Mayor-Trowbridge-Chains-Robe-Park

9th March 2024

Well, my Mayoral year is now well into its final quarter. There are less than two weeks to go until the Civic Dinner and preparations are almost complete. I still think that this year’s event is going to be an amazing evening to remember, and I’ve got to say a massive thanks to Aby, her team, and the Civic team, who’ve worked so hard and so enthusiastically to pull it all together.

I also want to thank the record number of local businesses that have sponsored the event. Without their involvement, the Civic Dinner would not be possible. These wonderful local sponsors include (but are by no means limited to; this is only a small sample, and more sponsors will be announced in the days to come).

  • Freddy’s Double Deuce Bar
  • Gabby’s Ice Cream
  • Platinum Toyota
  • Cloudy IT
  • The Labyrinth Challenge
  • BP Estates, White Horse Business Park
  • Allsworth Flooring
  • Prosec Consultancy Ltd.

 

Then there’s the individuals and groups who have agreed to give up their time to welcome us and entertain us on the evening, and, of course, all those wonderful people who’ve already bought their Civic Dinner 2024 tickets.

The whole evening’s event is, after all, being put on with the sole aim of helping to raise funds for two marvellous local charities, Stepping Stones and Trowbridge Future.

A few tickets are still available (but not many left now), and I know there’s always a last-minute rush for these, so if you’re still thinking about coming, don’t leave it too late to drop into the Information Centre on St. Stephen’s Place and reserve your place at the table.

But enough of the advertisements; back to what I got up to as Mayor last week…

Last week was one of those weeks that you leave in your wake with a feeling that, despite it being a week of gentle activity, quite a lot has been achieved.

The week started on a very encouraging note with a meeting that I hope will soon show dividends for all the community, and it ended with a celebration of the positive efforts already made by one local group in support of both sporting achievement and the welfare of our community here in Trowbridge.

***

On Monday morning, I met with David Ross and Geoff Tate, the Chair and Vice-Chair of CATA (Christian Action in the Trowbridge Area), respectively, as well as Cllr Denise Bates (Deputy Mayor of Trowbridge). This very informal get-together was the idea of Davis Ross and Denise Bates. It was instigated to look at ways in which the Town Council could work with faith and community groups in Trowbridge in order to foster an environment where the efforts of those groups were directed in the most productive and beneficial way possible for all the residents of our town.

As we chatted, we all quickly realised that there was a great benefit to be had in getting all our local faith and community groups together to compare notes and see if there was anything that we were unnecessarily duplicating or gaps in the services and support that we provide to our shared community.

We were determined not to limit this initiative to one faith or one group within our community. We firmly believe that we should be working across all boundaries in belief or social or cultural grouping to make sure that every resident of Trowbridge is equally cared about and, where appropriate, offered support and help.

We are therefore very keen to welcome representatives of every faith and population group that we are proud to call our neighbours in Trowbridge to take part in this initiative so that they can share their views, experiences, and ideas with us.

Hence, we decided to set up what we called the Trowbridge Community Action Forum.

Invitations to the inaugural meeting of this forum (which will be held in the Civic Centre on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 24th) will be sent out to a cross-section of faith and community groups in the town next week.

I really hope that these groups will engage with this initiative, as I truly believe that by working together, we can achieve so much more than we can individually.

Watch this space!

***

Then on Monday evening, I was invited to the opening of Trowbridge Future Youth’s new Youth Centre in the old Citizen’s Advice building on Mill Street in the Town Centre.

This facility promises to be a real game changer for young people in the town, with a venue now available to them that offers space to relax, a wide range of entertainment and games, and the support of some very dedicated staff and volunteers.

The new centre was formally opened by its Patron, Florence (Flo) Espeut-Nickless. Flo is an incredibly talented local young actor and writer who has recently taken up the role of “writer in residence” at the Bristol Old Vic. Flo was also one of the guiding lights behind Trowbridge’s chapter of the National Theatre’s production of “The Odyssey” at the Town Hall last year. She’s written successfully for both stage and screen and has the stated aim of making performance drama more relevant to those from more deprived backgrounds who would not necessarily regard themselves as “natural theatre goers.”.

Flo is a fascinating person to just talk to, very grounded, and an enthusiastic advocate for all that Trowbridge Future Youth stands for and is trying to achieve.

The new centre on Mill Street boasts a large space with a pool table (grey baize?), dart board, and other games. Then there’s a smaller gaming room with a large wall-mounted screen and a “Quiet Room” that can be used to either just relax away from the hubble and bubble of the main room or as a room for mentors and their mentees to have a personal chat. There’s a well-equipped kitchen off the main room, and the admin office and a storeroom are at the back of the building. At the front, there’s a reception space that separates the entrance from the street and the main function rooms.

