On Thursday 19th May 2016 I was elected to be the Mayor of Darlington, with my wife Councillor Doris Jones B.E.M as my Mayoress. This 'blog' is intended as a journal of the engagements carried out by the Mayor and Mayoress with occasional comments.
During his time in office, Brian will carry out approximately 350 civic engagements - in effect, dedicating a year of his life to the Mayoralty. This leaflet [pdf document] outlines the role of the Mayor; his main aims; the charities, organisations and people he is supporting; and how your help and support can make a really huge difference.
The Mayor’s Role – Speeches
The role of the Mayor is to assist you in celebrating and recognizing achievements and milestones. As the First Citizen the protocol should be for the Mayor to formally open an event or welcome guests or maybe present awards. Given the numerous and varied events each year we appreciate that every function is unique. Please feel free to contact the Mayor’s Office if you need to discuss arrangements. If the Mayor is asked to speak then background information is always welcome
Saturday 21st May 2016
- Our first official engagement following the Mayor making ceremony was at the 125th anniversary celebration of Darlington Harriers. It felt a bit strange at first but we were made very welcome and met a gentleman who had completed 125 marathons over the years and had actually completed the equivalent of a marathon around the track before we got there!
Sunday 22nd May 2016
- We visited the Vintage vehicle rally at the Head of Steam museum where I had the unenviable task of choosing the winning vehicles in several categories, with more than 100 entrants.
- Darlington Samaritans is one of my charities and we were delighted to visit a plant sale and afternoon tea to support their fund raising efforts.
Week Commencing Monday 23rd May 2016
Monday 23rd May 2016
- Attended four schools; Carmel College, Hummersknott Academy, Beaumont Hill School and Corporation Road School in connection with food parcels raised by pupils for new residents to the town.
- During the evening, we attended Richmond Mayor Making & Annual Council at Richmond Town Hall.
Tuesday 24th May 2016
- Attended Hartlepool Maritime Experience to the Launch of Youth Employment Initiative
- Attended the Launch of two New fire Appliances at Darlington Fire and Rescue Station Park Place.
Thursday 26th May 2016
- Attended Darlington Cricket Club. South Terrace, for the launch of a real ale festival. It's a hard life being the Mayor!
Saturday 29th May 2016
- Opened Sky Live Show at Durham Tees Valley Airport. Good to see the airshow back, and very well attended.
Sunday 30th May 2016
- Attended the Richmond Meet. Richmond Town Hall, St Mary’s Church & Friary Gardens Richmond.
Week Commencing Monday 30th May 2016
Saturday 4th June 2016
- Attended the St George Memorial association Mynarski Remembrance Service. The St George Hotel MSG
- Attended the evening MSG Memorial Association RCAF / RAF Dinner, St George Hotel Durham Tees Valley Airport.
Week Commencing Monday 6th June 2016
Wednesday 8th June 2016
- Attended the Launch of the St Teresa Hospice, New 10 bed Unit Woodlands Road.
Thursday 9th June 2016
- Attended a Photo Opportunity – Mayor’s Send off – Rotary Bike Ride 2016 Town Hall Forecourt. Great to see my fellow Rotarians on their travels.
Friday 10th June 2016
- Attended Heathfield School Wellbeing Week. The Broadway.
- Attended West Park Academy Celebration the Queens’s 90th Birthday, West Park Academy, Alderman Leach drive.
Saturday 11th June 2016
- Attended Firthmoor Live Event, Firthmoor Community Centre, Burnside Road
Sunday 12th June 2016
- Attended Blessing & Dedication Service - Holy Trinity Church, Woodlands Road followed by a Celebration Service for the Queen’s 90th Birthday -Durham Cathedral.
Week Commencing 13th June 2016
Tuesday 14th 2016
- Spennymoor Mayoress at Home Event. – Spennymoor Town Hall
- Sir E.D. Walker Homes Trustees Afternoon Tea. - E D Walker Homes, Coniscliffe Road.
- Vice Chancellor of Durham University Summer Garden Party – Hollingside House Hollingside Lane, Durham.
Thursday 16th June 2016
- Bishop Auckland Meet the Mayor – Fifteas Vintage Tea Room, Market Place, Bishop Auckland.
Friday 17th June 2016
- National Care Home Open Day – Middleton Hall, Middleton St George. The event where I came face to face with a scarecrow model of myself. I absolutely loved it and of course it had to be the winner!!
- St Teresa’s Midnight Walk – South Park. Former Mayoress Gill Nutt in the background enjoying the walk.
Saturday 18th May 2016
- Grand Opening Weekend of new business – SNAP fitness – Yarm Road.
- Welcome Aboard – Handover of the Maritime Experience to National Museum of the Royal Navy. – Maritime Museum, Hartlepool
Week Commencing Monday 20th June 2016
Monday 20th June 2016
- We attended the Raising of the Flag for the Armed Forces Day - Town Hall & the Market Square.
- Mayor Met the Halle Orchestra at Hummersknott Academy School - Edinburgh Drive.
Tuesday 21st June 2016
- We visited Café JJ at Clifton Road. A wonderful experience, not only to taste the delicious food (at reasonable prices) but also to see the great work being done by Val and her team).
- Attended the VIBE Awards – Dolphin Centre. Another great event, being able to sit back and enjoy the celebration of young people’s achievements.
Wednesday 22nd June 2016
- We attended Mayor of South Tyneside ‘At Home’ event – Registrar’s Office, Broughton Road, South Shields.
- We attended a Preview of the Vue Cinema Complex – Feethams Darlington.
Thursday 23rd June 2016
- We attended the Halle Orchestra Concert – Dolphin Centre. Thanks to the Durham Music Service, not only for bringing this orchestra to Darlington, a special feat in itself, but also for arranging workshops for hundreds of children across the borough who are learning to play a variety of musical instruments. I’m sure they benefitted greatly from some professional tuition.
Friday 24th June 2016
- We Attended The Lions Club annual Charity Concert – All Saints Church & Millennium Centre. A lovely evening of good music.
Saturday 25th June 2016
- Attended Darlington Community Carnival – Market Place.
- Attended and Opened the Sadberge Community Festival – Sadberge village hall and village green. The festival gets better every year and was very well attended. Thanks to Damo from the Interceptors for my ride to the village green.
Sunday 26th June 2016
- Attended the Open Day – Darlington Fire Station and Police Station , St Cuthbert’s Way. A very busy day for staff at both stations and a great deal of good PR work achieved.
- Attended Durham County Council Chairman’s Civic Service - Durham Cathedral,
Week commencing Monday 27th June 2016
Tuesday 28th June 2016
- Attended Charity event hosted by students of Darlington & Dilston Collage – Harrowgate Hill social club. Clearly a lot of hard work had gone on to raise funds.
- Attended start-up Britain Bus Tour for entrepreneurs – High Row.
- We attended the 10th Anniversary St George’s Church of England Academy School Middleton St George. A really enjoyable event with pupils having a great time performing for guests and followed by the unveiling of a new tapestry.
Wednesday 29th June 2016
- Attended Heighington Church of England Primary School 50th anniversary Celebration – Hopelands, Heighington. Yet more of the wonderful children of the borough showing their entertainment skills.
- Chaired the Special Meeting of the Council. – town hall. One of the longest council meetings in recent years, almost four hours, but we made it with lots of help from town hall staff.
Thursday 30th June 2016
- We attended Stockton Armed Forces Day – Town Hall, High Street Stockton
- We attended County Durham Community Foundation Summer Drinks Reception. – Croxdale Hall Durham (Home of the High Sheriff). It was all going so well until a thunderstorm took over!
Saturday 2nd July 2016
- We attended the Dance Festival – Market Place. A fun event showcasing the dancing skills of our children and young people.
- We attended the Summer Fun Day – Middleton Hall Retirement Village. Middleton St George. The theme of the Fun Day was 'Alice in Wonderland' with many taking their parts seriously. I am absolutely delighted that Middleton Hall Retirement Village are all working hard raising funds in support of my four charities.
