once described the future as “the undiscovered country”.

Shakespeare was right. None of us knows what the future looks like. We can all imagine the future that we’d like to see, but none of us can be sure that our imagined future will ever become reality.

What we do know, though, is that the children of today are the very people who will shape that future. Our children are our future, and by opening this building here today at this school, our community is not just investing in our children’s future; it is also entrusting that future to our children.

The time capsule that is being buried here today contains letters and messages from today’s children to the children who will be at the school in the future. Some of those children are here with us today.

These letters tell those future children about life in 2024. They describe the favourite books, films, and games enjoyed by today’s children.

But they also ask questions. The letters in this time capsule ask about how the lives of those future children might be different from our lives today. They are full of curiosity and questions. They show today’s children are eager for knowledge and full of wonder.

So we should thank all these children from Castle Mead Primary School who have sent messages over time. The insight and curiosity they’ve shown—you’ve shown—is a marvellous testament to your awareness of and enthusiasm for this communication with the children of the future.

But it’s not all about the distant future, and I do remember how decades seemed like an almost unimaginably long time when you were in primary school. No, there is also the future, which starts as soon as tomorrow.

The first users of the building will be the two Year 6 classes who are here with us today. They’ve already offered their verdict on their new building, and I’m told that they really like it and say the rooms are lovely and big.

Then there’s looking after the future of the world around us—the wider environment and local ecology. As part of this project, two new bird boxes and two new bat boxes have been put up, and quite a few new trees have been planted in the school grounds. Hopefully, as we see winter turn to spring, we’ll see these used as a new generation of birds and bats take to the skies above us.

We should also be happy that there is a defibrillator in place in this new building. The school was keen from the start that this should be placed in an accessible position outside the school gates and thus free for the whole community to use. To now have it installed and available has met that desire. These devices can undeniably save lives and someone’s personal future.

Finally, thanks must go to Wiltshire Council for financing this new building, to Bray & Slaughter and CMS, who were responsible for all the actual building work, and to all the local residents who have patiently put up with the building work for all this time.

… and, of course, thank you to all the children who are here today representing the school. This is your building, and it contains your future.

Thank you.

***

By the time I’d finished at Castle Mead Primary School, it was quite clear that I was going to struggle with the one other Mayoral event that I was scheduled to attend within the next few days. This was the annual “Rule of Law” reception and celebratory service that was due to take place on Sunday the 3rd of March in the marvellous mediaeval cathedral in Salisbury.

I know that technically that’s this week and doesn’t belong in a blog about last week, but the decision whether or not to risk attending had to be made last week. The event starts at two o’clock with a reception at Salisbury Guildhall, followed by a procession of all the gathered Mayors, Judges, Military and Civil dignitaries etc., all led by the High Sherif of Wiltshire and the Lord Lieutenant of the county. The procession would walk (in a slow and dignified manner) from the Guildhall through the town to the cathedral, where the service would start at five o’clock. After the service concluded, at about 6:30, we’d all make our way (presumably, as I write this, it hasn’t happened yet!) back to the Guildhall to “disrobe” and disperse back to our various towns.

Neither my wife, who was also starting to cough quite badly by Wednesday, nor I were confident that we’d have managed the eight or nine-hour round trip, social gathering, procession, and service in the cathedral without suffering at least one uncontrollable coughing fit. It is not a prospect to relish such a sombre, serious, and well-attended civic ceremony!

So, with great reluctance, the decision was made to send our apologies to the High Sherif and stay away from Salisbury on Sunday.

It was a great shame. The whole point of the ceremony, (which goes back over 800 years) is to remember Magna Carta and all it signifies.

Magna Carta was signed by King John in 1215 at Runneymede, just outside Windsor. The King had finally, after years of pressure being exerted on him by his Barons, agreed to sign a Great Charter that was intended to protect the rights of the King’s subjects. This charter, the Magna Carta, was the first legal codification of the principle that the king is not above the law.

To be honest, by itself, Magna Carta didn’t change much for the ordinary people of Britain. All it really did was limit the authority and power of the king to twelve Barons. But it also enshrined for the first time the the right of an individual to be tried by a jury of his peers (which still forms the basis of our legal system today), as well as removing forever the concept of the absolute authority of the monarch. As such, it can be well argued that it was the precursor to our Parliamentary democracy, although it would be many centuries (not until the 20th century) before meaningful universal suffrage made our so-called democracy truly democratic!

Historically, therefore, Magna Carter is important, and one of the four surviving original copies of the Great Charter is here in Wiltshire in Salisbury Cathedral. I’ve been there and seen it many times, but it was a shame that I had to pass up the chance to actually participate in the 800-year-old ritual that celebrates such an important event in our country’s history.

***

I want to finish my blog this week with a plea.

If you want to make a point about your town or our town, don’t waste your time tilting at windmills while hiding behind the anonymity of a keyboard. Get involved and make your point in the forum where people might actually listen and take you seriously—the Council Chamber.

Every Trowbridge resident is welcome to attend every Full Council or Committee meeting that we hold. At every meeting, there will be an opportunity for members of the public attending in person to address the Councillors present. You can ask a question, which we’ll try our best to answer or make a representation about an issue that concerns you. The only thing we ask is that you don’t hide behind anonymity.

If you don’t want to, or can’t for any reason, attend any Town Council meeting in person, you can always watch the meeting live online. Just follow the links on our website at:

https://trowbridge.gov.uk/your-council/council-meetings/

You’ll be able to see and hear everything that’s said; however, you won’t be able to ask questions during the meeting. That right is only applicable to those physically present.

Even better than making your point heard, though, would surely be to get involved. If you care enough to have an opinion, then why not stand for your local council?

What’s important is that people who care about our town and how it’s run get involved.

So if you find yourself motivated to comment on “Spotted” or feel the need to write to the Wiltshire Times, why not get in touch with any of the town councillors and find out more about standing for Trowbridge Town Council in May 2025.

Then you can really start to make a difference!

***

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

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