I am sure you will all be pleased to know that I have been very kept busy this week attending a number of events and meetings. What follows is just some of the selected highlights.
On Friday morning in response to my recent blog about the COP 26 cycle ride https://www.bridport-tc.gov.uk2021/11/10/cop-26-get-on-your-bike/ I met with a woman who had contacted me in response to it, to talk through ideas about how people can be encouraged to use their cycles to come in and out of town.
As a result of the blog she had got on her bike for the first time since moving here and was amazed how quick (she has an electric bike) and easy it was and wanted to encourage others to do the same.
For her it had been the simple matter of confidence which had been preventing her from using pedal power. We both agreed that there are probably a number of people in the same position and all they need is some form of refresher session to gain that confidence back. I would be interested to hear from others in a similar position and perhaps we can look at ways in which we can help you to regain that confidence.
I spent Sunday morning in the Bridport Community Orchard, one of my favourite places in the town. https://www.bridportcommunityorchard.org.uk/ and
I was not alone but alongside a dozen or so other volunteers carryed out a range of tasks as part of the monthly work sessions that usually take place on the second Sunday of the month.
I spent much of the morning working alongside Alex and Bridget compost turning. It doesn’t sound very glamorous but it is an essential part of maintaining a healthy organic orchard. Part way through the session the volunteers enjoyed a social break and cups of warm orchard apple juice – delicious.
Bridport Community Orchard apple juice will be on sale at the Farmers Market on Saturday 4th December so look out for them on Barrack Street.
On Tuesday evening I was to be found in the Town Hall where I attended and made a short speech to open the first of two Climate Forums being held there. The Forums were organised by Alan Heeks, Seeding our Future https://www.seedingourfuture.org.uk/ and Sam Wilberforce, Transition Town Bridport http://www.transitiontownbridport.co.uk/content/ supported by Bridport Town Council https://www.bridport-tc.gov.uk/
The aim of the Forums was to consult about what more Bridport can do in responding to climate change; including what the community, voluntary organisations, households, businesses and the Town Council can do. It mainly wanted to explore two aspects of climate responses; one is mitigation, in other words reducing emissions and waste which contribute to global warming and the other is adapting to climate change, in particular emergency preparation for events arising from more extreme climate events, such as flooding, power cuts and food shortages.
One of the specific ideas the Forum wanted to consult about is the possibility of launching a Bridport Climate Response Initiative, early in 2022, which could include a range of actions to widen local engagement and involvement in climate responses. Invitations were sent out to a range of Community and Voluntary groups across the town in order to get their ideas on potential climate responses; to get their reaction to the ideas currently being considered, and also to ask if they would be willing to share such information through their organisation network of members.
Once the initial introductions and speeches were over those present split into small working groups and were asked to address the following questions:
- Does your organisation or your members have suggestions on further climate change responses in Bridport?
- Would your organisation be willing to promote the suggestions on climate responses in the draft Simple Steps leaflet and the plan for a Climate Response Initiative next year?
- How could information about local initiatives and resources for climate responses be shared more widely? For example, could your organisation do this via its members?
- Is your organisation doing any climate response work for which you’d like help, e.g. volunteers? How could the community assist you?
To say the responses were positive would be putting it mildly with many of those present coming up with innovative ideas. High on the extensive list of priorities raised were food security, ways reduce domestic carbon based energy consumption, developing greener transport options and increasing local resilience in the event of flooding, power cuts, food shortages and heaven forbid another pandemic.
The end result was much food for thought and a determination to turn the words and ideas into positive actions at the earliest opportunity.
Wednesday afternoon found Anne and I at the WI Hall to support and listen to a talk about Agnes Suttill, Bridport’s first woman Town Councillor in this the 100th anniversary of her election, delivered by Karen Hunt.
Karen first told me the story of Agnes Suttill earlier this year and working together we made it the subject of one of my Blogs https://www.bridport-tc.gov.uk/2021/03/07/international-womens-day-celebrating-agnes-suttill-a-bridport-pioneer-in-the-fight-for-womens-rights/ Karen is particularly well-placed to tell us about how she looked for Agnes and assess the significance of what she has found.
Karen is Professor Emerita of Modern British History at Keele University (it just means she is retired but is still a very active historian); she is Chair of Bridport Museum Trust; and, of course, she is a Bridport Town Councillor.