Sunday 3rd July 2016
- We attended Yarm 1914 ‘Remembering the Somme’. St Mary Magdalene Church, West St, Yarm & Yarm High Street.
Week Commencing 4th July 2016.
Monday 4th July 2016
- We attended National Youth Jazz Orchestra & Big Band – Central Hall, Dolphin Centre. Fabulous talent playing some great music. Thanks again to the Durham Music Service for arranging this.
Friday 8th July 2016
- Attended Beaumont Hill School 10yrs Celebration – education Village,
- Attended Preview of Art Exhibition – Head of Steam Museum
- Attended The Northern Military Band Association concert – The Princess Alexandra Auditorium, Yarm School. More great music from a wonderfully talented group of musicians.
Saturday 9th July 2016
- Attended Samaritans Fund Raising Event – St Cuthbert’s Church, Market Place. With entertainment from Northern Voices. Beginning to realise now just how much rich talent we have locally.
Sunday 10th July 2016
- Attended the High Sheriff – Matins for the Courts & Luncheon. Durham Cathedral & Durham Castle
Week Commencing Monday 11th July 2016
Monday 11th July 2016
- Attended the Grand Opening Chinese Buffet – Feethams Leisure Complex. The Lion dance was brilliant and the food just as good.
Tuesday 12th July 2016
- Visited Hummersknott Badminton Club prior to European Tour – Hummersknott Academy Edinburgh Drive Darlington.
Thursday 14th July 2016
- Attended the Launch of School Anthem – Mount Pleasant School, Newton Lane. I could take some lessons in public speaking from the two comperes. And the singing was brilliant – such enthusiasm.
- Presented a VIBE Award ‘Against the Odds of Life’ to the winner Olivia Rowel, in the Mayor's Parlour. Olivia had been unable to attend the Vibe Awards evening due to a family holiday. In 2014 Olivia was diagnosed with a brain tumour and despite intrusive medication treatment, she has remained positive throughout and kept up with her school work. It was a real delight to meet Olivia and her family and to present her award. It was well deserved and I wish her the very best for the future.
Friday 15th July 2016
- Attended Great Aycliffe Mayoress at Home – Council Offices. School Aycliffe.
Saturday 16th July 2016
- Attended Stockton Mayoress At Home - Town Hall, High Street, Stockton.
- Attended Elim Church Fun Day – North Park. They certainly chose the right day for the weather. There was something for everyone and the place was packed.
- Attended 50 Signals Military Employers Engagement Dinner – Reservists Centre, Neasham Road. A thank you to those employees who give their staff time off to attend reserve duties.
Sunday 17th July 2016
- Attended Installation of the Dean of Durham – Durham Cathedral.
- Attended and presented prizes to winners of The Quaker Bowl Competition – Eastbourne Bowling Green Sports Complex.
Week Commencing Monday 18th July 2016
Tuesday 19th July 2016
- We visited Middleton Hall Retirement Village to say a big thank you to two ladies who work at the hall and who had carried out a parachute jump to raise money for my Mayoral charities. Carole Waistle and Angie Johnson said they found the experience amazing. They expect to raise more than £1,000. That’s amazing! Thank you ladies.
- Attended Teesside University awards ceremony – Campus, South Field Road, Middlesbrough. Great to see so many young (and some not so young) students receiving their degrees.
Thursday 21st July 2016
- Attended Mayoress of Sunderland Funeral – St Paul’s Church, Ryhope.
- Attended and Chaired Full Council Meeting – Council Chamber Town Hall.
Saturday 23rd July 2016
- Attended the Opening of the Pocket Park – Snipe Lane. Some great work carried out by Paul Harman and his gang. The remnants of an early sewage plant have been transformed into a wildlife haven for youngsters The work was carried by the volunteers of the Friends of Snipe Pond
- Attended Shildon Mayor – Tea in the Park & Flying Scotsman – Rest House, Hackworth Park, Shildon
Week Commencing Monday 25th July 2016
Tuesday 26th July 2016
- Attended the Presentation of Queens Award for Voluntary Services to Café JJ - The proud volunteers beamed when the Queen’s representative, Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, Sue Snowdon presented them with a prestigious and well deserved award on the Queen’s behalf. Café JJ is run by a team of disabled volunteers who work together to run the lively café where they cook and serve meals every Tuesday. – Clifton Road, Darlington. A truly enjoyable occasion when the recipients were clearly overwhelmed.
Thursday 28th July 2016
- Opened the newly refurbished Lidl store – Yarm Road.
Saturday 30th July 2016
- Attended Abbeyfield Care Home garden party. – Danby Lodge, Ashcroft Road. A gem of a place hidden away in a quiet cul-de–sac.
Week Commencing Monday 1st August 2016
Monday 1st August 2016
- Attended Citizenship Ceremony – Pease suite, Dolphin Centre. My first but hopefully not my last. A really great occasion.
Tuesday 2nd August 2016
- Celebrated my 70th birthday with a small family party at home.
Thursday 4th August 2016
- Visited the 700 Club Get Together – Roadway House, Beaumont Street. One of my Mayoral charities and well worth supporting.
- Attended SIRF 2016 Stockton International Riverside Festival – Preston Park Hall & Museum, Yarm Road, Eaglescliffe.
Saturday 6th August 2016
- Attended Hartlepool Deputy Mayor and Mayoress Garden Party to help raise funds for the Mayor of Hartlepool Charity – Meadowsweet Road, Hartlepool. A lovely sunny afternoon and a well organised event hosted by Rob and Brenda.
Sunday 7th August 2016
- Attended Family Fun Run to ‘Wave Off’ entrants and give out medals at Darlington fun run, 3km & 10km Races – Market Square.
Wednesday 10th August 2016
- This evening we paid a very interesting visit to the Darlington and District Talking Newspaper. This is an audio service for the blind, visually impaired or those who have difficulty reading a newspaper. This organisation has been in production for over 30 years and is constantly on the lookout for new clients. Recordings are distributed to between 200-250 listeners each week as CDs or MP3 memory sticks. If you know someone who could benefit from this voluntary service,further information is available via; 01325 465101, email@example.com or www.darlingtontalkingnewspaper.co.uk
Thursday 11th August 2016
- Visited the GOLD Tea Dance in the market place which this year was a celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. Joined by Jenny Chapman MP to cut a birthday cake and to sing ‘happy birthday’ and also by Elvis (see photo’s) AKA David Regan from Age UK.
- Met with representatives of my nominated charities which are; Darlington Breathe Easy group, Darlington Samaritans, Darlington 700 Club and St Teresa’s Hospice. A very productive meeting with representatives from the Banks Group discussing potential fundraising possibilities. Grateful thanks to Lewis Stokes and James Eaglesham from Banks for giving up their time to assist.
Saturday 13th August 2016
- Poundstretcher has taken over the former B&Q building at Whessoe Road and we were asked to perform the opening. Although there were very few customers initially, they soon began to arrive to see how far their pound could be stretched
Sunday 14th August 2016
- Although I’ve always preferred four wheels on my wagon, I was impressed by the array of two and three wheeled machines at the Knuckle Edz motor bike rally in the town centre today. Clearly a favourite rally with the bikers, it was very well attended and I was asked to present the prizes in the various categories.
Monday 15th August 2016
- Today we had the pleasure of the company of The Lord Lieutenant of County Durham Sue Snowden at the ‘Mayoress at Home’ event at Hartlepool Civic Centre. We were of course supporting the Mayor and Mayoress of Hartlepool, Rob and Brenda Cook, with their fundraising for Mayoral charities. A very pleasant afternoon spent in lovely company.
Saturday 20th August 2016
- This morning we joined several other members of the ‘Chain gang’ at a coffee morning organised by Elizabeth Bruce, the Chairman of Chilton Town Council. The game of cricket croquet on the bowling green was very popular and fortunately the heavy rain that was forecast stayed away.
