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It’s All About Community

It’s all about Community

Over the past week or so I have been reminded of the importance of community. Events that have been held in Bridport, many of which I have been thrilled to have been able to attend, have all had a strong sense of community at their core. This was really brought home to me at the Bridport Charter and Community Fair, held as a combined event on Millenium Green for the first time.

Bridport Charter and Community Fair

The sun shone brightly on Bridport’s Charter and Community Fair on Saturday, and crowds flocked to what was in essence a bit of an experiment – combining the Charter Fair with the Community Fair, changing the date to coincide with the national “Love Your Local Market” event, and re-locating from the Town Hall and Town Centre to Mountfield and Millennium Green.

Bridport Charter Fair

The Bridport Charter Fair celebrates 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. The Bridport market, which is now listed as one of the top markets nationally, has helped shape the town’s character over the centuries.
Today the Charter Fair also celebrates the UNESCO Citizen’s Charter, which in 2018 confirmed Bridport as the UK’s first “Rights Respecting Town.”

The much coveted Charter Fair Trophy and the Above and Beyond Award are awarded annually to those who have gone over and above in what they have given to the Bridport community. Words and trophies can only go a small way in recognising what people have been selflessly doing, but they do give us a chance to publicly say thank you.

This year the Charter Fair Trophy 2022 was awarded to the medical centre’s partners throughout that difficult period of the pandemic and the many volunteers who did such a brilliant job in meeting the challenge and helping to overcome it.

Come sun, rain and even snow this amazing band of volunteers greeted people with a smile and some reassuring words, efficiently managed the parking and even entertained those queueing waiting outside the medical centre to be jabbed. Then after we had been jabbed they even managed to make the 15 minute compulsory sit down for some fly by.

On behalf of the people of Bridport I would like to say thank you for all you did to help keep us all safe and well. I was thrilled to be able to present the delicate little trophy to the Bridport Medical Centre Covid Volunteers.

The Above and Beyond Award 2022 was awarded to Sandra Brown for her sterling work throughout the community for many, many, many years.

Sandra is a long serving town councillor and former Mayor for 4 terms, who in 2016 received the MBE for her services to culture and the community.
Sandra has dedicated half a century of involvement in the children’s charity Bernardo’s, the Bridport Arts Centre, the Bridport Museum, Encore Theatre Company, Friends of the Millennium Green and the New Elizabethan Singers.

On behalf of so many people whose lives have been touched by you Sandra, I would like to say thank you for all that you do that is above and beyond and it was a real honour to present Sandra with the Above and Beyond Award 2022.

Current Charter Fair Chair, Arthur Woodgate, said “Our partnership with the Town Council has helped to produce something quite special. As our publicity states, this event “seeks to reflect the diverse creativity, the passions and pastimes of the Bridport Community, with all ages and interests welcomed and encouraged to take part. We’re getting there, and we wouldn’t have got anywhere without the support of the Town Council.”

Bridport Community Fair

Those three words Bridport, Community and Fair each conjure up certain distinct images and feelings which when brought together become something magical and special.

Bridport for me conjures up an image of a vibrant market town, buzzing with life and energy, a fantastic place to live work and relax, and above all a place with real heart and soul.

Community is all about a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

Bridport is made up of many different communities eg the arts community, the sporting community, the green community, the intellectual community, the crafting community and so on. But community also has an additional extra special dimension and that is as a caring community. During my time as the Covid Mayor I have become increasingly aware of the importance of the simple act of caring and what so many people have been doing to care for others.

All of the groups represented at the Community Fair are wonderful examples of what I have been trying to describe and encapsulate. Each and every one of them is their own special little community and all of them care passionately about what they do. What is really wonderful is the way in which all those small communities are an essential part of what makes the big community we call Bridport so special.

And finally I come to the word Fair. Who doesn’t love a fair? The rides, the sideshows, the candy floss, the smell of hotdogs, the lights and the music all come together to create a cacophony of fun.

But the word fair also means fairness. Treating others fairly, playing the game fairly, being just, being fair minded etc. In a nutshell it is all about treating people equally without favouritism or discrimination.

I have become increasingly aware that one consequence of the covid pandemic has been a reduction in the number of people wishing to become involved or engage in voluntary work and as a result some community groups are struggling to deliver and function at their pre pandemic level.

Whilst discussing this with our Town Clerk Will Austin towards the end of last year we considered a number of ways in which we, Bridport Town Council, could be of support. To cut a long story short the end result of that conversation was two things.

