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End of Cllr Dean’s Mayoral Year

Having the good fortune to be the Mayor of Knutsford for a year is a real life-enhancing experience.  As many have mentioned before, the real effects of attending events to which you are invited as Mayor over the year are education about the town in which you live, allied to a humbling realisation of just how much work is done in Knutsford for the benefit of the community, mostly by volunteers who are always unpaid and often unsung.

This town has more than its fair share of volunteers, and they make their presence known every single day. They run the Knutsford First Responders, the Heritage Centre, the Hampers of Hope organisation, most of the Church’s  works, the Hosts, the Lions, Community Spirit and many, many more charitable and community organisations around the town. If you cold capture all the work, the good spirit, all the imagination and innovation produced by these groups in just one year you’d have the basis of an answer to most of the world’s problems, right there! Seeing all this in action was the humbling bit.

It’s also worth noting just how much of this work is invisible to many residents. I have lived here for nearly 21 years now, and thought I had a good handle on what went on in the town, but actually I knew about 10% – the often referred to ‘tip of the iceberg’. How many people in this town are aware of the work done by the Gymfinity organisation in training chidden in gymnastics three times a week at Egerton Youth Club, for example, or the Knutsford Fire Brigade’s work with difficult teenagers from St. John’s School every year? Coming across previously unseen community works for the first time this year was the educational bit for me.

Of course, it’s not only volunteers who apply themselves to doing good works for our community, there is also the semi-hidden work done by business people in the town to help make a success of events like the Pumpkin Path at Halloween, the Bunny Hop at Easter and the lights switch-on at Christmas time. The local private businesses also put their heart and hours of work into making this town an even more special place at Royal Horticultural Show time and again at Christmas, when they glam up their shop windows and shop fronts to match those seasonal themes. The Town council also plays its part here, by awarding prizes to those businesses which the Mayor and Deputy Mayor think have produced the most attractive and imaginative results at these times.

A special mention here just has to go to Peter Murray of Pulse of Perfumery, he seems to have taken our community to heart and puts a great deal of time and effort into the year’s events in the town. I’m not sure I’ll forgive him, though, for disappointing every child in the town by encouraging a rumour that Harry Stiles was making a surprise appearance at the closing ceremony of the Pumpkin Path at Halloween, so they all turned out to see the black cloak whipped off the mystery guest – ME! I can still hear the sighs of disappointment today.

One of the difficult things to do before you start your year is to choose your Mayoral charity, or charities, for whom you are going to raise money by organising events throughout the year. I chose the Knutsford District Scouts and the local Salvation Army group. I used to be a Scout, and have always admired the way they have continued to stay relevant to young people from the days of Baden-Powell through to today. They do a lot for their members in raising life-skill levels and confidence, and their benefit to society as a whole is immeasurable.

Throughout my life I’ve always admired the Salvation Army for opting to help the people who have fallen the furthest, into addictions, homelessness and hopelessness. They also tend to deal with people at the other end of the age scale to the Scouts, so I thought the two charities were a well balanced and deserving choice. By organising a party, a golf day, a concert, a quiz night and a Ball at different times of the year, I’m pleased to say we raised £11,155.28, and along with £1000 in match funding from Barclays we were able to present The Scouts and The Salvation Army cheques for £6077.64 each.

Many people have contributed to the fundraising over the year, but I would like to recognise here the extra special efforts of Steve and Alison Moss who held the first charity event, a garden party, at their house, Heyrose Golf Club for giving us a good deal for the Golf Day, Gordon Roberts and the Mancunian Singers for the wonderful concert, and the Mere Golf Resort for giving us a deal on the Charity Ball. All of these were enjoyable and successful events.

The year was not all about the money we raised, however, it was also about representing Knutsford in a good light both within the town and outside. I would therefore like to draw towards a conclusion by thanking the four people who worked alongside me all year, for all types of event. Firstly, I’d like to thank Revd. Rob Cotton for being a sound, dependable and always cheerful Mayoral chaplain this year. Secondly, I must thank my three musketeers, Clare Stuart-West, my PA who organised everything so well for me, my wife Gill, the Mayoress, for being so good at the role, and Sgt. Nancy Nuttall from Knutsford’s ATC, my Mayoral Cadet, who accompanied us on many occasions and was a massive credit to her unit, her school and her family all year.

Thanks to all of you, and I wish Jan Nicholson, the new Mayor, and her team an enjoyable and successful year ahead.

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75th Anniversary of Parachute Training School

The holiday period of August has now passed, and it was a quiet time for Mayoral duties, with schools on holiday and many organisations in tick-over mode. I did, however, have the honour of attending the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the No.1 Parachute Training School at Ringway Aerodrome (the site of today’s Manchester Airport), in 1940.

