One Final Look Back

This really is the final post on this blog. I am glad that I started it, and relieved I managed to keep it going right until the end. It hasn’t been a work of great literature, and I know there have been a fair few typos and grammatical errors along the way (often as result of late night writing!), but I hope it’s captured and shared something of what being the Mayor of Hertford entails.

I have had a fantastic year as Mayor of Hertford. That doesn’t mean that every moment has been fun or easy, but it has all been worthwhile, informative and a great privilege. I’ve learnt a lot more about Hertford and its people, and my fondness for the town has grown.

Whilst I know many people had a lot of faith in me to perform the role of Mayor well, I know there were also a fair few who weren’t so sure I was really cut out for it. I have to admit I wasn’t either! I’m not naturally a very outgoing person who usually talks easily to strangers, and aside from chairing meetings and making occasional presentations, public speaking isn’t something I had done before. I think I can say I’ve done pretty well with both this last year. So, the lesson learnt is to have more faith in both yourself and others!

I now continue my role as a Hertford Town Councillor, a Trustee of Hertford Museum and, with a bit of time on my hands, I’ll maybe look back on the year and think about what else going on in Hertford I might get involved with. There is certainly a lot to choose from.

I will also always be a Past Mayor of Hertford, and that is something it will forever be an honour to be.

My Past Mayor's Badge

My Past Mayor’s Badge

Returning to Where We Began

A final photograph of the Mayor and Consort, in County Hall.

A final photograph of the Mayor and Consort, in County Hall.

So the municipal year ends, and we return to where we began: Hertford’s Mayor Making ceremony.

This this took place this evening, and I handed over the magnificent chain of office to my successor, Cllr Patricia Moore.

Following a reception hosted by the Vice-Chairman of Hertfordshire County Council, Cllr Dave Hewitt, in the Chairman’s office at County Hall, I put on the Mayor’s red robe and chain for the final time and processed into the County Council’s chamber for Hertford Town Council’s Annual Meeting and Mayor Making ceremony. My Chaplain Rev. Barbara Routley said the opening prayers, and I chaired the start of the meeting. Cllr Matthew McCormick proposed Cllr Patricia Moore as the new Mayor, seconded by Cllr Peter Ruffles. Tricia took the oath of office, and then we processed out of the chamber to enable her to put on the Mayoral robes and chain, and for me to put on a blue robe signifying that I am a Past Mayor, and my black tricorn hat now adorned with a silver chain to denote my Past Mayor status.

On returning to the council chamber, the new Mayor spoke about her background, particularly how she came to be a councillor, and her hopes for the year ahead. A vote of thanks to me was then proposed by Cllr Chantal Geall and seconded by Cllr Isabel Sigmac. Both said extremely kind things, which I am not sure I entirely deserved, but they were lovely speeches.

In response, I said:

Madam Mayor, a year ago today I stood in this chamber and concluded my speech accepting the office of Mayor of Hertford with a literary quote that referred to the potential for adventures to happen.

The past year has indeed been an incredible adventure.

I will in a moment reflect on some of the highlights, but firstly the very important task of thanking those who have supported me during my time in office.

There have been a particularly large number of civic and ceremonial occasions, and these have been superbly supported by Hertford’s team of Sergeants-at-Mace.

I want to pay particular tribute to Mace Bearer Joe Caruana. This evening is the last occasion at which he will be carrying out this role, and in it he has been a dedicated servant to Hertford Town Council and to Hertford for 20 years. Joe was appointed a Stave Bearer in 1993, and three years later became Mace Bearer. It is a role he has undertaken with great diligence and dignity, and I know that all the Mayors who have served during his time have greatly appreciated his knowledge of the role and commitment to it. Joe was further honoured by his peers last year, becoming Prime Warden of the Guild of Mace Bearers.

Sadly another of our dedicated Sergeants at Mace, Malcolm Potter, passed away earlier this year. Malcolm had served as Hertford’s Sword Bearer since 1996, and was both liked and respected by all who came into contact with him in this role.

The Sergeants at Mace are very much part of the life of Hertford Town Council. I am grateful also to the Town Clerk and staff of the Council for their support. In particular to Tricia Carpenter, the Civic Administration Manager, for her assistance throughout the year, and to Tom Hardy, the Mayor’s Secretary. Amongst many other tasks, Tom has been responsible for the organisation of some of the important events of my Mayoral year, including the Vintage Tea Party, the Civic Dinner, and the Mayor’s Quiz. The latter raised a considerable sum for my adopted charity for the year, the Alzheimer’s Society in East Herts, as well as being an enjoyable night of friendly competition between over 200 participants.