The first was the joint Bridport Charter and Community Fair. In previous years the Community Fair has been held in the Town Hall. So why was the decision made to move it from that splendid building to Millenium Green? Well, quite simply there is not sufficient space in the Town Hall to host a gathering of this size.

To say that the event was a success would be an understatement, with over 50 community groups present and many hundreds of visitors. Millenium Green was a very busy place to be on Saturday.

In the brilliant May sunshine the May Queen was crowned and the Maypole dancers wove their magic on the Millennium Green. Particularly poignant, with Meagan Lister being crowned by the niece, Mary Calloway, and nephew, Andrew Calloway, of the late Bernard Gale. Bernard’s Maypole was passed on to Teresa Grinter and the Lyric School of Dance to ensure that this ancient tradition is carried on. Bernard’s memorial overlooks the Millennium Green.

The crowds enjoyed free entertainment provided by Dan Shackell and Sue Smith, Bridport Young Performers, Bridport Choral Society, Bridport Musical Theatre, Shiraz, Rough Assembly with Chloe Rainey, and the Phoenix Youth Band.

The success of the event is down to the work put in by Claire Perters-Way who managed to liaise with and fit everyone onto the green, and Daryl Chambers and his amazing outdoor works team who erected and dismantled the marquee and other stalls, and put in place all of the other equipment and resources needed to make an event such as this run smoothly. Thank you one and all.

The second, the creation of a One Stop Community and Volunteer Hub is a more long term project. Will introduced me to an amazing young woman call Caroline Pearce and for the past three months we have been working together to create a more accessible and vibrant member and volunteer information and recruitment portal on the web. We started by doing a search to see what volunteering opportunities there were in Bridport and were met with a lot of out of date and frankly quite boring information.

Our plan is to create a hub where anyone looking to join or volunteer can see what opportunities there are via simple 1 – 2 minute max videos. So instead of reading through lots of text, and believe me on some of the existing sites there is lots of text, you simply watch a short snappy video of someone telling you about what a particular community group does and the range of activities and volunteering opportunities they have available.

We are all aware of the benefits of being involved and engaged in a community. In these ever more stressful days in which we live, being part of a community provides a vital support network where we look after each other and this has manifested itself dramatically throughout the pandemic and more recently in the response to the war in Ukraine.

It was wonderful to see so many community groups present on Millenium Green. They are all amazing and I thank them for all they do to make peoples lives fairer, through the support they provide.

I will leave you with one final thought.

Who benefits most from getting involved – the giver or the receiver?

Wyld Morris – 10th birthday celebration

The Town Hall was filled with people one Wednesday evening to celebrate 10 years of Wylde Morris, through the medium of film, dance and food and drink.

I am always interested in the origin and meaning of words so as per usual I looked up Wyld and Morris and this is what I found.

The name Wyld is an ancient name that was given to a person in Britain soon after the arrival of the Normans in the 1066. It is a name for a person who was of a wild or undisciplined character.

The word Morris – is used to describe a vigorous English dance traditionally performed by men wearing costumes and bells

Morris dancing is further defined as a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins.

In addition, implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. In a small number of dances for one or two people, steps are near and across a pair of clay tobacco pipes laid one across the other on the floor. They clap their sticks, swords, or handkerchiefs together to match with the dance.

The earliest known and surviving English written mention of Morris dance is dated to 1448 and records the payment of seven shillings to Morris dancers by the Goldsmiths Company in London.
Further mentions of Morris dancing occur in the late 15th century, and there are also early records such as bishops’ “Visitation Articles” mentioning sword dancing, guising and other dancing activities, as well as mummers plays.

Put that all together and what do you have – our very own Wyld Morris – a group of people of Wyld and undisciplined character, who indulge in a form of vigorous English dance, performed by men and women in this case, wearing costumes and bells and wielding implements such as sticks and handkerchiefs.

So who or what is Wyld Morris?

Wyld Morris is a mixed Morris side of dancers and musicians dancing in the Cotswold tradition.  The side was born in the autumn of 2010 out of a love of the Morris and the lack of a local side that would accept a woman dancer! The side made its debut performance in 2011.

It is worth noting that they call themselves a “Morris dance side”. Apparently the terms “Morris dance team” and “morris dance club” are also sometimes used across the Morris community (although not many refer to themselves as a “Morris dance company” or “Morris dance ensemble”!) So Morris dance Side it is.