Agnes’s story is important for a rights respecting town. It’s a reminder of how we’ve had to fight to get and then exercise democratic rights. Agnes campaigned locally for the parliamentary vote for women, partly gained in 1918. Yet Bridport women couldn’t exercise this right at that year’s General Election – we’ll find out why in a moment.
As the first woman to ever stand for the Council in 1921, Agnes declared, ‘Women who form so large a proportion of the inhabitants, have hitherto been without direct representation on the Council, though by general consent, the aims and interests of women in the community are at least equally important to those of men’.
I was really pleased to see the WI Hall was full and others joined the event on-line. Following my introduction Karen delivered an absolutely fascinating account of Agnes’s life from birth in Glasgow, through her unusual education for a Victorian girl (Bedford College, London; Girton College, Cambridge), and then arriving in Bridport aged 38 when she married one of the local netting manufacturers John Suttill.
Karen not only spun a gripping story of Agnes’s achievements and the challenges she and other local women faced, she also ‘conjured up’ Agnes for us so we could hear her words – thanks to Kerren McAlister who channelled Agnes for us.
She quickly became involved in the town, helping to set up the local campaign for votes for women in 1910. The First World War saw the increasing involvement of women in Bridport’s public life despite not yet being citizens. Agnes was one of these women and after the war she made use of women’s new rights to become our first woman Town Councillor.
For those of you who would like to know more about Agnes, Karen is planning on bringing it all together in a book and the presentation she made on Wednesday is already available and can be viewed here:
A break for a traditional WI tea and cake party, which included a splendid 100th anniversary cake made up a lemon sponge No1, a gluten free chocolate sponge zero and a Victoria sponge zero, was much enjoyed by all. Thanks to Christy Cornish.
The Q&A session that followed the break for tea and delicious cake (served by the Town mayor and Town Clerk) addressed the following questions:
- About Agnes.
- About how best to commemorate Agnes.
- Do we want to commemorate others who helped make Bridport ie not just famous people who were born in the town and acquired their fame elsewhere? How?
The lively Q&A session produced a number of ideas that can now be looked at and hopefully developed. Watch this space.
That same evening I attended and made a short speech to open the second of the two Climate Forums on this occasion being held on line via Zoom.
The format was exactly the same as the session held in the Town Hall and once again the break out groups held lively discussions and came up with even more ideas as to how we can increase the level of community understanding of and engagement in taking steps to mitigate the impact of the looming climate emergency.
What became very clear to me from both sessions was that there is a genuine will to become engaged and take action. I also became very aware there are many people and groups already doing some fantastic work and have great ideas. The challenge is how we harness that existing expertise and energy and bring it to a wider audience in a manner that will fill them with the same level of positive concern and commitment towards building an ecologically secure future for our children’s children.
On Thursday morning I attended the Town Councils Climate Action Sub Committee meeting. This is the forum that has been charged with delivering on the Town Councils Climate Emergency declaration backed by a budget of £100,000. The first thing the committee did was produce an Action Plan which can be viewed here: https://www.bridport-tc.gov.uk/climate-emergency-action-plan/
At the meeting the following items of business were conducted:
- UPDATE ON THE ENERGY CHAMPIONS PILOT: To receive a paper updating on the delivery of the Energy Champions initiative, and agree any actions arising.
- UPDATE ON CLIMATE FORUM: To receive a verbal update on the climate forum events held 23 and 24 November 2021 by Seeding Our Future and agree any actions arising. Alan Heeks and Sam Wilberforce attended and contributed to this item.
- RESILIENCE CAPACITY: To consider a report of the Town Clerk.
There is much work to be done and the Action Plan backed up with the £100,000 budget allocated towards delivering on it will certainly get things moving, the desire is always to try and move forward with even greater urgency.
All in all it has been quite a busy week and I have to admit my head is spinning having heard about all of the positive actions already taking place and the plethora of really interesting ideas people have that now need to be reflected upon and somehow delivered.
There are occasions when I am stopped in the street by local residents who assume that as Mayor I have a magic wand and can conjure up money and make things happen instantly. If only that were true; I would love to be able to wave a wand and put into action many of those really interesting ideas immediately.