Thank you to Cllr David Poole, my Deputy Mayor, who has attended engagements that I could not be present at, either through clashing with other Mayoral events, or due to the on-going requirement to turn up to work.

My thanks also to my Chaplain, Reverend Barbara Routley, who has been a calm presence at many occasions, and was particularly and rightly praised by many for her address at the Remembrance Sunday service.

The Mayor’s Cadet, Sophie Wilson, has been diligent in attending civic occasions, and has been an excellent representative of the Hertford & Ware Sea Cadets.

My father, John, has undertaken the role of Mayor’s Consort. As well as that of chauffer, logistics manager, and holder of my handbag whilst I cut ribbons, made speeches or posed for photographs. He has always been in the right place at the right time, and a reliable source of information and advice. He now gets a very well earned rest….for a whole four days before my mother takes on the office of Chairman of Epping Forest District Council next Tuesday, and he gets to wear a different Consort’s badge. My family have been supportive throughout the past year, and I want to sincerely thank my mother, Mary, and David and Hannah.

Turning to some highlights of the year. It has been such a full and varied year that picking out particular moments seems unfair. I want to tell you all about it; but don’t panic, I won’t. For the full story, my blog detailing every event remains online at mayorofhertford.com.

I have Tweeted and blogged my way through the year, and these devices in themselves have occasionally resulted in unexpected things happening.

On my way home from work on the train one evening I wrote on Twitter that if Boris Johnson was personally voicing the messages on the London Underground system advising people of possible travel disruption during the Olympics, perhaps First Capital Connect should be letting me do likewise in Hertford. A couple of days later I was in their offices at King’s Cross station recording the local version, which was played out at Hertford North station.

There have been many very joyful occasions through the year.

There was the spine-tingling moment when one of the chain of Jubilee beacons was lit on the roof of Hertford Castle, and the large crowd below spontaneously sang the National Anthem. The wonderful feeling of community when a smaller but no less enthusiastic group gathered in the town centre at 8am on the first day of the Olympics to take part in ‘All the Bells’, ringing all manner of bells loudly and without stopping for 3 minutes. The moments when the whole of Hertford appeared to have gathered on the streets of the town centre to see the first Hertford Carnival procession for 12 years, and when the Olympic Torch Relay came through; both occasions in glorious sunshine during a summer which so often didn’t feel a terribly sunny one.

There have also been many more solemn moments. It was a great honour to lay a wreath at Hertford’s war memorial on behalf of the people of Hertford on Remembrance Sunday. Together with the Deputy Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, David McMullen, in June I presented Diamond Jubilee medals to members of the emergency services and armed forces, recognising their service to our community. In December I welcomed visitors to Hertford Castle for Isabel Hospice’s annual Lights of Love ceremony, one of a number of occasions when I was able to support Isabel Hospice events during their 30th anniversary year.

I have been very privileged as Mayor to twice meet members of the Royal Family. Just this week the Duchess of Gloucester at Haileybury, and last summer Her Majesty the Queen at a reception at Hatfield House. The ballet lessons as a 5 year-old when I learnt to curtsey finally paid dividends!

Then there have been the many occasions which might be seen as the ‘bread and butter’ part of being Mayor of Hertford, but which I have found to be hugely interesting, enjoyable and informative: the concerts by young people, charity AGMs, attendance at local theatrical productions, sporting fixtures and school events. All these and more have enabled me to greatly increase my knowledge of our town. I started the year thinking I knew Hertford, but I end it with a wealth of new information that I am sure will serve me well in my continued role as a Town Councillor.

At the beginning of my year in office I said that I intended to pay particular attention to the business and voluntary sectors.

I have visited a number of businesses over the course of the year, new ones starting up in the town, and those that are more established. I have found businesses hidden in parts of the town I was previously unaware of, and at events have met people working hard to build and grow businesses. The commonly held idea that Hertford serves only as a commuter town for those working in London is very far off the mark.

I have had many opportunities to meet people whose voluntary work hugely enhances life in our town, whether it is helping people, providing opportunities to others to take part in sporting or cultural activities, or organising events. I recently hosted two receptions to recognise volunteers, and quickly found that there are so many individuals giving their time to charitable, sporting, cultural, educational and young people’s groups that I had to limit the invitation to two representatives from each organisation to attend on behalf of all the town’s volunteers.

