A little over 12 months ago I was elected Mayor of Bridport and a few days ago I was re-elected to serve as your Mayor for another year. It goes without saying that I am deeply honoured to be able to serve our wonderful town once again.
Throughout my term of office our world has been impacted upon by the Covid-19 pandemic and there not a corner of the planet that has not been affected. Here in Bridport, like everywhere else, we have had to become used to a new way of living with phrases like Social Distancing, Hands – Face – Space, Lockdown, Track and Trace and Furlough becoming a part of our every day reality.
The pandemic has also impacted on the role of Mayor. The planned calendar of events was very quickly kicked into touch on day one and I found myself:
Becoming a ‘virtual’ Mayor – with Zoom and other video conferencing media being the means by which I have attended and chaired Town Council meetings and other events to represent the town. During the year I have been invited to speak to local WI groups, Round Table and Rotary groups, Transition Town and others, on several topics including how we can rise to the challenge of achieving Plastic Free Status for the town.
Writing a Blog – something new for me and to my surprise significant numbers of people have been reading it and getting in touch with generally positive comments and suggestions for future blogs. As a result of my blog I have found myself at 6.30am milking cows on the pioneering Hollis Mead dairy farm, walking the Green Route, Beach Cleaning, Making rope in the Museum, meeting the Dove Man of Crock Lane, supporting the Bridport Tree Planting group and Allington Hillbillies and the list goes on.
Writing the blog has enabled me to support, encourage and praise organisations and people. It has also enabled me to respond to and bring to a wider audience issues and concerns that are of concern to many. Most interesting of all it has enabled me to meet some amazing people.
The people of Bridport rose to the challenges posed by lockdowns by volunteering their time, energy andskills to support those in need by providing hot meals, collecting prescriptions , doing the shopping and other basic but essential tasks. I had the pleasure of standing alongside the Dorset High Sheriff, George Streatfield to present awards to just some of those who had been so generous.
Meeting and thanking the shopkeepers and their staff who had worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic to ensure that we were able to feed ourselves and collect our prescriptions has been another privilege. Adapting their businesses to include on line and home deliveries meant we did not have to put ourselves at risk. Without them our lives would have been so much more challenging.
As lockdowns have eased other businesses have been able to open including the market. I have had a great time meeting market traders and taking photographs of them the result of which has been seen in my blog and also as a poster on view at the TIC. The market is an vitally important part of our business community. Not only does it attract people into the town who then spend in our shops, but it also is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to test the water and in time grow their businesses. As we emerge into the post pandemic era this will become even more vital.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks on behalf of the people of Bridport to the Town Council staff, who have all continued working throughout these most challenging times, have . Will Austin our Town Clerk and his team have been outstanding in leading and supporting us.
Daryl Chambers our Town Surveyor and his team have not only quietly maintained our town to an incredibly high standard, but have been able to complete a number of new projects such as the installation of new benches in the Community Orchard and the construction of a tree house at St Mary’s School, which I had the pleasure of officially opening, climbing into and sliding down the firemans pole. Thank you all.
I have been able to use my role as Mayor to lend support to the Harmony Centre and Cupboard Love Foodbank charities, and the Plastic Free Bridport, Litter Free Champions campaigns. In doing so I have been surprised by how just mentioning that I am the Mayor doors are opened and people are willing to listen. It has been frustrating that I have not been able to be as active as I would have hoped with fundraising events, but I am told that my support in other ways has been of significant benefit in raising awareness and successful grant applications. One thing I will be repeating this year is the appeal to those who receive a winter fuel allowance grant to donate it to one of my charities which for the comingn year will be the Harmony Centre and the Living Tree.
Because of the restrictions imposed to beat the Covid pandemic during my first term of office I have only attended one occasion in full robe and chain – Remembrance Sunday, one where I have worn full chain – a memorial service for Prince Philip held at Wimborne Minster, and four other occasions when I have worn ‘the badge’. A very different experience to previous Mayors and of course all of these events have had to be held under the covid restrictions in place at the time.
The impact of the covid pandemic cannot be overestimated and the lives of every member of our community has been impacted upon. I now look forward to the post pandemic era and embracing the opportunities that have started to emerge. Simply dreaming of returning to things as they were previously is not good enough. We need to strive to embrace the opportunities we are being presented with as we strive to build a better, fairer world for all our citizens. As a Town Council we must grasp the nettle and do our utmost to achieve this. If we think dealing with the pandemic has been tough we face an even greater challenge over coming years in dealing with the Climate Emergency. If we fail to meet that challenge future generations will not forgive us.
As your Mayor for the coming year I am really looking forward to moving from the virtual into the real world once again. I look forward to supporting and meeting face to face many more of the wonderful organisations, businesses and people of Bridport.
And Finally – there a few special people I would particularly like to thank for their support during the past year:
Anne – my wife who has been behind me throughout, keeping me on schedule and presentable.
Will Austin – for being a constant source of sound advice and support. Without your guidance I would have struggled to say the least at times.
Jill Beed – the Mayors secretary who keeps me on track and more importantly proof reads my blogs and sorts out any spelling and grammar errors – I call the typos!
Sarah Williams – Deputy Mayor who has been there throughout ready to support and step in. Perhaps the post pandemic workload will enable us to get out and about more often together to support and promote our wonderful town.