It’s all been very well thought out with the welfare and enjoyment of those who’ll use the new space placed front and centre during its creation.

Last year, Trowbridge Future Youth raised significant funds towards the transformation of the building into this new Youth Centre through their £100 Business Challenge. This was aimed at local firms that wanted to help raise money for the charity and have a bit of fun while doing it! Local businesses could fundraise however they chose, but they were always in friendly competition with each other. The scheme ran until the end of October last year, and fundraising achievements were entered onto a leaderboard to see who had managed to raise the most money.

It was quite inspiring to see just how successful this was. There were sponsored physical challenges, football matches, cake bakes, and loads of other fundraising events, all organised by local businesses with the sole aim of helping Trowbridge Future provide this space for the youth of our town.

Trowbridge Future is still looking for more Youth Workers to help out at the new centre and support young people across the town. If you think you have what it takes, please contact Trowbridge Future (info@trowbridgefuture.org.uk) to ask for more details about these roles.

***

By Thursday, I’d finished putting some flesh on the bones of the idea we’d had at the beginning of the week for a Trowbridge Community Action Forum. The Civic Centre had confirmed the date and time, and a draft agenda and invitee list were ready. The next step was to send everything out to the original group who’d met on Monday, plus a couple of others whose input was relevant, to check that I hadn’t missed any vital details or key invitees.

Good job, I did! A gentle tip to anyone writing anything for distribution: always get someone else to proofread your work. Stupid mistakes that you’ve missed will often be spotted by a fresh pair of eyes!

***

My final activity as Mayor last week was on Saturday, when I was back at the Civic opening the Avon Valley Runners’ annual awards. This is an annual event that recognises the runners and volunteers who have contributed to the success of the club over the previous year.

The Avon Valley Runners were formed in 1986, and since then the club has gone from strength to strength in not just supporting amateur runners as they challenge themselves to excel but has also established itself as a major philanthropic group in the area.

Avon Valley Runners is run by a dedicated team of volunteers who organise, and compete in open events such as the Westbury 5k, the Mob Match, and the AVR Half Marathon. The club also organises a number of closed races in which club members compete against each other.

The club’s athletic achievements over the years are impressive, and only last year they came in second in the Wiltshire Road Race League. A quick glance at their catalogue of club records and personal achievements on their website cannot fail to convince anyone that the Avon Valley Runners are a serious athletic force that deserves our respect and admiration.

In 2023, Avon Valley Runners took part in the Beat the Street community competition organised by our own Active Trowbridge team within the Town Council. The club really engaged with this competition, eventually coming first in the community group participant’s section.

The club also took part in last year’s Active Trowbridge Day here in our Town Park, not just raising awareness of the club itself but also helping to promote the benefits of a more active lifestyle to all attendees throughout the day.

It’s not all about big mass attendance events though; Avon Valley Runners contribute to our local community in less visible ways as well, for instance, very recently organising a group run delivering donations to the Storehouse Foodbank in Emmanuel’s Yard on Church Street here in the town.

But back to the evening itself.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, those who know me will attest to the fact that I’m not necessarily the fittest, slimmest, and “ripped” individual ever to grace the corridors of Trowbridge Town Council. In fact, I would have to admit to being rather overweight. My idea of exercise is walking into the kitchen to see if there are any snacks in the ‘fridge. I’m not proud of this, but it is who I am.

It’s emphatically not who the members of the Avon Valley Runners are! I was blown away by the constant stream of genuinely impressive athletes who were up for awards on Saturday. County trialists, British trialists, ultra-marathon runners, world championship contestants, Iron Man contestants… wow, the dedication and commitment they show to their craft was astounding and very, very impressive. One chap had run all the world’s major marathons; another had only returned to the UK a few days ago after running the Tokyo marathon. And then there were the triathletes, whose list of accomplishments would make anyone gasp in wonder.

There were awards for members of all abilities and experiences, from those who were real beginners to those of national or international ability. All ages were represented, from 20-year-olds to those in their 70s. But it wasn’t just the athletic successes that were honoured, those who’ve given up their time to coach and mentor others were acknowledged as well.

I felt very humbled. These awesome people are very serious about their athletic exploits, even those who just run for fun!

And then there are the volunteers, the organisers and the marshals, without whom any event would be impossible to put on. They, too, were shown respect and appreciation.

But that’s the point of the Avon Valley Runners. The club isn’t just about encouraging and supporting anyone, whether they’re an absolute beginner or a serious contender, in their journey to improve their fitness and wellbeing through running; it’s also about contributing what they can to the community they live in.

And that, alongside their undoubted achievements as athletes, makes them truly worthy of our thanks and respect.

***

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

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