August Mayoral Musings
On Friday 2nd August I greeted representatives from the Paul Lavelle Foundation as they were cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats. The Foundation was set up in memory of their friend, Paul Lavelle, who died as a direct result of domestic abuse. The purpose of the bike ride was to raise awareness that men are on the receiving end of domestic abuse as well as women and children. Paul's son, Joe, presented me with a glass plaque engraved with 'In Friendship and Remembrance' which is displayed in the cabinet in the Reception office at the Town Council. Domestic abuse can affect anyone, be it physical, emotional or psychological and happens behind closed doors. If you identify with this in any way, then please do get in touch with Splitz Support Services who can help you. Their website is www.splitz.org/devon.
Thursday 8th August saw me at the 112th Okehampton Show as a guest of the President. For the last 111 years, the Town Mayor has traditionally opened the Show at 12 noon wearing the full civic regalia and supported by the Mace Bearers, Town Clerk and Town Councillors. After last year's Show, the Show Committee took the decision to no longer have an official opening ceremony so things were different this year. As the current holder of the Mayoral office, I should really like to pay tribute to all the past and present Councillors who have supported the Show so faithfully over the years. Of course, many of our current Councillors were at the Show in a personal capacity, taking their turn on the many local Charity stands as they have always done. Big congratulations to the Show Committee as the day was a huge success with lots of livestock, trade stands and plenty of local people and visitors alike - and the rain held off! There were two free shuttle buses running up from the Town Centre which really helped with the traffic.
On Monday 12th August I was privileged to meet a couple who had travelled to Okehampton with the sole intention of donating a clock that has been in their families' possession for a very long time to the town. The clock itself was made in 1728 by John Knottle who lived in Okehampton between 1723 and 1728. It is engraved with 'Oakehampton' on it. Much as we would have loved to have taken a photo of the presentation and put it into the paper, the donors were very clear that they wished to remain anonymous and this will be respected. The clock itself will be hung in the Chamber for visitors to see. It works and, when wound, chimes on every hour. Interestingly enough, it was built with an hour hand only. I am so very grateful for the generosity of the donors who simply wanted to see it returned to its home town.
I try to support as many Coffee Mornings in the town as I can on Saturdays. I was at the Community Archive one on the 10th and the Okehampton Carnival one on the 17th - both in the Charter Hall. At the same time, there was a Coffee Morning at Fairplace in aid of the Okehampton Branch of Cancer Research UK so, if you saw me dashing through town that morning, that is the reason why!
On Friday 23rd August I went along to the awards ceremony for Adventure 7. This was run by Adventure Okehampton, funded by Okehampton United Charities and organised by Okehampton Rotary - a truly community affair. The young people who attend are from Okehampton College and in Year 7. They get involved in all kinds of activities over a five-day period such as cycling; canoeing; gorge scrambling; high ropes and walking on the moor. They had a fantastic time and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
On Thursday 29th August the Shropshire Fiddlesticks performed a free public concert in the bandstand in the park. They are an Award winning Youth Folk Fiddle Band and my word, can they play! Every toe was tapping along and the music was very lively. The repertoire varied from Irish Jigs to Scottish Reels and French Ballads and pretty much everything in between!
Mayoral Musings for July
The Policy & Resources Committee has the privilege of awarding grants to local community organisations that benefit people who live in Okehampton. We live in a very rural area and have a wonderful network of volunteers who give up their time, energy and skills for the benefit of the community. By providing grants, the Town Council is thrilled to be able to play some part in supporting those groups. On Monday 1st July I was delighted to present the Manager of The Museum of Dartmoor Life with a grant to go towards their community activities and the running of the Visitor Information Centre.
The Mayor is traditionally invited to hold the position of President of the Okehampton Friendly Circle. They meet on the first Tuesday in the month and had their AGM on 2nd July which I was unable to attend due to a prior engagement. The Deputy Mayor, Cllr Michael Ireland, stepped in and did an excellent job. I understand that he discovered he had a hidden talent for playing Bingo!