Over the past 10 years Wyld Morris have become a much loved group of performers in the local area. Sadly the covid years severely restricted their ability to perform. But they didn’t let a pesky virus dampen their enthusiasm. They still managed to meet in groups of 6 and perform outside Bridport Antiques in October 2020, the Christmas Cheer on 12 December, and in Burrough Gardens in early 2012.

Despite some restrictions still being in place, Rob Jayne and his crew to started work on the film, we had all come to see, on 28th April when Wyld Morris danced at Groves Nursery amongst the apple and pear trees.

When restrictions finally eased Bridport Town Council invited Wyld Morris to be the first performers tback on Bucky Doo on Wednesday 19 May 2021 showing off some new waistcoats made by member Ruth.

It was now back to normal for Wyld Morris with performances at The White Lion, The Half Moon, The Three Horseshoes, The New Inn, Monkton Wylde Court, Uplyme Horticultural Show, on Lyme Regis esplanade, and on the green at Wellfields Drive.

Sheri Ahmet the Wellfields Drive event organiser said “Wyld Morris are all brilliant dancers and musicians – such enthusiasm. They came to our afternoon tea party on the green and everyone thoroughly enjoyed their lively performances.”

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy performances by Wyld Morris over many years in the Bridport Community Orchard. Apple Days and Wassails and more recently Mayfests would not be the same without a rousing performance from Wyld Morris to entertain the crowds. I know from personal experience that whenever the Community Orchard management committee start planning an event the first name to go onto the planning sheet is Wyld Morris. What better accolade could you have than that?

The Bridport Rope Dance

A highlight of the evening was the first public performance of the Bridport Rope Dance choreographed by Wyld Morris member Ray Edwards who sadly passed away before seeing his amazing creation performed in front of an audience. His dance is a wonderful tribute that will live long and become a crowning glory piece in Wyld Morris’s repertoire.

On the night the audience were mesmerised as the 6 ply rope was twisted before their eyes. The film by Rob Jayne which was the centrepiece of the evening includes shots of the dancers practicing the Bridport Rope Dance and an explanation of how it was developed. You can view Robs wonderful film HERE.

Above all Wyld Morris is another example of a community. In this case one which loves what they do, and support and enjoy each other’s company and friendship. And in addition by what they love doing brings a warm smile to the faces of any member of the wider community who watches them perform.

If you fancy joining Wyld Morris as musician or dancer click HERE to find out how.

Bridport Primary School – edible garden poly tunnel

The Bridport Primary School Edible Garden took a major step forward on Thursday afternoon with the attachment of the cover to their poly tunnel.

Manipulating a huge sheet of plastic even in the lightest of winds is challenging and many hands were needed to complete the task.

The Bridport Primary School community now look forward to planting their first crop of tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, and other tender crops such as melons in their poly tunnel. I suspect that they are looking forward even more to eating and tasting their own crops.

‘From Street to Sea’ – Bridport’s mass litter pick

Sunday morning saw the third ‘From Street to Sea’ – Bridport’s mass litter pick, take place. Between 10.00 and 12.00 o’clock there were people out picking on the streets, on green spaces, on the rivers and on the beach. It was wonderful to see young and old, single people, couples and groups including members of the Bridport Youth Football Club who did a splendid job picking around the St Mary’s Sports Field area and along the river bank.

At all three sites the Co-op, Morrisons and the Watch House Cafe, the numbers getting involved was up on previous events and the volume of litter removed was considerable. One notable difference this time was the reduction of large items such as tyres. Pickers working g the river bank areas did comment on the number of large items such as shopping trolleys and wheel barrows in the river or on the riverbank.

I was really pleased to see the number of first time pickers joining in on the day. All of them commented on their surprise at just how much litter they were finding and how much fun they had had competing with each other to see whose bag was the heaviest.

The Bridport Litter Free Street Champions, West Bay Beach Clean Volunteers and all of those people who joined in the pick on Sunday are another example of a small community, and one which really cares about the community and environment in which they live.

My thanks to Scott Morrison, Sarah West, Robin Boston, Keira Tait and Lesley Windsor for all their support and hard work in making this event the success it is. The next ‘From Street to Sea’ Bridport’s mass litter pick is scheduled to take place on Sunday 16 October.

If you would like to become a Litter free Street Champion for your street simply email: [email protected] to find out more.

And Finally – a Bridport landmark disappears.

The yellow tower crane on the McCarthy and Stone retirement home site at the bottom of South Street, which could be seen from as far away as West Bay, is no more. It was dismantled and removed from the site on Monday.

I wonder how many members of the Bridport community are sad to see it go?

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