The ceremony was in two parts, firstly at the Memorial Stone next to the training ‘drop zone’ in Tatton Park, and secondly in the Memorial Gardens at Manchester Airport. The Mayoral Cadet, Nancy Nuttall, in her full ATC Sergeant’s uniform and I arrived in Tatton Park to find approximately 200 current and former members of the Parachute Regiment and RAF and their families formed up around the Tatton’s Memorial Stone for those connected with the Training School who died during the Second World War.

There followed a short service of remembrance before we all jumped back in cars and coaches and moved on to Manchester Airport where the service was repeated. At the get-together afterwards Nancy and I had chance to meet the No. 1 Parachute Training School’s modern equivalents – the RAF’s Parachute Jump Instructors and the Parachute Regiment’s physical training staff and their officers, who carry on this work today (parachute training is now based at RAF Brize Norton).

They are an impressive group of professionals, and it was interesting to learn from their commanding officers too that all British parachute training in the Second World War was conducted by No.1 Parachute Training School, with the trainees consisting of over 60,000 paras and hundreds of SAS and SOE staff who needed to be dropped behind enemy lines. There were over 429,000 practice jumps into Tatton Park during this time, with sadly 42 fatal accidents during training, mostly caused by malfunctioning parachute opening systems as equipment design was perfected in the early stages of the school.

What a magnificent and very necessary job this Parachute Training School accomplished during the war – we should never forget them or the vital job they so bravely did for us.

The Mayor’s Parlour is a bi-weekly blog appearing in the Knutsford Guardian.

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Longridge and Shaw Heath Fun Day

IT’S good to see new ventures opening up and adding to Knutsford’s economy and jobs market, so I was greatly honoured to be asked to help open the new American Golf Academy at High Legh Country Park on July 21. It’s a wonderful modern design with indoor teaching facilities and a driving range attached, run by the Country Park but attached to a wellstocked American Golf shop.

On Saturday, July 25, the Mayoress and I were delighted to be invited to the Longridge and Shaw Heath fun day on the meadow next to Longridge. I had the privilege of officially opening the day and then we stayed for over two hours, visiting every stall and chatting to the organisers and the people manning the activities. The three main organisations which work together and with others to make the fun day work every year are Community Spirit, the Welcome Café and Great Places Housing Trust. They do a great job and the event is getting better every year, thanks to people like Pat McAndrew who was this year’s main driving force.

The Mayoress and I had a couple of hours to visit the RHS show on July 26 before dashing off to Sandbach for their civic service in the afternoon. Knutsford looked fabulous that week, with the independent shopkeepers making innovative and colourful displays. It made me very proud to be mayor of a town where people pull together so well to make a spectacular show for visitors.

The Mayor’s Parlour is a bi-weekly blog appearing in the Knutsford Guardian.

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Treasure Hunt Success

I attended many functions centred on children in the last fortnight. On July 9, I was privileged to hand out the graduation certificates to seven children from St John’s Wood School, who had successfully completed their Respect course with Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service. This involved spending one day a week with a team of volunteer firefighters, taking part in various activities and exercises connected with the everyday duties of the service. The children treated me to a display of running out hoses and pumping water on to an imaginary fire. They worked well as a team and were very fast.

The following day I attended the My World graduation of Year 6 pupils from Manor Park School, held at Tatton Park. My World is a scheme to introduce children in their last year in junior school to the world of work. The children had attended workplaces at Manchester Airport, Bruntwood, Tatton Park and elsewhere, and each group gave a presentation on what they had learned. Both of these schemes show how much is available to young people today to help them understand the adult world and get a good start in life. It is heartening to see them working so well.

I was an official witness at Knutsford’s contribution to a world-record attempt for the Guinness Book of Records — the number of reading pledges signed in two hours on July 11 at libraries in the UK. We took 77 pledges in Knutsford, mostly from children, and I am waiting to hear the national result.

My treasure hunt on July 12 was great fun, with 18 teams taking part and prizes for many. Congratulations to the Lionhearts, the winners. I opened the Friends of the Heath summer event on Sunday and it was attended by, among other groups, the Knutsford First Responder team who are looking for new volunteers.

The Mayor’s Parlour is a bi-weekly blog appearing in the Knutsford Guardian.

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Mayoral Engagements and Civic Sunday thanks

The sun shone on Knutsford Promenades last Saturday when the crowds were treated to music and dramatic performances around the town all on the theme of Texts from the Front. The Universal Soldier was a great hit, especially with the children, as he paraded around Knutsford. I met Colonel Joe Halisky, the Military Attache at the US Embassy in London, and Andy Reed, British former soldier injured in Afghanistan and now an ambassador for ABF Soldier’s Charity.