One Sunday early in July, I popped across to Great Torrington as an invited guest to the Mayor's Civic Service. It was held in the recently re-furbished Town & Community Hall and was a lovely afternoon. When attending Civic Functions outside of their home towns, all Mayors wear their official chains which requires a substantial jacket to pin them on to as they are rather heavy. Whilst this lovely summer sunshine is glorious, it does make it rather hot! Did you know that a group of Mayors is collectively known as the "Chain Gang"? A couple of days later, I was invited to join the Mayor of Holsworthy in celebrating the St Peter's Fair which included the annual "Pretty Maid" Ceremony followed by a very welcome bite to eat and then it was a quick dash back to Okehampton to go along to the AGM of Tor Support Services. They are a remarkable charity that provide free counselling services to the young people who attend Okehampton Primary and College.
Thursday 11th July saw me at an incredible Art Exhibition at The Museum of Dartmoor Life. Some very, very talented children from Okehampton Primary School are holding an exhibition called "Floral Wonder". It runs from 11th July to 1st September and I thoroughly recommend a visit. The standard is amazingly high and the creativity and skill is phenomenal. The following Wednesday, I went along to the Cream Tea in the Charter Hall in aid of Cancer Research UK. What a wonderful team of volunteers who served the teas. All their hard work paid off with the enormous sum of £200 being raised - a huge thank you to everyone involved.
Mayoral Musings for July (2)
My next event was attending the Okehampton & District Community Transport AGM. They do wonderful work in providing transport for those who are unable to drive or use public transport. They are always looking for more volunteer drivers, so if this is something you think you could do, please do give them a shout. In the evening, I was invited to be the guest speaker at Okehampton Rotary Club. Again, this is another fantastic organisation in the town that does so much in terms of fundraising and support to other local groups.
We are all very much aware that there is a Climate crisis and Okehampton is no exception. On Tuesday 23rd July, there was a public meeting in the Ockment Centre called "Climate Crisis - what can we do?" This was called by a group of like-minded volunteers who are extremely concerned about the environment and it was very well attended. Okehampton Town Council has signed up to the Devon Climate Declaration and will be seeking to work with others on this vitally important matter. The Council itself has been taking steps over the last couple of years to identify and reduce its own carbon footprint and to work in a more environmentally friendly way and will continue to do so.
The Mayor sits on various trustee boards within the town as part of the role. The Charities of Holditch & Others, an ancient local charity within the town, has met its aims and objectives so the decision had been taken earlier in the year to wind the Charity up. On Wednesday 24th July the Okehampton Times came along to take a photo of the final presentation of cheques to those organisations who would benefit from the final grants. Congratulations to the Okehampton & District Community Transport Group; Age UK; Tor Support Services and Okehampton College who were the recipients.
My final event for July was attending the Bideford Regatta as the guest of the Mayor. The weather was glorious and it was lovely to be able to spend a rare afternoon sitting and watching the boats go by. Having said that, one or two hats blew off in the breeze and went into the river much to the amusement of the passers-by. They were all safely rescued with no harm done to the wildlife, hats or humans!
I had a meeting with the Plume of Feathers who are looking to put on a Folk Evening as a fundraiser for OkePADS on 2nd November. It has been fantastic to have so much support for the Mayor's Charity and it looks like it will be an exciting evening. More details to follow!
June Mayoral Musings
On Saturday 1st June, I was privileged to be invited to the Rotary Club of Okehampton President's Dinner. The speaker was Mr David Lemon who spoke about his adventures walking along the length of the Zambezi river travelling through Zambia, Angola and Mozambique. He is the first person in recorded history to make that particular walk which is 2000 miles long and both the obstacles he faced in terms of his personal health and the support he received from local people along the way were truly amazing. There was a raffle for the outgoing President's chosen charities for the year which are Children's Hospice South West and Hospiscare.