These are the people who hugely enrich life in our community. Often in the course of my Mayoral duties I have been fortunate to meet up with those have served as the Mayor of Hertford over past decades. Many of them continue to be active in local life, volunteering their time in a variety of ways for the benefit of Hertford and its residents.

It has genuinely been a great honour to be Mayor of Hertford, and it is an honour now to join the ranks of the Past Mayors. I will do my utmost to follow their example of continuing to make a contribution to local life, to do my bit as a resident proud to call Hertford home to take pride in its past, and work to ensure its future as a pleasant place to live and work, with a thriving community.

Madam Mayor, I wish you a year that is as interesting, enjoyable and memorable as mine has been, and assure you of my support throughout your term in office.

Following the Mayor Making Ceremony, I had a final duty to perform presenting the Past Consort's badge to my father.  He couldn't resist saying a few (very nice) words!

Following the Mayor Making Ceremony, I had a final duty to perform presenting the Past Consort’s badge to my father. He couldn’t resist saying a few (very nice) words!

I also gave my father a wooden box with a picture of Hertford Castle on, which I had commissioned from Hertford based Andy Chapman.

I also gave my father a wooden box with a picture of Hertford Castle on, which I had commissioned from Hertford based Andy Chapman.

Young Idea Perform ‘Back to the 80s’

Back to the 80sThis evening saw my final Mayoral engagement before tomorrow night’s Mayor Making ceremony, when I hand over to my successor. It was a fantastic one to end with!

Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society’s section for children and young people, Young Idea, are this week performing Back to the 80s at Hertford Theatre, and I went along to their first of five performances.

The cast made it look pretty effortless, but that was clearly only down to months of rehearsals, learning all the spoken lines and the songs, and being certain on who was where and doing what on the stage throughout. They all looked like they were genuinely enjoying performing the show tonight, even though it was the first night and there must have been a few nerves.

The show is a musical set in an American High School, featuring pop songs from the 1980s; it was surprising how many very well known songs there are from that decade. From the opening number, Kim Wilde’s Kids in America to the final The Time of my Life from the film Dirty Dancing, and the Proclaimer’s I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) somewhere in the middle, there were many songs that have stood the test of time and continue to be heard today. The cast would not even been born when the songs were first sung, but they sang them as though they’d known them for years! There were some great comedic moments in the show as well, all brilliantly executed.

Young Idea began in 1971, and runs workshops for 9 to 17 year olds on Sunday mornings in Hertford. I was told by HD&OS President, Malcolm Budd, that there are currently around 60 members. The cast this evening numbered 35, and other Young Idea members were involved in back-stage roles such as lighting.

It was a very enjoyable evening. The show was funny, well performed and a real credit to Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society and all involved in it.

Visit by the Duchess of Gloucester to Haileybury

Haileybury ServiceI have been invited to visit Haileybury in Hertford Heath on a number of occasions this past year, and it was very nice to have the opportunity in my final few days as Mayor to go there once again. The Duchess of Gloucester was visiting the school this afternoon, and attending a service in the Chapel.

On arrival I was invited into the Master’s Lodge for coffee then, a few minutes before the Duchess was due to arrive, was shown outside to be in a receiving line to meet her. With me in the line was Jane Pitman, Chairman of Hertfordshire County Council, who remains as Chairman until next week when her successor is appointed, but did not stand in the recent elections so is no longer a councillor. Cllr Jeanette Taylor, Chairman of East Herts District Council stood next to me, and on my other side was a representative of Haileybury’s Governing Body, and the Master of Haileybury, Joe Davies. Each of us was introduced to her by the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, the Countess of Verulam. I remembered to curtsey when my turn came to be presented to her, and we had a brief conversation about it being my last couple of days in office, and how much I had enjoyed the past year.

We then went inside the school’s magnificent chapel, where a short service was held. There were bible readings and prayers read by pupils from the school, an Anthem sung by the Chapel Choir, and we all sung the school’s hymn, and ‘I vow to thee, my country’. The latter sounded particularly impressive in the Chapel, with the noise filling the space. Haileybury’s Chaplain, Rev. Chris Briggs, led the service and gave the address. Included in this, he spoke about the two new stained glass windows in the Chapel which marked the College’s 150th anniversary last year. Two more are set to join them, commemorating the large numbers of pupils and teachers whose lives were lost in World War I, now nearly a century ago.

Afterwards we went to a new room on the school’s site, which had been developed from a previously outdoor area into a room for the pupils to use for informal study, classes and meeting people. We were served tea and Haileybury’s brownies, which had been trailed in the invitation to attend and lived up to expectations! I spoke to some of the sixth form pupils, and even found myself answering some tricky questions on the merits of different voting systems from a politics students!