Thursday 25th August 2016
- This morning we joined Liz McAllister, Director of Darlington Samaritans at a coffee and cakes fundraiser. I can ill afford to put on any weight but couldn’t resist some of the lovely goodies on offer. A small entrance fee and the sale of raffle tickets raised more than £300 for this great charity, which incidentally is one of my nominated Mayoral charities this year. Thank you to all who attended and worked in support of Darlington Samaritans
Friday 26th August 2016
- We joined Zoe Birkett this morning to open the ‘Mango Bean’ coffee shop in Feethams. Many will remember Zoe from her appearances in Pop Idol and Big Brother. Although she now lives in London, Zoe still comes back to Darlington on a regular basis to visit her mum. She is off to New York soon to try her luck with some work in the ‘big apple’ and we wish her every success. We also wish the Mango Bean success in their new venture, another new business in the town creating employment.
- After a quick change and the removal of the Mayoral chains, I joined my Mayoral Chaplain Reverend Sheilagh Williamson at the Clifton Centre where Sheilagh has been organising ‘laughter and lunch’ sessions for local residents. I was there to join with other local volunteers who were cooking and serving meals. I came into my own when it came to washing and drying dishes, although I wasn’t such a dab hand when it came to cutting out patterns of birds. Thank you Sheilagh and her band of volunteers and a special thank you to Lidl who have given financial support, (All those featured in photographs including parents of young people have given their permission to be featured on this blog)
Sunday 28th August 2016
- Today we had the great pleasure of presenting trophies to the winners of the Mally Turnbull football tournament in Middleton St George. Mally was a personal friend who we worked with as members of the Community Association. He was a lovely person who was respected by so many young people who he had coached at football. This is the third year the tournament has been organised since we lost Mally and a great deal of thanks is owed to our ward colleague Steve York and to Johan Moncur for their hard work in keeping it going, and to Paul Bielby for his support. Great to see so many of the young lads wanting to be part of this tournament.
- This evening we enjoyed the hospitality of Northumberland County Council on board the Class ‘A’ Tall Ship Christian Radich in Blyth Harbour as part of the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta. Following some torrential rain the night before which had washed out one of the car parks, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a pleasantly calm and warm evening in good company. Well done to Northumberland and Blyth Council
Week Commencing Monday 29 August 2016
Friday 2 September 2016
- Following a relatively quiet week in Mayoral terms, this morning we travelled to Sunderland Civic Centre to join the Mayor and other Civic dignitaries from across the north east to fly the Red Ensign for Merchant Navy Day which actually falls on 3rd September. The Red Ensign or ‘Red Duster’ as it is affectionately known, has been the recognised flag of the British Merchant Navy since 1854 and great efforts are being made to have the flag recognised and flown across the country on this day, and not only in recognised port cities. Darlington followed suit and the flag was flown on the roof of the town hall. We met and chatted to former paratrooper Ted Hold, pictured with the Mayor of Sunderland Councillor Alan Emerson and me
Week Commencing 5 September 2016
Monday 5 September 2016
- This evening we presented awards to winners in the Darlington in Bloom competition at the town hall. I’m not a gardener and was hugely impressed by the photographs on display from the various categories. Clearly a huge amount of time and effort had been spent on the end result.
The categories and winners are as follows;
Best garden – Len Souter, Heron Drive, Darlington
Best yard – Diane Lambert, Farrer Street, Darlington
Best business – The Tawny Owl, Neasham Road, Darlington
Best community garden – William Maychell, Cocks Memorial Homes, Middleton St George
Best alternative garden – Kelvin Vincent, The Education Village, Darlington
The People’s Choice award – Martin Rowell, Neville Road, Darlington.
Congratulations to everyone involved!
Tuesday 6th September 2016
- Today we met members of the Darlington Breathe Easy Group at one of their regular meetings in the Copper Beech on Neasham Road. The group are supported by the British Lung Foundation and are looking for new members who could use support with their breathing difficulties. They were a very happy and cheerful group and new members are assured of a warm welcome. Further information is available from blf.org.uk/breatheeasy [external link]
- This evening we joined members of Darlington MIND for their AGM. We were very impressed at the wide variety of activities members are involved with and I was happy to present awards for a variety of achievements. Well done to everyone involved.
Wednesday 7 September 2016
- Something different this evening. We were guests of Group Captain David Bradshaw MA BSc RAF, Station Commander at RAF Leeming at an Officers’ Mess Reception and to view the capability and methods of operating of the RAF. This was a very interesting evening where we were able to talk to some very senior officers with a great deal of experience in keeping our country safe.
Friday 9 September 2016
- A very enjoyable evening listening to Ferryhill Town Band being conducted by my old friend Andrew Hall. The Mayor of Ferryhill had arranged a ‘Last Night of the Proms’ fundraising event and it was very,very good. The band were on good form and full marks to them all, but a special mention to the percussion section who were outstanding. The Mayor joined in the theme with a great looking Union Jack coat and there was plenty of flag waving and a lot of singing.
Sunday 11 September 2016
- A beautiful morning for a trip to Ripon to join the Mayor of Ripon and other civic dignitaries for a Service of Thanksgiving to Commemorate Victory in The Battle of Britain 1940. A short stroll from the town hall to the War Memorial where I laid a wreath on behalf of the Borough Council. There was a fly past by Hawks of 100 squadron – RAF Leeming. Everything was well organised by The Royal Air Force Association (Ripon & District Branch) well supported by RAF Leeming. There was also a fly past by a Spitfire from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. It seemed as if the pilot was really enjoying himself as he actually flew past four times.
- We then walked to the Cathedral where we had the great pleasure of meeting our old friend Reverend Canon John Dobson, Dean of Ripon. This was our first visit to the Cathedral and we found it to be very impressive. What was also impressive was meeting RAF Cadet Bradley Eglington from Darlington who has been selected as the Station Commanders Cadet at RAF Leeming. Bradley was accompanied by his proud granddad Alan Eglington. (See photo.).
Monday 12 September 2016
- Today we were the guests of Councillor Edward Bell who holds the posts of Chairman of Durham County Council and Mayor of the City of Durham. As far as a venue for afternoon tea goes, they don’t come any better than Durham Castle. We were in the Senate room and were entertained by pupils from the Durham School of Choristers. A really enjoyable afternoon.
- This evening I was fortunate enough to watch the Darlington Dance Festival in the Dolphin Centre. There were 18 dance groups performing and I was relived I wasn’t called upon to choose a winner. Some of the performers were unbelievably young and there were those who were more mature but who were certainly having fun. The photograph below shows the Happy Tappers who were accompanied by Cockerton Prize Silver Band.
- In the absence of the Civic Theatre due to refurbishment, it was commendable that the Dolphin Centre staff were able to stage the event in the sports hall with all the logistical challenges that go with involving so many performers, staging, sound and seating etc. So full marks to Marion Ogle and the staff at the Dolphin centre.
14 September 2016
- All Mayors try their best to raise funds for their chosen charities and other Mayors in the same area support each other. And so it was that we received an invitation from the Mayor of Barnard Castle, Councillor John Blissett to ‘play a round in Barney’. This turned out to be a friendly competition between the civic guests on the 9 hole pitch and putt course followed by a darts tournament in Barnard Castle Workingmens Club. Despite a bit of friendly ‘needle’ from some of those present, I managed to win the golf but didn’t do so well in the darts. A light-hearted and fun afternoon raised money for Councillor Blissett’s charities.
15 September 2016
- One of the joys of being Mayor is the opportunity to meet some wonderful young people from our Borough. This afternoon we were in Crown Street library presenting prizes to two such young people. Holly Raine and Alice McAdam who had entered and won a competition in connection with books by Roald Dahl. Pictured below are Holly (the tall one) and Alice. Well done girls, it was a pleasure to meet you.
