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Blog 120 – Your New Mayor, Mayor Making, Community Charter Fair, Bridport Arts Centre 50th Anniversary, The New Elizabethan Singers, Neil Barnes’ Shop, And Heritage Walking Routes

Blog 120 – Your New Mayor, Mayor Making, Community Charter Fair, Bridport Arts Centre 50th Anniversary, the New Elizabethan Singers, Neil Barnes’ Shop, and Heritage Walking Routes

Hello from your new Mayor!

I felt that I should continue the Mayor’s Blog that our outgoing Mayor, Ian Bark started. So here is my first ever Blog which covers the Community Charter Fair, our Mayor Making ceremony, and my first official Mayoral attendance at St Mary’s Church for a concert by the New Elizabethan Singers. I have also had the pleasure of officially opening the new Photography Gallery in South Street, owned by Neil Barnes who is well known in Bridport for his beautiful photographs.

Mayor Making

The “Mayor Making” ceremony was held on Wednesday May 10th in the Town Hall. Although the title would suggest it was all about the Mayor, there were others elected, as we do every year at the Annual Town Council meeting: Cllr Ian Bark, who agreed to be Deputy Mayor, and Cllr Dave Rickard who was again elected Leader of the Council. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening which was extremely well organised by the Town Council staff and particular thanks to the Mayor’s Secretary, Jill Beed.

I took the opportunity to invite some life-long friends from Bradford on Avon, the town where I was born and brought up, and I was delighted when they all agreed to attend the ceremony. I was also proud to have one of my children, Patrick, in the front row, sitting next to my wife Bridget who is now the Mayoress of Bridport.

We have been in Bridport now for nearly 6 years and although we have previously moved around, including living in Toronto for a couple of years, I am certain we have now found a town that is so vibrant, diverse and with an extraordinary sense of community, that we certainly have no desire to move ever again.

The events that Bridport stages throughout the year is without equal in my opinion and both Bridget and I have been fortunate to find new friends and  opportunities to get involved in the local community.

My dual role as a Liberal Democrat Town and a Dorset Councillor keep me rather busy and involved in local affairs and Bridget is often seen volunteering at the Electric Palace and the Arts Centre as well as being on the committee for Colmer Women’s Institute (Bridport).

Below I have included a few photos from the Mayor Making ceremony which show that it really is an event with a long tradition and ceremony.

Mayor Making

Community Charter Fair

Ian Bark stepped in for me as Deputy Mayor at this year’s Community Charter Fair, and this is his report on the event:

Another amazing Saturday in Bridport. The town was bathed in warm sunshine, heaving with smiling people thanks to the market which extended further down South Street than ever, the Bridport Big Band, Rough Assembly, Bridport Choral Society and Shiraz playing on Bucky Doo, and on Millennium Green the Community Charter Fair in full swing.

This was the second time the Community and Charter Fairs had been combined in to one event and once again it was a roaring success with some 50 community groups present along with a range of performances, from maypole dancing to the Ukrainian Choir, to add to the festivities. The Charter element of the fair celebrates:

  • The right to hold a market granted by Royal Charter in 1253 by King Henry III
  • Bridport’s Citizens’ Charter reflecting the principles of the 1998 Human Rights Act
  • Bridport becoming the UK’s first Rights Respecting town.

The Community element of the Fair is an opportunity for the many wonderful community groups in the town to let people know what they do and encourage them to become involved.

Volunteering your time is something you will never regret. It will enrich your life, familiarise you with your community, and connect you to people and ideas that will positively impact your perspective for the rest of your life. Helping your community is an opportunity for you to grow as a person, to better understand how you fit into the world around you.

Studies have shown that giving is beneficial for combating stress, depression and anxiety, and also serves to keep you mentally stimulated, improve your self-confidence, and provide you with a sense of purpose.

Spending time enriching your community is a great way to broaden your perceptions of the world. By immersing yourself in a community and surrounding yourself with people who are dedicated to bettering the world, you can learn so much about how the world works. You gain a unique sense of purpose by serving those around you, one which often manifests itself in other areas of your life.