Having also had the opportunity to meet HM The Queen at a reception at Hatfield House in June last year, I know I have been incredibly lucky to have twice as Mayor been present for Royal visits to the county. Today’s was a lovely occasion to have in my final week as Mayor.

Hertford Castle Open Day

Hertford Town Council Officer Nikki Milton, who organised the event, welcomes visitors as Queen Elizabeth I!

Hertford Town Council Officer Nikki Milton, who organised the event, welcomes visitors as Queen Elizabeth I!

The first of Hertford Town Council’s programme of summer events took place this afternoon at Hertford Castle, and I spent a couple of hours there in the Mayoral chain, speaking to visitors.

Quite often the first event of the year is fairly quiet, but it was a very popular place to be today. There was a falconry display on the Castle’s lawn, which proved a hit with an audience of all ages, and some brave children were invited to go into the arena and attempt to out-run a bird! Inside the Castle visitors were able to view a number of rooms, and there were activities for children, including a quiz, traditional toys, craft activities and period costumes to dress up in. Members of the Friends of Hertford Castle and Hertford Town Councillors were on hand to help with the activities and answer questions about the history of the Castle.

The excellent short film on the history of the Castle which the Friends of Hertford Castle commissioned a couple of years ago also proved popular; I must have seen it a dozen or so times by now, but I’m not very good at taking in and remembering all the dates and historical facts packed into it!

Falconry at Hertford CastleIt is surprising how many people who live in Hertford or nearby have never visited the Castle, but there will once again be opportunities to do so each month until October, as the programme of events continues. The next one is the Teddy Bears’ Picnic on 16th June.

Hertford Symphony Orchestra Concert

Hertford Symphony OrchestraI have attended a fantastic concert this evening by Hertford Symphony Orchestra, at Hertford Theatre. It was conducted by Jonathan Mann, I think the third time I have seen him conduct over the past year. There were three pieces played: Finlandia by Jean Sibelius, Cello Concerto in E Minor by Edward Elgar, and Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major.

Cellist Timothy Lowe joined the orchestra for the Cello Concerto. He is a soloist and chamber musician, and amongst other roles is Guest Principal Cello of the English Chamber Orchestra, and teaches at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at Eton College. The cello he was playing was almost 300 years old, which seemed quite incredible. The Cello Concerto was my favourite piece of the evening, but all the music was well chosen, enjoyable and superbly played.

HSO ConcertThe Hertford Symphony Orchestra comprises of just over 60 members, drawn from Hertford but also further afield around the county. This evening’s performance was sold out, which is a fantastic tribute to the orchestra. Living in Hertford with its easy access to London, it’s too easy to think it’s necessary to go there for music and theatre, but the reality is that what is available within walking distance in our town is of an extremely high standard, and is accessible without the hassle and expense of the trains!

46th East Herts Christian Aid Walk

Christian AidMy earliest starting Mayoral engagement of the year this morning, seeing off the walkers on the annual East Herts Christian Aid Walk. The walk is in its 46th year, and walkers set off at 8.30am from St John’s Hall beside All Saints’ Church.

It is a mammoth organisational task, involving large numbers of volunteer helpers and marshals, who come from local churches. The walk is a total of 46km, but it breaks down into 5 sections and people can choose to do one or more of these. It takes in villages around Hertford, with walkers heading to Hertingfordbury, Bramfield, Tewin and Stapleford, before finishing at Bengeo Primary School.

There were walkers of all ages setting off this morning, along with quite a few dogs. I remember doing sections of the walk as a child. More recently my brother did the complete walk with a childhood friend, to put right the fact that their efforts to complete the walk many years ago had failed – they completed it on the return attempt!

I said a few words at the start, including hoping that the weather would remain dry (the forecast is for heavy showers), but that they would have the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside to look at whatever the weather. The walkers then headed off towards Hertingfordbury.

The event has raised £432,000 over its 46 years, and continues to raise funds for the work that Christian Aid does in some of the world’s poorest areas.

Hertford Youth Town Council

I have chaired my final meeting of Hertford Youth Town Council this evening, which was arranged as an extra meeting in order to progress plans for an event the Youth Town Councillors are planning for the summer. The Youth Town Council has representatives from each of the three Hertford secondary schools, along with Presdales in Ware as the local girls school.