Friday 16 September 2016
- Another fundraising event, this time for the Chairman of Northumberland County Council, held at Council HQ in Morpeth. This was a ceilidh with most of the civic guests, including me, not knowing which foot went where. Councillor Alan Sambrook was raising funds for the childrens’ unit at a Newcastle hospital
Saturday 17 September 2016
- This afternoon the annual scout awards took place in Durham Town Hall and I was one of several civic guests asked to present awards. Judging from the numbers present, scouting is alive and well in the north east. I presented dozens of certificates to young people who were clearly very proud of what they had achieved. It was a pleasure to be involved.
Sunday 18 September 2016
- Today we supported the Mayor of Spennymoor at his Civic Service in St Andrew’s Parish Church, Tudhoe Grange.
Wednesday 21 September 2016
- Following a couple of days tending to ward duties, tonight we held our own fundraising event in the form of a Fun Quiz Night in Sadberge village hall with a pie and pea supper, raffle and entertainment from ‘The Great North Road’. We were well supported by other Civic guests from Northumberland down to North Yorkshire and many places in between. The night was a sell out and can be considered to have been a huge success. The raffle (thanks to all who donated prizes) raised £450 and overall our charities will be boosted by almost £2,000 !! Thanks to our quizmaster Laurie Ridley, Compere Mally Schott, the band and members of the village hall association who gave their time to serve food and drink and to sell raffle tickets. It was a really great night.
Thursday 22 September 2016
- This evening we were in the town hall presenting trophies to the winners of the ‘Potatoes in a Bucket’ competition. The competition is organised by Mike Hall, a Rotary colleague and his band of helpers from HI-Grow Darlo with support from Morrisons at Morton Park who supply the buckets (thank you Rachel and Mandy). Several junior schools were involved in growing the potatoes and then a weigh in was held. It helps to show young people that potatoes do not come from a supermarket and gives them the responsibility of looking after them. The overall winner was Corporation Road School. All of the children, and most of the adults were excited and delighted to win a trophy.
- We left the town hall and travelled the short distance into town to a celebration evening at Bannatynes hotel to say thank you to Darlington’s Foster Carers, Connected Carers and Supported Lodgings Carers. We were joined by the Director for Adults and Children Suzanne Joyner and Councillor Cyndi Hughes, Cabinet member for Children and Young People. Local businesses and anonymous individuals had donated prizes for a free raffle for the carers, which was a huge success. The Family Placement Team members were also at the Thank You event and had written thank you messages to carers giving examples of how they had gone above and beyond to provide a placement for a child to stay. Through chatting to the carers we were struck by how selfless they are and what a fantastic role they have to play in our borough. They are truly very special people and it was an honour to meet them.
- There is a national shortage of foster carers and Darlington Borough Council are always looking to recruit more carers. If you would like to know more about fostering or think you could provide a home to a child or young person please ring 01325 406222 to speak to a member of the Family Placement Service.
Friday 23 September 2016
- Today we opened a new sensory garden at The Lawns Care Home where I was ably assisted by Stan, a resident. It provides residents with somewhere to sit in the sunshine, smell the variety of flowers and listen to the chimes in the breeze.
- Following a short break it was on to the Darlington Back Pain and Osteopathic Clinic. The clinic has been in the town for 25 years but has recently moved to new premises on Woodland Road. Following a short examination I discovered that, like many people, I have one leg shorter than the other!
Saturday 24 September 2016
- Tonight we were in Spennymoor to support the Mayor Derek Taylor who had arranged a concert by the Reg Vardy band. I’ve said before on this blog that I am a big fan of brass bands and this was a real treat because Reg Vardy (formerly Ever Ready) is the premier band in the north east. And we were not disappointed. But the real beauty of the evening was having some young members of the Spennymoor Town Band join in playing with Reg Vardy following some coaching during the day to seek out new talent. A young Spennymoor euphonium player performed a solo and received a standing ovation. A great night.
Sunday 25 September 2016
- Down to Ripon this morning to join the Mayor Adrian Morgan and other civic guests for a Civic Service and Harvest Festival in the Methodist Chapel. A lovely service by a Minister with a great sense of humour.
27 September 2016
- This evening we travelled to Sunderland to support the Mayor with a fundraising event at Ryhope.
28 September 2016
- This morning we were invited to open the new offices of Bellway Homes at Morton Park. They will eventually employ 30 to 40 people at the office and chose the location against stiff opposition from other areas in the North East.
- Following lunch we attended the AGM of the 700 Club, one of my four Mayoral Charities. The Club continue to perform strongly and are celebrating their 20th year of operations. It was inspiring to hear a former resident of one of the club’s properties to speak about his experience of the 700 Club from the inside. The organisation had changed him from being a chronic alcoholic into turning his life around and being able to speak in public about his former life. It was an honour to shake his hand. I was delighted to present a Darlington Borough Council shield to the 700 Club in recognition of their ongoing success.
29 September 2016
- A meeting this morning to discuss the arrangements for the Schools Eurovision Song Contest to be held next year. The contest this year was a huge success in the Civic Theatre which of course is not available at the moment. Nevertheless we are looking for potential venues and will go ahead probably in February.
- This evening I chaired the Full Council meeting in the Town Hall. The Council Chamber has been re-vamped and will be used as a wedding venue and demand is proving to be very strong. The facilities provide one of the largest venues in the north east for weddings with three rooms available with the largest room being for up to 70 guests.
Friday 30 September
- We met with members of the local Crimestoppers branch to discuss how we could enhance their publicity in Darlington. Although it’s a national charity, there are regional committees and all are volunteers. Please look out for an article in the One Darlington magazine in November.
- We then visited Durham Tees Valley Training Services at Teesside Airport. This was the first anniversary of their opening last year and they certainly have some positive and impressive key achievements since then. There is a 6 acre site with designated plant machinery, streetworks, confined spaces training area and classrooms. I was allowed to be near some of the machines, some worth many thousands of pounds, but the keys were hidden!
- This evening we were at the Lord Lieutenant’s dinner at Darlington College. Entertainment was provided by the Durham Little Band and Big Band courtesy of the Durham Music Service. Many of the players are from Darlington schools and they were brilliant. So much talent. And speaking of talent, the meal, prepared by students at the college, was superb.
Week commencing Saturday 1 October 2016
Saturday 1 October
- Today we visited the Railway Museum at Shildon where the Mayor held a civic reception. Entertainment was once again provided by the Durham Little Band and Big Band. They have no time to rest on their laurels and once again were great.
- This evening took us to Elm Ridge Church for the 50th anniversary of The Richardson Singers and their guests for the evening Northallerton Male Voice Choir. The evening was going very well until on of the ladies fell from the stage and landed very close to me. Fortunately, once we had helped her up, she appeared unhurt although I’m sure there will be some bruises as a reminder. I don’t think she appreciated my comments about her falling for me or when I said most people who want the Mayor’s attention write into the town hall. I hope she makes a full recovery.
- We discovered some vacant dates in the diary so decided to visit family in Hampshire. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed the relaxation of walking in the New Forest.
Friday 7 October
- A photo opportunity this morning to promote National Hospice week. I had to complete the phrase ‘Hospice care is….’ And chose “Precious Love”
- This evening to the Chairman’s Dinner at County Hall, Durham.
Saturday 8 October
- This morning I was welcomed by the National Conference of Women to their Annual meeting being held in Bannatynes. There were about 70 delegates spending time over the weekend debating issues of national importance with the aim of influencing national opinion.
- This evening to a very lavish affair, the St Teresa’s Hospice Ball, held in a marquee on the forecourt of Sherwoods garage! As usual, Jane Bradshaw and her staff had been very imaginative and it was very clear that a lot of time and effort had been put into arranging the night. Musicians for the first part of the evening were the Royal Northern College of Music Session band from Manchester. I’m so pleased they made the journey, absolutely brilliant. But just as good, and a long time local favourite, we also had the Dean Soloman band, sadly making one of their final few appearances.
