Bridport – the town that makes things happen
You will be pleased to know that the past ten days have been an extremely busy time for your Mayor. This week’s Blog is going to tell you about just three events that I have had the pleasure of both attending and playing a part in.
EVENT 1 – The Great Big Green Gathering
The Great Big Green Gathering marked the start of a week of events focusing on COP26 and how we in Bridport can do our bit to help mitigate the impact of Climate Change. From 10.00 until 3.00 there were information stalls, food and drink stalls, and music on Millenium Green and around midday there were a series of short speeches culminating in the reading of the Bridport Proclamation. The relaxed, joyous family atmosphere enabled some serious issues to be discussed in a warm and friendly manner.
The Bridport Proclamation
COP 26 must be a success.
Decarbonising the world must start now with emphatic steps. This realisation is what unifies us here today. We want our town, our county, and our country to hear: the road to zero must be embraced and acted upon by everyone.
We wish to proclaim that for one or two generations to usurp all the wealth of the planet, leaving future generations in serious crisis is unconscionable. And today we wish to show our concern and love for those who come after us, including the living creatures who can’t speak for themselves.
We need to express our support for those who have contributed little to the accumulation of CO2 while the UK holds, historically, one of the largest fossil fuel footprints on the planet. We need to engage with countries and communities caught in the stranglehold of older, dirtier industries and together plan a route (through finance from the West) for a sustainable future. We can only do this while respecting the rights of people at home and abroad and by listening to them.
We can’t attain carbon zero for some and not for others.
Glasgow, shine like a beacon in this difficult world, and light the way to a saner, sustainable future.
EVENT 2 – Mayors Civic Day
On the Mayors Civic Day Mayors and Council leaders from across the county are invited to Bridport to see what the town has to offer. It is an opportunity to show off and share experiences.
When asked what form I would like the day to take I immediately responded by saying I wanted to share what Bridport is doing to deliver on its Climate Emergency Declaration.
The visiting mayors were asked to park in the Football Club car park where they were greeted and led to the first visit of the day, St Mary’s School Edible Garden. Headteacher Kate Batorska made us all welcome and explained the value the garden has in enabling pupils to discover the joy in growing and eating seasonal vegetables. Filmmaker Robert Golden then delivered a powerful speech in which he reflected on the development of the garden and the Climate Crisis as the following extract shows:
We have no choice but to take a lead in our towns and amongst our friends and neighbours to actively confront climate change, to transform social injustice to social justice, and to create what most of us crave, fairness and survival for our grandchildren in a better world.
For me, and I am sure for many of you, fairness means levelling up the ever increasing financial and educational disparity. Fairness also means, being aware of how our actions today, right now, must be considered in relation to the climate crisis and to the resources we leave our grandchildren.
Finally we were treated to the voices of the pupils themselves as they read poems they has written and rounded off with a beautifully song about the climate crisis.
The Mayors then made their way on foot to the Town Hall via the Green Route, Rights Respecting Mural, the Community Orchard and South Street market, stopping off in Bucky Doo Square for the official group photograph.
The recently created Rights Respecting mural on the Bridport Football Club wall by local artist Marina Renee-Cemmick, who was joined by young people to produce this colourful new installation.
It was a Rights Respecting Town project in association with the Lyric Theatre and supported by Bridport Town Council.
Bridport Community Orchard as we all know is a haven for wildlife, and peace and tranquility for the townsfolk of Bridport.
On the day of our visit many of the trees were still laden with apples, the bees in the orchard apiary were buzzing in and out of their hives and some local people were relaxing in the warm sunshine. As one Mayor commented ‘It is a highly productive town centre park.’
South Street was full of people as we made our way towards Bucky Doo Square for the group photograph and it was clear that many of the Mayors were envious of the range of independent shops and the bustling street market.
Before lunch was served I had arranged for 4 short speeches to be made to illustrate some of the work being done to deliver on our Climate Emergency declaration.
Eddie Rose who, although only 16, spoke eloquently about Bridport’s Rights-Respecting Charter and Rights-Respecting in the context of mitigating the impact of Climate Change.
The human race has but one home, planet earth, and it is vital that the full range of rights are respected for all people across the globe. These are enshrined in the Bridport Citizen’s Charter under the following five headings:
- Freedom of belief, thought and expression
- Democracy and access to public services
- Personal and community security
- Personal and community culture
You can find out more about Bridport – a rights Respecting Town here: https://bridportrightstown.org/
David Dixon then described some of the steps Bridport Town Council has taken in order to deliver on its declaration of a Climate Emergency including:
- Producing a detailed Climate Action plan
- Committing £100,00 to the delivery of the Climate Action Plan
- Installing solar panels in the Plottingham Car park to charge Town Council vehicles
- The replacement of first of the Town Council fleet of diesel powered vehicles with electric ones.
- Energy Efficiency Workshops – The workshops are part of the Councils response to the climate emergency detailed in the Climate Action Plan. As well as being linked to Bridport Housing Week these Workshops are intended to begin a 6 month ‘conversation’ around the Town led by Energy Champions to encourage and support residents in taking simple steps to reduce their carbon footprint through energy efficiency measures that will also save money.
Raja Jarrah and Eileen Gray – spoke about the Bridport Community Shed. The Community Shed grew out of the Man Shed and is now a thriving hive of creative activity where Recycle, Reuse and Repair are central to its work.
The shift from Man to Community reflects the important social role the Shed is playing in maintaining wellbeing as well as encouraging and enabling the repair of electrical and other equipment and the considered use of resources to manufacture new products.
Will Austin, Bridport Town Clerk – shared a short video about Bridport during the Covid pandemic. The video can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/549292578
Bridport Cohousing – Lunch was followed by a short coach trip to visit the Bridport Cohousing construction site where we were addressed by Cohousing member Lin Scrannage who explained what the project was all about and why it is so important. It is fair to say that the Mayors were blown away by what is being achieved and will be looking at ways in which they can support similar developments in their own towns.