I attended three youth events in the last fortnight. The Mayoress and I attended the Guides’ Fabfest at the Cheshire Showground on the sunny afternoon of Saturday, June 27. I was impressed to learn there were 2,000 guides camping there that weekend, that there are a total of 11,500 guides in Cheshire and that numbers are growing. On Friday, we were guests at the Knutsford Air Training Corps’ annual dinner at Cottons and met colleagues of my Mayoral cadet, Cdt Sergeant Nancy Nuttall, as they received awards.

Last, but by no means least, I was asked to award the gold medals on Saturday at the annual gymnastics competition at Gymfinity at Egerton Youth Club. I was amazed by the number of participants (around 200) and the high level of skills and energy.

On Sunday, June 28, it was a great turn-out for my Civic Service in the Methodist Church – it didn’t rain on the parade and the service was spectacular with Mereside Brass Band playing some of the hymns. The service was followed by the Knutsford Town Awards, at which some of our most giving citizens were recognised for voluntary and community work. Finally, don’t forget my Charity’ Treasure Hunt round Knutsford town centre on Sunday, July 12, starting at The Angel at 11 am. To enter call my PA on 01565 653929.

The Mayor’s Parlour is a bi-weekly blog appearing in the Knutsford Guardian.

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Society Service and Garden Party

It has been a fairly quiet fortnight as far as mayoral duties go, but a rewarding one.

I was delighted to attend, with the Mayoress, the Society Sunday service at St John’s Knutsford on June 14, an event which takes place on the nearest Sunday to the Queen’s birthday each year. It is designed to celebrate all the community organisations and other groups who work for the benefit of the people of Knutsford. It was a very participatory service with the Welcome Cafe, myself and several youth and adult services groups having the chance to get on the dais and explain what we do. Children played a significant role in the discussions, with one of their questions to me – you know who you are Jonah! – showing the true insight of the very young: “Are you a mayor at night or a nightmare?” The answer came partly from me and partly from the Mayoress.

On June 20, Steve and Alison Moss kindly hosted a garden party at their lovely house on the Tabley estate, which raised over £2,000 from ticket sales – all going to Knutsford District Scouts. Don’t forget the next mayoral event – it’s the Walking Treasure Hunt around Knutsford Town Centre, setting off from the Angel Hotel at 11am on Sunday, July 11. Prizes will be awarded to the winning teams, and children are especially welcome.

The Mayor’s Parlour is a bi-weekly blog appearing in the Knutsford Guardian.

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First week as Mayor

I’ve had a pleasingly busy first three weeks as mayor of Knutsford, attending four functions in the first week alone. It was a pleasure to attend both the Mayor Making ceremony in Congleton (just two days after my own), and also their Civic Service on June 7 – both occasions allowing me to enjoy their magnificent old town hall.

On the Friday before the Bank Holiday the Mayoress and I attended the re-opening ceremony of an old established Knutsford restaurant – Piccolino, on King Street – after its tasteful refurbishment. It was a very enjoyable early evening function in the sunshine and a chance to reacquaint with old friends as well as meeting new.

Another highlight was a visit to Middlewich, as a guest of their mayor, for the Skirmish, an annual re-enactment of the second battle of Middlewich, which took place during the English Civil War. The members of the opposing militias, in their respective uniforms and armed with 12 foot pikes, swords and the occasional musket, were a magnificent sight, as was the tented encampment recreated in the church grounds – all great fun but it also reminds us of the depth of the historical tradition of this part of the world.

And so to the Knutsford Lions Street Fair on Bank Holiday Monday. I helped ‘King John’ (of the Lions) and ‘Queen Sofia’ (our May Queen) judge the winning stalls at the event, which this year was built around a Magna Carta theme. It was great to see the fair so well-attended again. Looking forward, I have a busy diary for June/July, representing the civic identity of Knutsford in other towns, and with Knutsford-based organisations.

I’m particularly looking forward to my Walking Treasure Hunt on Sunday, July 12, with quality prizes for the winning teams. The treasure hunt involves a tour of Knutsford town centre on foot, answering questions about what you pass on the way round, and is organised in aid of my charities: Knutsford & District Scouts and the Salvation Army. It’s going to be great fun for families or groups of friends – if you’d like to enter a team for this competition, please contact my PA on 01565 653929.

The Mayor’s Parlour is a bi-weekly blog appearing in the Knutsford Guardian.

 

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