Sunday 9 October
- Another trip down to Ripon this morning for the Mayor’s Civic Service. A further opportunity to visit this lovely town
Monday 10 October
- This evening I was a guest of the Darlington Lecture Association to hear a talk from Jackie Hyman about treasures from Ancient Egypt. Jackie clearly has an incredible amount of patience, delving deeply into the background and make up of ancient clothing.
Tuesday 11 October
- This morning we met RAF veterans at the St George Hotel who were present to see the official opening of the Bomber Command Room by Group Captain David Bradshaw, Officer Commanding at RAF Leeming. Geoff Hill has managed to amass a huge amount of memorabilia, enough to fill a room with more left in his garage to fill another room. Fortunately for Geoff, the hotel has already allocated a larger room so he can expand and hopefully remove the Heinkel engine he has in his lounge!
- Straight to Corporation Road school where we had the pleasure of announcing the School Council, followed by the Head and Deputy Head Girl and Boy. The excitement among the pupils was amazing with every appointment greeted with loud cheers. A thoroughly enjoyable time.
- As a member of County Durham and Darlington Combined Fire Authority and as a former long serving police traffic officer, I have seen at first hand many times the kind of work carried out on almost a daily basis by our firefighters. This evening I was present at the long service awards ceremony in the historic Durham Town Hall to see firefighters presented with 20 and 30 year service awards. This was a very proud moment for them and their families, because this was a family affair and Stuart Errington, the Chief Fire Officer made it clear that family support is essential. We were also privileged to have Lord Lieutenant Sue Snowden present.
Wednesday 12 October
- The Army Reserve centre on Neasham Road hosted a coffee morning in aid of Macmillan Nurses this morning. It was very well attended by veterans, members from Age UK and Public Service Students from Darlington College. The food on offer was irresistible and delicious. I’m at the stage now, 5 months into my Mayoral year, where I’m having to keep a close watch on my weight!
Thursday 13 October
- Time off from Mayoral duties today, but still ward work to be carried out. This morning I hosted the Credit Union in Sadberge village hall and this afternoon a meeting in the town hall to discuss the large number of planning applications for the ward in Middleton St George.
Friday 14 October
- We visited the recently opened Police Headquarters in Durham for the launch of ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ week and were joined by former Suderland footballers Kevin Ball and Gary Bennett. Some of the research carried out by this organisation was quite worrying with young children showing very strong racist tendencies.
- This evening it was off to the Family Help Ball at the Kings Hotel in town. This is the 40th anniversary of the organisation being formed and they have made great strides. (See also our attendance at their AGM later).
Saturday 15 October
- A non mayoral duty this morning at the Community Fire Station on the outskirts of Durham. As a member of the Combined Fire Authority for County Durham and Darlington I’m always delighted to attend functions to support our firefighters. Today was the official opening of the Chris Scott Search and Mountain Rescue Centre, part of a collaboration project between the Fire Authority, the Office of the Police, Crime and Victims Commissioner and the North east Ambulance Service. The centre is named after Chris Scott who was a founder member of the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team and dedicated 40 years to the service as a volunteer.
- This morning we were guests at the AGM of Family Help in Darlington. It is celebrating 40 years of helping women who have gone through traumatic times and included thanks to volunteers such as Sue Degnan who has been working there for 30 years. There were also moving stories from women who had turned up at the refuge, originally called the battered wives home, and who said the refuge had saved their life, got them back on track and who were now leading happy and successful lives. It’s sad that we need such organisations but it’s good that they exist.
Thursday 20 October
- A visit to Darlington College today to meet students who will be designing posters and menus for my Mayoral Ball in April next year. As a former police office I’ve chosen the theme of ‘Cops and Robbers’ and have given the students a free rein with a request to inject some humour. I look forward to re-visiting to see what they have come up with.
- Tonight we supported the Mayor of Newton Aycliffe at a fund raising event in the Pheonix club.
Friday 21 October
- A night of fun and games playing 10 pin bowling at South Shields tonight. It’s not as game I’ve played very often, and it showed! But an enjoyable evening and more charitable funds for the South Tyneside Mayor’s charities.
Saturday 22 October
- And now for something completely different! This morning we visited Yarm Fair where we took a ride in a trailer being towed by a steam engine. We rode around Yarm and stopped several times for the Mayor of Yarm to read out a declaration. Very interesting.
- This evening we joined the Mayor of Hartlepool Cllr Rob Cook and his Mayoress Brenda for the Mayor’s Civic dinner.
Monday 24 October
- This evening we watched the Darlington Operatic Society’s version of Monty Python’s ‘Spamalot’. It was brilliant - very funny and incredibly professional. The whole production including lighting and sound was first class.
Wednesday 26 October
- Today we launched the 2016 Poppy Appeal in the Town Hall where we welcomed members of the Royal British Legion and service veterans. We are of course proud to be associated with the poppy appeal and will be collecting on High Row. Darlington people are always very generous with their donations and I’m sure this year will be no different.
- This evening we held our own fund raising event in Middleton hall Retirement Village at Middleton St George. The event was well supported by other civic guests and local friends who were treated to an excellent meal cooked by the resident chefs and entertainment provide by the Seasonal Singers. They are a group of Teesside entertainers who donate all their earnings to charity. The evening was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
Thursday 27 October
- This morning it was my turn to host the Credit Union outreach in Sadberge village hall.
- This evening I visited the ‘Top Deck’ drop in centre for young people run for the past 26 years by Morag Coates was Citizen of the Year last year and from I saw of what she does it was well deserved.
Friday 28 October
- I’m not a gambler and tonight was the first time I have been to a casino. The Mayor of Stockton Cllr Ken Dixon and his Mayoress Linda had organised a casino night to raise funds for their charities. It was an enjoyable fun night but I wasn’t tempted to go anywhere near the roulette etc.
Saturday 29 October
- This morning we attended The Dedication of the Field of Remembrance in Saltwell Park, Gateshead. This is a regional event and was attended by Civic dignitaries from across the north east. Hundreds of Remembrance Crosses has been placed and more were added by the Mayors.
- This afternoon we attended a further Dedication of the Field of Remembrance in the grounds of the Memorial Hospital
- And then this evening up to Ferryhill for the Mayor’s Charity Quiz. We teamed up with the Mayor and Mayoress of Stockton and the Chairman and wife of Durham County Council. We didn’t win but neither did we disgrace ourselves. I think the real brains of the outfit were missing – the Mayor and Mayoress of Hartlepool. We still believe there was something suspicious about the Mayor of Ferryhill wining his own quiz!!
Sunday 30 October
- I don’t think we benefited from the extra hour sleep as we travelled to Sunderland for the Mayor’s Civic Service.
Monday 31 October
- Back to Middleton Hall this morning to judge the pumpkin and fancy dress competitions. They never make thing easy here and there were some excellent creations. But I had to bite the bullet and make decisions. Another very enjoyable duty.
- Today was a very important day for those who were attending the Citizenship ceremony in the town hall. Many of them said it was the most important day of their life. They were given a very warm welcome by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant Professor Pali Hungin who himself had come to Great Britain from another country 45 years ago. This is a quite short but hugely enjoyable ceremony and those taking part all want to have a photograph with the Mayor in his robes. Of course I’m more than happy to oblige.
Week commencing Tuesday 1 November 2016
Tuesday 1 November
- ‘Ingenious Darlington’ was launched this evening. What is it? To put it simply, it’s a place brand for Darlington. It’s a branding that all Darlington organisations can use, to say “we’re Darlington and we’re proud of it” Find out more from; www.ingeniousdarlington.co.uk
Wednesday 2 November
- A visit to the Pheonix Centre at Catterick Garrison was a real eye opener. The centre or Personal Recovery Unit to use its correct name, is run jointly by the Army and the charity ‘Help for Heroes’. The comprehensive programme carried out for those service personnel who are wounded, injured or sick is very impressive. The staff running the Unit are totally dedicated to the rehabilitation of personnel.