You can find out more about why the mayors were so impressed by visiting: https://bridportcohousing.org.uk/
Back on the coach and off to West Bay to visit the Discovery Centre, launch the Bridport Cycling Without Age scheme, and enjoy an ice cream courtesy of Baboo Gelato.
West Bay Discovery Centre – is currently hosting an exhibition about the impact of single use plastics on the environment in particular the coast and seas. Mayors were very impressed by the quality of the exhibitions and could be seen engaging with many of the interactive displays, opening drawers and solving some of the challenges.
The star exhibit is a recreation of a picture of West Bay by J M Turner using materials collected from the local beach – do try and get along to see it for yourself.
You can find out more about the Discovery Centre by visiting: https://www.westbaydiscoverycentre.org.uk/
Bridport Cycling Without Age – is an international project that helps elderly and disabled people get out and about on Trishaws, piloted by local volunteers. Following successful fundraising over recent months Bridport now has its first Trishaw. Initially it will be used to give people in care homes the opportunity to travel into and around town with the wind in their face. Many of the mayors jumped at the chance to take a ride and I suspect they will be looking to set up a similar facility in their own towns.
You can find out more by visiting: https://www.facebook.com/CWABRIDPORT/?ref=page_internal
or to book a ride email [email protected] or call 07570072676
It had been a full on day and the Mayors were full of praise for what our town is doing and returned home with much food for thought as to what they could be doing in their own towns.
EVENT 3 – Bridport Charter Fair
Bridport Charter Fair is held annually to celebrate the charter granted more than 700 years ago by King Henry II to allow the town to hold a market and Bridport’s Citizen Charter, reflecting the principles of 1998 Human Rights Act, and confirming Bridport becoming the UK’s first Rights Respecting town. As well as presenting the awards, live music filled Bucky Doo Square and local groups, charities and organisations had supporting stalls in Bridport Arts Centre.
This year I had the honour of presenting not one but two awards, the Charter Fair Award and the Above and Beyond Award.
Charter Fair Award – The staff and volunteers at Ammonite Health, formerly Bridport Medical Centre, were the recipients of the Bridport Charter Fair Award, for “the work they have done over and above the norm in caring for the people of Bridport during these most challenging times”.
The award was accepted by Dr Andrew Finucane, who arrived on the trishaw recently acquired by Cycling Without Age Bridport to offer rides around the town to the elderly.
Accepting the award he said: “Bridport Medical Centre gave 58,000 vaccines, which would not have been possible without a large number of people. We did one super Saturday where we managed to vaccinate 2,500 people in one day and Bridport and the wider area had one of the highest vaccination rates, and one of the fastest populations to be vaccinated in the entire country.”
Above and Beyond Award – The Above and Beyond Award was presented to David Powell for the outstanding work he has done in the fields of Education, music and Rights Respecting.
It was in 1990 when David Powell was appointed to the headship of Burton Bradstock Primary School it marked the start of a long involvement with not only the school community but also the wider West Dorset community.
In 2003 David took on his final Headship at St Mary’s Middle School, Puddletown, a much bigger school.
He then moved into Dorset Children’s Services to advise school leaders on school improvement and leadership development. It was here he started working with UNICEF to help design the Rights-Respecting School programme that promoted the opportunities for all children and adults to better understand children’s rights, a passion he has continued in retirement.
David “retired” in 2015 and then devoted his time to volunteering, mainly with a youth and musical focus. He was chairman of Home Start West Dorset where his wife Barbara was a volunteer.
He became involved in Bridport’s Minerva Trust in the early days and was asked to chair the group of headteachers and governors keen to explore the idea of becoming a Multi Academy Trust. He served on the board of trustees following the conversion of the four local schools into the Minerva Trust. It was around this time that I first met David and from that first meeting I knew I was in the presence of a force of nature, whose energy and drive I was somewhat in awe of.
His passion in the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools and Town programmes continued. He worked with Bridport Town Council in its Rights Respecting Town programme and oversaw many children from the local schools meeting with the town council over the years discussing the importance of all citizens gaining an understanding of the rights they hold, and the consequent responsibility to behave kindly to all other people and respect their rights.
As a result, he was asked to chair the town’s drive to declare itself the first Rights-Respecting town in England, and this the Town Council did in 2018.
David’s involvement with the young people of Bridport was not solely within the school sphere, but also in the world of music. Here he encouraged children to get involved both with playing instruments and singing. He gave them opportunities to develop and undertake solo performances at local events such as the Charter Fair as well as developing the Minerva Learning Trust Choir. He composed songs and music with the children and the choir gave many fine performances. Above all, the participants in the choir and his musical groups all greatly enjoyed themselves.
The musical scene in Bridport is the poorer since David moved to begin a new life in the Cotswolds.
Thanks to David, Bridport now has two Charters:
- The granting of the town’s first Market Charter by Henry III in 1253, and the reconfirmation of the right to hold a market by Elizabeth I in 1554 is celebrated annually by The Bridport Charter Fair.
- The UNICEF Rights Respecting Gold Award which made Bridport the first Rights Respecting town in the UK in December 2020.
For me it was an absolute thrill to present David with this Above and Beyond Award as a mark of the esteem in which he is held in our community and as a token of our thanks for all he have done to enrich the lives of so many young people.
These three events illustrate what makes this such a special place to live and the role the Town Council plays in supporting, and making them happen, for the benefit of all in the wider Bridport community.
My thanks to Will Austin, Robert Golden, Tim Russ, Lottie Welch and Bridport Camera Club for the wonderful images used in this Blog.