Of course, it’s also important for your community! Without volunteers, many of the services and events we enjoy here in Bridport would not be so readily available. Spending time helping out at local shelters or food banks provides an important service to less fortunate neighbours. Giving back to the place you call home helps to unite the community and bridge some of the social, economic, and political gaps.

The community groups gathered at the Community Charter Fair were all wonderful examples of the value of giving and volunteering. Without them many different aspects of our community would be much poorer. As organisations they are all amazing. But it is the people who volunteer their time so freely with you that are the real stars.

On behalf of all of the people living here in Bridport, whose lives are made better thanks to the selfless work of volunteers, I thank you.

Community Charter Fair


Deputy Mayor Ian Bark officially opened the Fair and presented two awards.

The first was the “Above and Beyond” Award. The name speaks for itself, and it was awarded to someone who has indeed gone above and beyond over many years Dr Jo Millar cofounder of the Living Tree cancer support group.

Ian invited Roz Copson, a long-time member of The Living Tree, to announce the winner and say a few words about Jo.

The second was the “The Charter Fair Trophy” for a group/organisation which went to Jim and Jenny Tigg for and on behalf of refugee support in our community.

Millions of people have been forced to flee from their homes to escape war, conflict, famine and abuse. Bridport is a caring and supportive community and Jim and Jenny alongside others have stepped up to offer much needed support to those seeking refuge. This award is in recognition of all those people whose compassion, combined with a determination to step up, has made the lives of others possible once again.

This great video, put together by Brian Kelly, brings to life the event, and the value of volunteering to help your community:

Thanks Brian!

Bridport Arts Centre Marks Its 50th Anniversary

Ian also stood in for me last Thursday, when Bridport Arts Centre marked its fiftieth anniversary by re-creating the photo taken on May 18 1973 when the Wesleyan chapel on Bucky Doo Square was purchased by an exceptional community group for conversion into a longed-for theatre.  See below the photo from the original founding of Bridport Arts Centre and the ‘re-creation’ on May 18 2023 (credit: Pete Millson):

Arts Centre - Photo 1

The original 1973 line-up left to right : Unknown, Doreen Barwick (committee member), Sister Kathleen (violinist with festival orchestra), Peggy Chapman-Andrews (Hon. Sec. 1973 – 83), Harold Smith (Chairman of Bridport & District Arts Society in 1973), Mayor Percy Norfolk, Florence Sporne (Treasurer in 1973), Alban Wylde (committee member), Richard Matthews (Building Fund Manager), Dorothy Hothersall (Peggy’s mother).


Arts Centre - Photo 2

The 2023 portrait left to right : Miles Bell, Kate Wilson, Sandra Brown, Peter Chapman-Andrews, BAC Board Chairman Barry Lovejoy, recently retired Mayor Ian Bark, Elizabeth Sporne, Eddie Rose, Tristan Allsop, Ingrid Hull.

Former BAC director Chris Huxley volunteered his time to source early arts centre archive and coordinate this thankyou event, explaining; “We wanted to create a symbolic event to celebrate and honour the Arts Centre’s founders – without whom the organisation that has inspired and entertained so many of us over the course of half a century would not have come into being.”

The new May 18 2023 portrait represents those founding figures as well as some of the creative and community elements that went on to flourish at BAC, like the Bridport Prize (represented by its Programme Manager Kate Wilson) and BACstage, reflected by the inclusion of the youth theatre’s member Eddie Rose.  Contact was made with some of the direct descendants of the original line-up including Peter Chapman-Andrews (son of Peggy) and Elizabeth Sporne (daughter of Florence), as well as individuals with deep connections to the founding of the arts centre such as Sandra Brown and Miles Bell (who inspired the conversion of the chapel’s old schoolhouse into the Allsop Gallery), as well as Tristan Allsop whose father Kenneth was the first President of the organisation (the gallery was named in his honour on 14 August 1981).  Current Chairman of the BAC Board, Barry Lovejoy added: “Tristan is also a regular volunteer at BAC working on projection for the Film Society and the From Page To Screen film festival, as is Ingrid Hull – one of its longest-serving stewards – they both represent the hundreds of Bridport people who have given their time and commitment to the centre.”