Thursday 3 November
- This evening we joined former boxing world champion Stuart Hall to open the ‘Corporate Personal Fitness’ centre in Central Park. The business trains personal fitness trainers to be used by companies ‘in house’ to keep personnel in good shape. Apparently this kind of thing is very big in America.
Friday 4 November
- Visited Polam Hall school this morning where we distributed poppies to pupils and staff.
- After lunch we met pupils from Abbey school at the Field of Remembrance at Darlington Memorial Hospital. The pupils had made some small crosses which were planted in the field.
- This evening we were guests at a Remembrance Service in St Cuthbert’s Church. Sadly it was one of the final services to be conducted by Reverend Robert Williamson before he leaves for pastures new. Robert will be taking up a new role in North Yorkshire which will include being Chaplain to North Yorkshire Police. We wish him the very best for the future. The bright side is that his wife Sheilagh will be keeping her work going in Darlington, including of course the role of my Mayoral Chaplain. The concert was excellent with music from Hurworth Concert Band & Choir, Aycliffe Pipes and Drums and the Bugles of Borneo Band Durham ACF.
Saturday 5 November
- A coffee morning in the town centre today in support of the Darlington and District Talking Newspaper. Apparently I will be doing some reading for listeners in the near future.
Monday 7 November.
- Last year the Mayor Cllr Tom Nutt arranged a schools’ Eurovision Song Contest in which 23 Darlington schools took part. It was hugely successful and so we persuaded the main organiser, Abbey headteacher Peter King to do it again this year. So this afternoon we met with representatives from those schools taking part to carry out the draw for which country they would represent. I think Mr King had used a bit of artistic licence by including Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the draw! Nevertheless, I’m sure it will be a great evening on February 10th in the Dolphin Centre and I’m really looking forward to it.
Tuesday 8 November
- It’s not every day you get to meet someone who is 100 years old. This morning I met Maurice Binks who was celebrating his 100th birthday, and with impeccable timing, the postman arrived at the same time as me with a card from Her Majesty the Queen. The lounge was festooned with cards and photographs including some from the time Mr Binks spent in the Royal Air Force. Mr Binks was in good spirits and asked me if I wanted something a bit stronger than a cup of tea. As it was still only 10-30 am I declined his kind offer.
Wednesday 9 November
- Today we travelled to Durham for lunch with members of the Northern region of the Showman’s Guild of Great Britain. The Guild represents the people who provide the ‘shows’ in our towns, and seemed to me to be a very close knit group of families who have been in the business many, many years. A very enjoyable day.
Thursday 10 November
- The Lord mayor of Newcastle upon Tyne held an afternoon tea in the Mansion House in the town to celebrate 800 years of the Newcastle Mayoralty. The Mansion House is a grand building which is the official residence of the Lord Mayor, although I don’t think the present Lord Mayor actually lives there. I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to John Grundy who used to present a programme on local TV called ‘Grundy’s Wonders’. He would look at a variety of land mark buildings across the north east and those he didn’t like he would ‘demolish’. If I remember correctly, one of the buildings he ‘demolished’ was Darlington Town Hall!!
Friday 11 November
- I was amazed at the number of people who turned out for the 2 minutes silence which we observed on High Row at the 11 hour on the 11 day of the 11 month to remember those who lost their lives in conflicts. The silence was meticulously observed and I was very proud to be involved as the Mayor. We then went to the Cornmill where students from Darlington College gave a wonderful rendition of ‘Silent Night’, where they began singing in various parts of the centre, all coming together for the finale. The effect was very moving. Students had also built a model of the town clock (see photo) and surrounded the base with poppies. The event, which is new in the annual calendar was organised by the Royal British Legion and Age UK Darlington. A memorable morning.
Saturday 12 November
- This morning we were rehearsing for the Church Service and Remembrance Parade to be held tomorrow. We then moved on to High Row for 3 hours to sell poppies. It wasn’t too cold but we were grateful to the staff in the Virgin Bank for a warm up and a cuppa. Then onto the Darlington Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society late show to present prizes. There were some beautiful blooms on display and a good array of trophies for the various classes. We then had a couple of hours break before going to Polam Hall school for the final of the ‘Young Musician of the Year’ contest. The contest had been going on for most of the day with a number of heats culminating in the 50 competitors being reduced to 9 finalists performing for the winner’s trophy. The contest is in its 23rd year and is sponsored by the Rotary clubs of Darlington and Northallerton. Congratulations to Rotarian Alan Charlton who has been involved for most of those years but who wasn’t able to be there because of poor health. All the best Alan and hope to see you up and about soon The ages of the finalists ranged from 9 to 15 and the standard of playing was incredibly good. We were entertained by piano, violin and clarinet. In the end a clarinet player won. I was joined by Chris Wiper, President of the Rotary Club of Darlington and Chris Widdowson, President of the Rotary Club of Northallerton to present certificates and prizes to all finalists and then to the winner Anika Schwarze-Chintapatla. Another wonderful example of the talents of our young people
Sunday 13 November
- For me, this was going to be the biggest day of my Mayoral year so far. We paraded the short distance from Walkington House into Holy Trinity Church for the Remembrance Day Service. The Church was packed, and I have to admit, that because I would be doing a Reading, I was a little nervous. The Service was ably conducted by The Venerable Nick Barker, Archdeacon of Auckland and Priest in Charge of Holy Trinity and I began to feel a bit more comfortable. I think the Reading went well, there were certainly no major mistakes so that was the first hurdle dealt with. Following the Service we paraded outside the Church and marched with the Army and lots of other groups, behind Cockerton Band, to the Cenotaph in the grounds of the Memorial hospital. I couldn’t believe the number of people lining the route and the huge crowds at the Cenotaph. I’ve been going to this event for 20 years and this was the largest number I have seen. I have to confess to feeling incredibly proud to be there wearing the Mayoral robes as the First Citizen of the Borough and to see the huge support from the people of Darlington. The Act of Remembrance at the Cenotaph went like clockwork and I got over the next hurdle of laying the first wreath without falling over the robes while stepping backwards from the steps. We were then rewarded with a visit to Neasham Road Reservist Centre where we were guests of 50 (Northern) Signals Squadron for lunch. However, we weren’t yet finished, and moved on to West Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Memorial there. This was organised by the Royal British Legion and is not widely known about, but the service was just as poignant as the main service.
16 November 2016
- One of my Mayoral charities is Breathe Easy Darlington, an offshoot of the British Lung Foundation. This morning we joined members of the group in the Dolphin centre where they were offering members of the public the opportunity to take a breath test to measure their breathing strength. The exercise was very popular with lots of people either curious and some who were concerned about their health. I volunteered to be tested and fortunately produced a normal reading. I found one of the T shirts worn by a lady member to be quite amusing, if a little risqué. It said ‘I want big breaths’!
- During the afternoon we visited Abbey school where some of the children presented poems and readings about the Great War. They were very good and followed on with a question and answer session where I was asked dozens of questions.
- This evening back to ward work and a visit to Bishopton Parish Council.
17 November 2016
- This evening we travelled to a very cold South Shields to join the Mayor and Mayoress to switch on the Christmas lights. There was a large crowd watching, and although the music etc. was very loud the lights were very impressive.
18 November 2016
- A more informal evening spent at the home of our Lord Lieutenant Sue Snowden. Sue is a wonderful ambassador for the area, and although this evening was about thanking local Mayors for the work they do, the real work year after year is carried out by Sue
19 November 2016
- It was lovely this morning to see some of the young children of Sadberge dressed as Saxons as part of their gardening project to build and run a Saxon farm in the village. This is a great idea run by Pat Lloyd and Victoria Vickers which gives children an insight into our history while teaching them practical gardening facts.
