I have never been more proud to be a citizen of Bridport than over the past week.
On Monday evening BBC Spotlight South West included a feature about Bridport in its evening news broadcast. It was it is fair to say a short but very positive piece about our wonderful town. If you missed it you can see it here:
On Thursday evening I had the pleasure of delivering some introductory remarks to introduce an evening of World Music to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2020 as part of the Exile: a Mind in Winter exhibition currently on show at the Bridport Arts Centre.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It set out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages. The declaration is made up of 30 Articles.
I am proud to live in the very first Rights Respecting town in the UK. In 2018, as a demonstration of this commitment, Bridport Town Council adopted a Citizens Charter based on the key human rights instruments of the United Nations.
The wonderful photographs taken by Robert Golden give a hint of the beautiful music we were treated to during the concert. The first session led was off by Maurice Blogg and Diana Takezoe followed by the band led by Barry Bates and David Powell who gave us some thought provoking songs written by amongst others, Woodie Guthrie, Ewan McColl and David himself.
To close the first session we were treated to a moving song by Sammy Hurden who accompanied herself on the piano.
Between the first and second sessions we were addressed firstly by two young people Eddie Rose and Mani Chambers who spoke eloquently about what living in a Rights Respecting Town means to them.
They were followed by Alan Weston who spoke to us about the work of the Bridport Refugee Support Campaign and their aim to welcome a refugee family to Bridport some time soon.
The second session took on a truly magical international flavour. Two Syrian musicians Jamal AlSakaa playing an oud and Alaa Wehbi playing Riq (like a tambourine)with spellbinding virtuosity that was totally mesmerising.
They were followed by a young Kenyan musician Zangi who accompanying himself on guitar playing in a distinctly African style songs reflecting his life growing up in the poorest area of Nairobi.
From Syria to Kenya and finally to India with Ricky playing sitar and Udit Pamkhania playing the Tabla (pair of Indian drums).
The evening was brought to a close with the international ensemble joined on stage by Artistic Director Tina Ellen Lee to sing a joyful peace song.
Earlier in the day the musicians had performed and spoken of their experiences and about their instruments in a live link with 48 schools across Dorset.
I left the event feeling uplifted and extremely proud that Bridport has and is taking a lead as the first Rights Respecting Town in the UK.
On Saturday I donned my Mayor’s chain of office for only the second time this year to open the ‘Christmas Cheer Up’ Market. Town Crier John Collingwood was the first to speak or should I say shout an opening greeting. After saying my piece, during which I thanked the Christmas Cheer Committee and Town Council staff, I set off with the Deputy Mayor Sarah Williams to judge the best decorated market stall competition.
It was during our amble around the town that I was constantly reminded of what a fantastic place we are privileged to live in. The wide range of shops combined with an equally diverse range of market stalls is second to none. What should have been a relatively straightforward task took considerably longer than anticipated due to the warmth with which we were being greeted and the lovely comments people were making about the town.
It is fair to say that the town centre is looking great with the big tree lit up in Bucky Doo Square, the street decorations and no fewer than 130 small trees on the frontages of local businesses – paid for by Christmas Cheer and installed by the Town Council staff. This is about 50 more than normal and on top of the events this weekend I think we can now sneer with derision at the Bridport News declaration that Christmas has been cancelled. I am sure you will agree that nothing could be further from the truth, thanks to the Cheer Committee and the outdoor staff.
At 11.00 we were joined in Bucky Doo Square by the High Sheriff of Dorset, George Streatfeild who took the opportunity during Bridport’s ‘Christmas Cheer-Up’ market to recognise those in Bridport who stepped up and played a significant role in supporting the community during the coronavirus lockdown and present them with prestigious a High Sheriff Award. Awards were presented to:
Award 1 – Sophie Mears, Sophie Mears Meals
Sophie (who could not be there in person to collect it) cooked around 4,500 meals for vulnerable people during the initial coronavirus lockdown. She set up Sophie Mears Meals so those self-isolating and the most vulnerable in Bridport and the surrounding area could have a hot meal every day.
Award 2 – Alex and Carl Lewis, Bridport Coronavirus Community Support.
Alex and Carl had no organisational links but stepped up to recruit and manage Bridport’s ‘volunteer army’. They launched the Bridport Coronavirus Community Support Facebook page with the aim of helping vulnerable people in the community. They were spurred into action by the news that people over 70 would have to self-isolate for up to four months and appreciated that many people do not have a network to support them. They quickly realised that speed was of the essence and that they needed to find out who needed help and who could offer help and get those community links in place for when needed.
Award 3 – The Bridport Community
The following words spoken by the High Sheriff, George Stretfield, best sum up the reason for this award.
“Help came from all over the town; furloughed volunteers, existing community groups, such as the Chapel in the Garden, businesses of all sorts – not just food businesses – and of course the Bridport Town Council, and particularly town clerk Will Austin and town surveyor Daryl Chambers. Everyone turned their hands to community support during the lockdown.
I am therefore absolutely delighted to ask the Bridport Mayor, Cllr Ian Bark, to receive my High Sheriff’s Community Award on behalf of all those from the community of Bridport and its environs that made up the Bridport Community Support Network.”
In total there were around 170 volunteers delivering, visiting, walking dogs, or just providing comfort to the lonely.
Bridport as we all know has a most fantastic range of shops and a wonderful market. It was therefore fitting that this should be recognised with awards for the best Christmas themed decorated shop windows and market stall.
I had the pleasure of presenting the best dressed shop window trophy to Mark Dicker proprietor of Animal House. Their windows are a great example of creative festive fun. Other strong contenders were Hare Salon, Soulshine and Opal.
The Washingpool Farm stall took the honours with decorations that were found in a loft in a Woolworths bag (a great example of recycling and reusing), plus some lovely greenery and bling on the staff manning the stall. Other contenders included the Community Orchard, Colmers Hill Calendar, Falafel, and Hill Field House Antiques.
The Lyric Theatre has provided a refuge and support for over 35 artists during lockdown to create work and is hosting national artist Edwina Bridgeman’s beautifully illuminated handmade Nativity Scene from 9th – 24th December for everyone passing by to enjoy.
As my wife and I walked home we both commented on how busy and vibrant the town was. Despite having to wear our masks, sanitise our hands and maintain social distance it was clear that people were still enjoying themselves. I have never felt prouder to be a citizen of Bridport.