Sandra Brown MBE, is the last remaining member of the original steering group that started fundraising and searching for a suitable building as early as 1968.  The four-times Mayor and BAC Chair in the 1990s eloquently recalled how she became involved in this collective mission and why the irrefusable driving force of Peggy Chapman-Andrews not only guaranteed the realisation of a dream venue but also the ongoing funds to support it; “No one could say no to Peggy!  And after the building was secured she rang me again to say she’d had another idea. She wisely knew we wouldn’t just need capital for the purchase and conversion work on the old chapel but also an income to keep it maintained and developing – what about an annual, fundraising writing competition?  Brilliant!  Now we had the Bridport Arts Centre and the Bridport Prize – which would go on to become an internationally-acclaimed literary institution.”

The BAC lobby featured a display of the centre’s 1960s and 1970s archive that has begun to be collected by the arts centre’s ‘time team’, including trustee Ines Cavill, who is already looking forward to the potential for an end-of-year exhibition with the scope to feature other decades; “it was a special part of our 50th ‘thankyou’ launch event to see how the earliest newspaper cuttings and posters sparked memories of BAC’s origins as well as reflecting so many continuities for the arts centre; bringing international talent to Bridport, sharing a writing competition with the rest of the world, programming the best national and local artists – and giving support to the next generation of creatives too.”

The display of early archive in the BAC lobby will be available to view until Sat June 10 along with the current exhibition upstairs in the Allsop Gallery: Earth | Ground.

Free entry to both, Tuesdays to Saturdays 10am till 4pm.

The New Elizabethan Singers

My first engagement as Mayor was to accept an invite to a concert by the New Elizabethan Singers held in St. Mary’s Church. It was a wonderful evening of music from a superb choir, soloists from the choir of Royal Holloway and a fantastic orchestra, all masterfully blended by the Musical Director Matt Kingston. They only perform 2 or 3 times a year at St Mary’s church so there aren’t many opportunities to catch a performance, but I will certainly try and make their next one.

For further details, click here.  

Neil Barnes Photography Gallery

Thursday 25th May I had the pleasure of opening Neil’s new Gallery in South Street. After 7 years running a Market stall, Neil has decided to move inside to a less weather dependent venue and I am sure his move will prove to be successful. Neil has carried out some research into the history of the building he is now in, and it appears that the original owner was Claud Hider from Kettering who moved to Bridport in 1921 and opened a photographic studio at number 42.  Neil also moved to Bridport from Kettering in 2011 with his photography business in 2011 and there are details about the history that Neil is putting together. He is already displaying some of his beautiful photographs and is well worth a visit to see his works and also Betsy the cocker spaniel!

For further information click here.

The Mayor and Neil Barnes Opening of Neil Barnes' shop


Heritage Walking Routes Consultation

Moving on to news from the Town Council, I have included information below about another exciting initiative for the future, the Streetscape & Heritage Project, and I encourage everyone to take the time, not only to read it but respond to it. The Council is committed to consultation on its major projects, and your views are important to us.

Putting the Bridport Streetscapes & Heritage Interpretation Study into Action, Summer 2023.

Bridport Town Council has opened a consultation on three new heritage walking routes and is asking people to identify local heritage assets along the routes that might be suitable for inclusion in 6 downloadable podcasts.

The consultation on the selected routes stems from the Bridport Streetscape & Heritage Interpretation Study that was completed in Autumn 2022.

Alongside the consultation on the proposed routes, we are asking local people to propose heritage or nature ‘stopping points’ along the routes where a waymarking element might be valuable to bring awareness of something that is of interest or part of the Bridport story. Later in 2023 the Council is hoping to sponsor production of 6 downloadable heritage podcasts that will launch the 3 new routes and be available to inform locals and visitors about aspects of Bridport nature and culture.

 We have opened a consultation on the three proposed circular routes:

Here is a short video guiding you around the proposed urban heritage loop and picking out potential heritage assets:

Please go to the online questionnaire to provide your feedback on the three proposed routes, at     

The questionnaire is open until August 30th 2023.

The Streetscapes Study forms an important element of the Bridport Investment Plan that is being used to secure funding for a range of local initiatives, including a bespoke heritage and interpretation system.

For more information about the work on the Streetscapes and Heritage Interpretation project contact David Dixon, Project Manager, email [email protected].

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