- Then straight over to Middleton hall retirement Village for their Christmas Fair. They don’t do things by half at Middleton Hall and the place was beautifully decorated with a vast array of stalls. We couldn’t resist buying some of the freshly baked bread made on the premises.
2 November 2016
- Earlier in the year we had visited the Darlington and District Talking Newspaper and I promised to return to record a Mayoral Christmas message for readers. We did this in the form of a question and answer session and Pat Walker was very gentle with me, asking questions that I hope will entertain readers over Christmas.
Tuesday 22 November
- A non-mayoral day today including a trip to Durham to attend a meeting of the County Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Panel. We were given a very interesting talk on the history of Durham Constabulary, much of which I knew being a former serving officer, but something which I enjoyed nevertheless.
Wednesday 23 November 2016
- We seem to be seeing a lot of South Shields this year and we were there again tonight for a Mediterranean themed night raising funds for the Mayor’s charities.
Thursday 24 November 2016
- Another trip to Durham this morning, this time for a meeting of the County Durham and Darlington Combined Fire Authority. Before the meeting proper started, we gathered with members of the HQ staff and family members of two employees who were receiving commendations for their good work. One was for a control room operator who kept calm and dealt with a very distressed lady who was trapped in her house by a fire. The second was to a firefighter who, whilst off duty, saved the life of a small child who had stopped breathing following an accident. I love going to this kind of event because the awards are so deserved.
- This evening I had a briefing and then chaired the full meeting of the council.
Friday 25 November
- The Army benevolent Fund is known as the Soldiers’ Charity and this evening we supported a fund raising event being held in the Spa Hotel in Ripon.
Saturday 26 November 2016
- This morning we opened a newly built ‘village’ at National Window Systems whom have produced a purpose built showroom to exhibit products to their best advantage.
- No official duties tonight but we were still out and about, this time at the Christmas Dinner Dance in Sadberge village hall. It’s always a lovely event but was somehow muted this year, probably because Mally Schott was missing until very late in the evening. Mally is a good compere and usually reserves some barbed comments for residents of Middleton St George i.e. us!
Sunday 27 November 2016
- Down to Ripon again tonight for the Advent Carol Service in the Cathedral. It’s always a pleasure to see John Dobson who seems to be very much at home in his role of Canon. A lot of the service was held in candlelight and was very atmospheric.
Monday 28 November 2016
- This evening was something totally different. Carmel College is the base for the Archimedes NE Maths Hub which is promoting excellence in maths teaching in the Durham and Tees Valley region. We were there to welcome teachers from Shanghai who are here to share best practice with the aim of updating schools with the latest teaching strategies from around the world and to ensure that the UK is able to compete on the global stage.
- Back to Durham this evening to a branch meeting of the National Association of Retired Police Officers (NARPO) of which I’m a member. It was good to see some of my old colleagues again and to talk to them about my role in public life since retiring from the service.
Tuesday 29 November
- This morning I popped into Wilton house retirement home for coffee and a chat to residents. One lady was 102 and was as bright as a button. She couldn’t stay for long because she had an appointment with the hairdresser. I also met Brian who is a former member of the Darlington Lions Club, something he was obviously very proud of.
- Another visit to South Shields tonight for the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. We were in the Custom House building, a small but very pleasant theatre and a very good show. It’s difficult to believe that, at 70 years old this was my first ever pantomime. Oh yes it was!!
30 November 2016.
- This evening we visited Richmond Town Hall to witness the Freedom of Richmond bestowed upon Mrs Carol Gedye. From the information available it soon became clear that Mrs Gedye has been working hard over a number of years in community activities and was credited with forming the WAGS choir that was made famous by Gareth Malone on TV. Mrs Gedye expressed her surprise and delight at the honour, especially since she originates from Lancashire.
Week commencing Thursday 1 December 2016
1 December 2016
- We were delighted this morning to receive guests from Middleton Hall Retirement Village to visit the Mayor’s Parlour. Our Mayoral Support Officer David Allaway gave an informative talk on the history of Darlington and of the Mayoral role in the town and showed them the council chamber, now a wedding venue. And then a look into the parlour with plenty of opportunities for photographs.
- This evening we visited Greater Willington Town Council to join other civic dignitaries for a carol concert at Willington Open Door Methodist Church. The Church was almost new and very modern, making it warm and cosy on a cold night. We then made our way to the Town Green where the Christmas tree lights were switched on.
2 December 2016
- It’s definitely beginning to feel like Christmas now and today we were in Stockton Parish Church with the Mayor and Mayoress Ken and Linda Dixon for their Christmas Carol Concert. The church was packed with hundreds of school children all with a role to play either reading or singing. And they were all very good. One of the highlights for us however was to discover that the Priest-in –Charge is Reverend Mark Miller. Mark is a former resident of our village of Middleton St George and worked with us for a time as a member of the parish council. Mark seemed very much at home during an excellent and well organised service and we’re told he is doing a great job.
- This evening off to Spennymoor to join the Mayor and other civic guests at a civic dinner. We enjoyed chatting to members of their Youth Council who were all very enthusiastic about their role. Who knows, a future MP or two?
4 December 2016
- Now I know it’s getting close to Christmas. This morning I joined Jane Bradshaw to set off the St Teresa’s Hospice Santa run. There were 340 entrants and I was there to present medals to every one of them at the end
- Then on to Barnard Castle for ‘Barney Celebrates Christingle’ in St. Mary’s Parish Church. Another full house and some lovely singing from the ‘Christingle Choir’ from Green Lane CE School.
- And to round off the day a Flower Festival of Carols at Holy Trinity in Darlington to celebrate the work recently carried out to improve the church facilities. There were some wonderful flower displays and we were treated to a performance from the U3A Handbell Ringers.
5 December 2016
- Today we met with James Edwards from the Darlington Breathe easy Group which is one of my Mayoral charities. James and his colleagues have decided to organise an event to raise funds for my charities and we look forward to attending the event in the new year.
- This afternoon we hosted a visit to the town hall by German students from Bremen. They are all carrying out work experience in Darlington during their two week stay. I was caught a little bit off guard when we decided to do a question and answer session. The first question was ’What do you think of Brexit’? I got the clear impression they think we are mad for leaving the EU.
6 December 2016
- Today we had lunch with members of the Darlington Breathe Easy group, one of my charities. It was a very relaxed and informal event without the mayoral chains spent in good, friendly company.
- This evening we were back out with the chains to a civic carol service in St. Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield. It was a wet and miserable night outside but we were soon cheered up by the lovely singing from pupils of Hardwick Primary school and Sedgefield Primary school.
- We travelled to the Further Education College in Hartlepool today as a follow up to the event we attended in Carmel College on 28th November. This was a Primary Mathematics Open Classroom Event attended by about 50 teachers from the north east to see how maths is taught in Shanghai. As part of a teacher exchange programme guest teachers from Shanghai were taking the lesson and the Year 2 and year 6 pupils were from Eldon Grove Academy in Hartlepool. I was with the Mayor of Hartlepool and I’m not sure how much our education was improved, but it was good to experience mathematics teaching ‘Shanghai style’. Thanks to Peng Yu-Yun and Huang Wei Yi (I think she’s a Geordie!)
- This morning we were in St Cuthbert’s Church for the Polam Hall school Service of Nine Lessons and Carols for Christmas. It’s very easy to sing out loud, even with my voice, when there is the support of such a good choir and organist. Thoroughly enjoyable.
- We just had time to travel to County Hall at Durham for the Chairman’s Christmas concert. Music was provided by the Durham Music Service brass band and choir, and as always, they were really good. There was also the bonus of some bell ringers. I noticed that several of the young people were multi-tasking, going from one activity to the other, singing and playing. I don’t think any of the civic guests expected to be taking part in the concert, but several of us joined in a fun version of the 12 days of Christmas followed by the opportunity to show off our musical skills playing a selection of instruments. It was great fun and clearly enjoyed by the Lord Lieutenant and the Chairman of the County Council.