The following day I was invited to a Ten Tors post event lunch at Okehampton Battle Camp where I met representatives from all the different organisations who work so hard to make Ten Tors such a success. 2020 will be the 60th Anniversary of Ten Tors and the organisers are very keen to hear from anyone who was involved in the early days. If this was you, then please do get in touch with them. The email address is SWHQ-TenTors-MAILBOX@mod.uk .
On Wednesday 5th June I attended the Introduction Ceremony for the new Mayor at Northam Town Council. This was a very interesting evening and it was good to have the opportunity to talk to others about the work we are doing in Okehampton to get the passenger rail service re-instated.
Fairplace Church put on a beautiful Flower Festival which I went along to on Saturday 15th June. In the gallery upstairs was a gorgeous display of wedding dresses and photos from members of the congregation and downstairs were themed displays which reflected the annual cycle and rhythms of Church and Rural Life. The quality of the arrangements and story-telling through the displays was truly incredible.
On Saturday 22nd June I was invited along to South Molton Olde English Fayre. I have to admit that I have never been to South Molton before and it was a lovely drive through beautiful countryside in glorious sunshine. I even took part in the Floral Dance - another first for me!
Would you know what to do if someone collapsed in front of you? - apart from call the emergency services of course. Okehampton Public Access Defibrillators (OkePADS) is my chosen charity for my Mayoral year. I met with two of the trustees to talk about how I could be of service to them. They are very keen to see their free training being taken up by all members of the community. Anyone aged 14 and over can take part. The sessions last about two hours and include training in CPR. What is CPR you might well ask? It stands for "cardiopulmonary resuscitation" which is an emergency life-saving procedure that is done when someone's breathing or heartbeat has stopped. This may happen after an electric shock. heart attack or drowning. CPR combines rescue breathing and chest compressions. In short, being trained in CPR and the use of defibrillators will give you the confidence to take action and give the victim the best possible chance of survival. If you want to know more or book yourself on, then please either email them on firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their website: https://okepads.wixsite.com/okepads. You can also find them on Facebook.
My next official event was in Okehampton at the Octagon Theatre on Thursday 27th June. Community Links SW CIC put on a Music Centre Concert to showcase all that their students had learnt over the summer term. The orchestra and choir were made up of young people of all ages and they played and sang their hearts out on a very warm summer evening. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. Congratulations to all those who worked so hard to make it such a success.
My final duty for this month was to attend the Annual Service of Commemoration and Re-dedication of St John Ambulance (Devon) in Fairplace Church on Sunday 30th June. I expect there are quite a few people who were members of the St John Ambulance Service in their youth and learnt first aid - I know I was one of them. The St John Ambulance Brigade was formed in 1887, however the service dates back to 11th Century Jerusalem where the first Knights of St John set up a hospital to care for sick pilgrims. Their motto is Pro fide Pro Utilitate Hominum - For the Faith and In the Service of Humanity.
Throughout the month I attended as many coffee mornings on Saturdays that I could. It isn't always possible to get around to every one as it can depend very much on existing commitments. My apologies if I didn't make it to yours. It was also lovely to have a wander around the town on Saturday 29th June which is when the Food and Drink Festival was running. Lots of stands selling local, unique produce and plenty of visitors to the town.
One of the responsibilities of the Mayor is to attend various Civic events around the region. This gives a wonderful opportunity to meet other town leaders and hear about the local issues we are facing. It is probably not surprising that many of these are universal - traffic congestion being one of them! I went along to the Mayor Making Ceremony at Barnstaple on Thursday 23rd May. It was very encouraging to see that, like Okehampton, there was a very strong emphasis on recognising the work of volunteers in the community through the presentation of various awards. I am always grateful for the time and skills that people give to make our town such a lovely place to live in.
Sunday 26th May saw the Annual Okehampton Rotary May Fair which is organised by our local Rotary Club as one of their regular fundraising efforts for the benefit of the local community. Despite the weather being typically unpredictable, it was well attended and there was so much to see and do. It is lovely to see our local traditions being kept alive including the children having great fun dancing around the Maypole. How they didn't tie themselves in knots is beyond me!
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