They have been developing a project to highlight services and options available for young people with learning disabilities, particularly those around school leaving age. I won’t steal their thunder by giving too much of the detail away, but it will be linked to the opening of the re-vamped garden at Hertford Castle which Mudlarks have taken over the redesign and maintenance of, and which is already looking really good.

I was very impressed with the work that some of the Youth Town Councillors had undertaken since the last meeting, including one of them having made a presentation on the plans to a class at Hertford Regional College.

In other news, I’ve this week written a guest blog for the familyfun@hertford website, which is a great resource providing information on things for families to do locally. The reflective contents are probably the beginning of something of a theme for the days to come, as I have just one week remaining as Mayor of Hertford.

Hertfordshire FA Charity Shield Final

The two teams line-up before the match begins.

The two teams line-up before the match begins.

Whilst it wasn’t an official Mayoral engagement, having attended a football match this evening to show support for our town’s club as Mayor I think it warrants a few lines on my blog.

Along with the Leader of Hertford Town Council, Cllr Linda Radford, I went to Hemel Hempstead to see Hertford Town Football Club play Oxhey Jets Football Club in the final of the Hertfordshire FA Charity Shield Competition. Hertford had done really well to get to the final, and it was always going to be a difficult match against Oxhey Jets, who are at the other end of the league table from them, and had beaten Hertford 7-0 in December and 7-1 in January.

The first half of the match tonight ended 0-0, and Hertford had two extremely close misses at the goal. Unfortunately the second half wasn’t nearly so balanced, with Oxhey getting 4 goals, and the match ending 4-0.

'We've got more ghosts than you!'

‘We’ve got more ghosts than you!’

There was fantastic support from Hertford fans throughout, with many more supporters having made the journey to Hemel Hempstead than had done so for Oxhey. They were also very much noisier in their support, cheering on individual players and the team. At 2-0 down the Hertford ghosts appeared to have a go at spurring on the team – I understand this refers to Hertford having more ghosts than any of the towns the football team plays against, with the refrain “We’ve got more ghosts than you” being sung!

Hertford Town FC even took along their own film crew, in the form of Adam.

Hertford Town FC even took along their own film crew, in the form of Adam.

Having not had a great start to the 2012/13 season, Hertford Town FC have really picked up towards the end, and hopefully this bodes well for 2013/14. The fans are definitely behind them, and the Club’s Committee have some great plans for the future. A town’s football club should be a real part of the community, and its been good to see this increasing over the past year, and more people getting behind them in support. It may not have been a win tonight, but the next football season is looking promising!

Hertford Art Society’s 61st Open Exhibition

Getting organised for an official photograph of the artists and award presenters; fitting all the paintings in proved a challenge! (Picture: Matthew McCormick)

Getting organised for an official photograph of the winning artists and award presenters; fitting all the paintings in proved a challenge! (Picture: Matthew McCormick)

A week on from Hertford Theatre Week, and it’s the turn of another long-standing institution of cultural life in Hertford, with Hertford Art Society’s 61st Open Exhibition. It takes place in Cowbridge Halls, and last night I attended a private view where awards were presented.

Hertford Art Society is a very active organisation, with a busy programme throughout the year. Their annual Open Exhibition is a huge organisational undertaking, and last weekend over 500 works of art were submitted and three judges selected 259 to go on display. In addition there are 32 sculptural and ceramic works in the exhibition. An impressively detailed catalogue is quickly put together between the judging and the opening of the exhibition.

Five prizes are awarded for works in the exhibition, and the presentations were made last night. Lord Laming was in attendance to present an award in the name of his late wife, who was a member of the Art Society, for the best abstract picture; it went to Jean Noble. Kathy Burman won the Bill Dale Award for the picture showing the most merit, chosen from works by members regularly involved with Hertford Art Society. Anne McCormack won the John Goss Prize for the painting considered the best in show, and Georgina Mersh took the Edward Mason Award for the best watercolour painting. Each year the Mayor’s Award is presented to the work chosen by the judges as the best 3D award, and I presented an engraved glass bowl to June Pickard, who also wins a monetary award sponsored by the East Herts branch of NADFAS.

The works of art in the exhibition are of a very high standard, but also a very varied selection. There is the opportunity for visitors to the exhibition to select their favourite and vote for it, which is a real challenge given the number of works on display! I went for a painting depicting bluebells in a wood by Cathy Smale; I own a very much smaller piece by her, so it was probably one I would be more drawn to.

The exhibition is open every day for the next fortnight, free to visit, and well worth a trip. I usually end up making a couple of visits as there’s so much to see!