- This evening it was off to The Forum Music centre in Darlington for a Christmas Celebration Concert to raise funds for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. The event was organised by vocal coach Claire Wilmmer and featured local singers and dancers. I was amazed at the confidence of all of them, but especially the younger ones who were able to go on stage in front of a full house without, it seemed, a second thought. During the interval I spoke to a little girl called Amber who was with her mother Fiona Thomas. Amber seemed to be disappointed that she wasn’t performing but was looking forward to hearing her mum sing. I suggested that perhaps she could dance alongside her mum and she did just that! No rehearsal, just straight onto the stage. Brilliant! I hope the heart unit fund is a lot better off. Thank you Claire.
- So, a day full of music and laughter. What’s not to like about being the Mayor of Darlington?
- The Mayor of Shildon, Trish Pemberton had arranged a fundraising event in the Civic Hall in the form of a party night. It was very well attended with a lovely pre-party meal and entertainment to follow and was well supported by fellow Civic guests.
- A relatively early start to travel to North Shields to visit the Christmas Market. There were more than 100 stalls selling just about everything, especially in the food and drink line, and following a short Christmas service we had time to wander around and spend.
- We’re now into the Christmas Carol scene, and today we first went to the Spennymoor service in the town hall. The service was compered by a Salvation Army officer who was very funny and kept things ticking along nicely. Entertainment and musical support was provide by Sunderland and Monkwearmouth Young People’s Band, Whitworth Park School Band, Rosa Street Primary School choir and the Rainbow Singers.
- This was followed by the Shildon Civic carol Service organised by ‘Churches Together in Shildon’. Music was provided by Shildon Salvation Army Band.
Monday 12 December
- The Darlington 21st Allstars Junior football team are raising funds to compete in a tournament in Barcelona in 2017. I had been asked if I would be interviewed as part of a programme called ‘North East Sport’ to be broadcast on Sky later in the week. I was asked if, as the Mayor of Darlington I supported Darlington FC. Without even thinking (a big mistake) I was honest and said that I actually prefer rugby. I hoped they might have edited it out but I understand it was kept in. Sorry Darlo fans.
- In the evening it was off to the carol Service at Ferryhill at St Luke’s Parish Church. Valued musical support was from Ferryhill Town Band.
Tuesday 13 December
- Carol’s for Kids was held in St Cuthbert’s Church and is a competition in which schools from around the town have to write alternative words to a well known carol, on this occasion ‘We three Kings’. I was one of the Judges alongside Peter Barron and Marion Ogle from the town hall. There was some seriously good singing and we eventually decided on St. Mary’s Cockerton CE Primary School Choir.
Wednesday 14 December
- As a member of the Rotary Club of Darlington I will be out and about on 7 January collecting Christmas trees to raise funds for St Teresa’s Hospice. People pay to have their old tree collected, I just hope it will be drier than last year. It rained heavily all day and we were thoroughly soaked. But back to today. I visited Croft Christmas trees for a photo shoot to publicise the event. Incidentally, last year we raised around £6,000. Arrange to have your tree collected by ringing 01325 254321 or register and pay online at www.darlingtonhospice.org.uk [external link] Please book by noon on 5 January 2017.
Thursday 15 December
- This morning we visited Darlington College to judge the student designs for the Mayor’s ball. We were accompanied by Rob Maxey, Chairman of Ernest Bennett & Co. who will be sponsoring the ball. The quality of the work by the students was brilliant with some clever twists on the theme of ‘Cops and Robbers’. We eventually chose a design by 16 yrs old Maisie Humphries of Richmond. Rob Maxey very kindly offered Maisie a £50 voucher for any shop she wanted, but instead, Maisie asked that the money be donated to Cancer research. What a lovely gesture and not one that many young people would have thought of.
Above are: Students Mark Stoker, Maisie Humphries, Nathan Oliver, Rob Maxey chairman of Ernest Bennett’s with Mayor and Mayoress Brian and Doris Jones
- Then on to Sir ED Walker Homes to join in their Carol concert. Everyone is so friendly here and keen to meet the Mayor.
- This evening we were at All Saints and Salutation Church at Blackwell for the 25th Annual Darlington Service Clubs Carol Service. This is an opportunity for various groups from around the town to get together at Christmas and includes Rotary, Lions, Round Table, Soroptimists and inner Wheel. All supported by lovely people who give up their valuable free time to help others. I read the first lesson, but I have to say, despite all the carol singing practice, I’m not getting any better. Entertainment was provided by soloist Val MacConachie accompanied by Sarah Harland. All saints is a lovely very modern church with a feeling of spaciousness and would I’m sure be a great venus for a brass band.
Friday 16 December
- Another visit to Abbey school this morning for their Carol concert. We were met by Head teacher Mrs McCue, who seems to have some kind of magic wand that keeps the pupils so well behaved.
- I often pass the Centre for Visual Arts on Yarm Road and this morning we had the opportunity to take a look inside. We were guided by Bonnie Davies, clearly an extremely enthusiastic worker determined to keep funding going to keep the place up and running. There was a multitude of things going on including a variety of stalls with people selling their own jewellery and fancy goods. Other activities such as art and pottery are also available.
- This evening we were in Hartlepool at the Borough Hall for a concert by the Hartlepool Male Voice Choir. We had received an invitation from our good friend Cllr Rob Cook the Mayor of Hartlepool. The choir is some 50 to 60 strong and were very good.
Saturday 17 December
- I was back with the 21 Allstars football team in the indoor market to draw the raffle for their fundraising efforts for the trip to Barcelona. They had obviously been working hard and had a good variety of prizes on offer.
- I moved on the Library to present prizes to the winner of a Christmas painting competition. The winners were presented with a goodie bag containing a good variety of books.
- This evening was the Christmas Cracker concert at the Education Village. This concert is organised to raise funds for St Teresa’s Hospice and all musicians and singers are from across the Tees Valley. And what a treat it was! Everything was done so professionally to an almost capacity audience. Brilliant!
Sunday 18 December.
- A show called ‘Thank you for the Music’ at the Forum music centre in aid of ‘Make a wish’ and ‘contact a family’. An array of local and fairly young talent who take to the stage with so much confidence. I understand over £5,000 was raised on the day.
- Then there was a first visit for me to Sunderland Minster for the Mayor’s Christmas Carol Service.
Monday 19 December.
- This evening we joined our good friends the Mayor and Mayoress of Hartlepool Councillor Rob Cook and his wife Brenda for their Civic Carol Service in St John Vianney Church.
Tuesday 20 December.
- To the Mayor’s Christmas Carol Concert at great Aycliffe.
Wednesday 21 December.
- A somewhat earlier start than I’ve been used to for a while to be at the Royal Mail Sorting Office in Darlington for 7-30am. A very interesting hour seeing just how our post ends up through letter boxes.
Thursday 22nd December.
- A visit to Durham this morning for a meeting of the Fire Authority. Then in to the covered market to draw the free raffle for a wide variety of prizes donated by local businesses.
Friday 23 December.
- A non-Mayoral Christmas lunch with Rotary colleagues in the central hall of the Dolphin Centre. Graeme and staff always serve up a good meal.
Monday 26 December.
- Following a couple of days of respite, it was off to Seaton Carew to take part in the Boxing Day dip to raise funds for my Mayoral charities. It seemed to be a good idea when I came up with it in May, but the reality was now hitting home. The weather was fine and dry with some sunshine but the wind was bitterly cold especially since I was wearing my thin ‘Mayor of Darlington’ T shirt. My Fire Officer friends Stuart Errington and Colin Bage had kindly loaned me a pair of thick fire fighting trousers which were fine until I went into the water when they became waterlogged. The real challenge was the long walk back along the seafront to the registration point to get dried and changed. I set a target of £1,000 and at the moment the total has reached about £800.
- No engagements now until 4 January so I would like to use this opportunity to wish everybody a healthy and happy 2017.