Thursday, 27 April 2017

My article in this week's Visiter


This week I have picked out a couple of events that I attended either side of the Easter holiday beginning with my visit to the Formby Passion Play on Good Friday. The play was attended by about 500 people who assembled in Chapel Street and walked, singing Easter hymns, to the land adjacent to the Formby Pool where the play was performed.

This year’s play was written and directed by Dympna Edwards and was a great success. Everyone at Churches Together in Formby should be congratulated for the staging of this performance. It brought the community together and it was good to see folk from all the churches -and some who were not connected at all- playing their part
The second visit I have chosen was to the Freshfield Animal Rescue Centre in Ince Blundell. It was good of them to invite me, but I did think that they were taking a bit of a risk asking a politician to speak at an event called 'Rabbit On'. I was well behaved and stuck to me brief. My chief responsibility was to present a volunteer award to Ethel Webber who has been a regular at Ince Blundell since 1995.

Meeting so many dedicated volunteers like Ethel has been one of the highlights of my mayoral year. It is folk like her that make such an enormous difference to our community. Charities like Freshfield could not operate without the active participation on their army of voluntary workers

I also met Chelsea who was giving a talk on hedgehogs and she introduced me to two of her charges; Belinda and Hugo. They were both brought to the centre before the hibernation time. Their body weight and injuries meant that left in the wild they almost certainly would not have survived. The centre has about 75 hedgehogs at present fit and ready to be returned to the great outdoors.

I had no idea of the breadth of the work undertaken at the centre which has now been open for 40 years. It was good to see so many people attending the event and I wish the centre every success in the coming years.

I have a busy diary next week which includes a 100th birthday, a visit to the migrant workers’ project, Lydiate Village Festival and a charity cricket match at Churchtown.



Tuesday, 25 April 2017

'This Island Nation' Crosby Symphony Orchestra concert with an exciting new conductor Adam Kornas

It is no secret that I was very impressed when I was invited to attend a concert by the Crosby Symphony Orchestra back in November. On that occasion they played Nieslsen 4th Symphony. I was delighted to be back again for their St George's Day concert which was held at St Faith's Anglican Church in Crosby. The first impression when entering the vast Victorian church is that it smells of incense. The church is described as being in the liberal catholic tradition.

The Concert was called 'This Island Nation' and featured the music by Benjamin Britten, Edward Elgar and Vaughan Williams- so more England than Britain. As on my last visit I was very impressed by the orchestra and the guests they attracted to perform with them. Susan Marrs sang the Elgar Sea Pictures to the delight of the large audience.

The second guest was the conductor Adam Kornas, a young man whose conducting debut at Wigmore Hall included a work by Harrison Birtwhitle with the composer in attendance. He is also a composer with a ballet suite already performed along with a String Quintet 'Paradise Regained' which has won prizes and been played in London, Salzburg and Vienna. The piece is based on John Milton's epic poem and the composer explains: "...the music starts very dark and lost, moves through passion and despair, but then ends in peace. This journey from darkness to light loosely reflects the journey between Milton’s, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained". Throughout the concert Adam explained a fair deal and he clearly has a very good and relaxed style when it comes to addressing audiences. The main work was R Vaughan Williams (RVW) London Symphony dedicated to the memory of his friend George Butterworth who died in WW1. RVW was the link between most of the WW1 composers. Although he was of an age when he could have been excused military service he volunteered to serve in the Medical Corps. Two of his most important compositions are linked with WW1; The Pastoral Symphony and Dona Nobis Pacem which is more overtly a memorial.

Chatting to members of the orchestra in the interval they were really pleased to have Kornas working with them and they were overflowing with enthusiasm for him. At the podium he is very expansive and the audience took to him. File his name away I suspect we will hear a great deal more of him.

The concert was a great success-apart from the minor irritation of the women in front of me who insisted on videoing and photographing the proceeding despite entreaties in the program not to do so. The Crosby Symphony Orchestra's next performance-entitled Heroes and Demons- is at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool in July when they have Shostakovich's 4th Symphony on the programme.

A special word of thanks to my host, the Orchestra's Vice President, Brian Worster-Davis.


The Brunny's 70th birthday a story that began in the POW camp Oflag 79

A pleasure to meet Bob King a POW at Oflag 79

A pleasure to meet Bob King a POW at Oflag 79
The first American, together with a French worker named Pierre, arrive to liberate Oflag 79 on 14th April 2015.  From the 1948 book ‘For you the war is over’ by Gordon Horne


I was in Bootle last week to open the 70th birthday celebrations for the 'Brunny' that is Brunswick Youth and Community Centre. The club has the most compelling history. It goes back to a POW camp in Brunswick in WW2. The men were kicking their heals and beginning to understand what it must be like to be young, unemployed and without a clear pathway through life. It was in that desolate environment that the idea to set up a network of Boys' Clubs was hatched.



I met one of the POWs from the camp Bob King. Bob had travelled up from Shropshire to join the party. He told us about life in the camp and the lead up to liberation. The illustration at the top of this posting us taken from a book about life on OLAF 79. Among the remarkable stories that Bob told was that he a several of the other POWs qualified as solicitors whilst they were in the camp.

There are three Brunswick Clubs-one in each of Glasgow, London and Bootle. Three POW's came come to set up the club on Merseyside it began life in the City but moved up to Bootle The Bootle branch of the Brunswick Boys Club was established in 1947 by three Oflag 79 POWs: Michael Marshall, Philip Evans, and Harry Mounsey, and opened its doors in 1948. I met the sons of the tree founders who have maintained a connection with the project. The son of Philip Evans told us about his father's amazing map making achievements. A printer before the war it dawned on him that the tiles that were used to serve their food on could be turned into printing plates. He proceeded to produce detailed escape maps and the Brunny had a exhibition of his work. I was captivated by this story and imagined some sketch map to help escaping POWs find their way home. I was not prepared for the multi coloured detailed map that were turned out by the hundred.  You can find out more details here

If you follow this link you will find a video made by John Mills promoting the Brunswick Clubs and now held by the British Film Institute

Today the club has expanded to serve the whole community. The Jamie Carragher's sports initiative is based in the centre. I met Brownies, army cadets, Sefton Veterans, and folks who ran the toddlers groups.
The Brownies St James's Brownies sang war times songs for us accompanied by a young women who turned up to entertain the punters at the Bootle Beer Festival on Saturday where she played an altogether different style of music ......


Monday, 24 April 2017

A new High Sherriff for the county

The Office of High Sheriff is an independent, non-political Royal appointment for a single year.  The origins of the Office date back to Saxon times, when the 'Shire Reeve' was responsible to the King for the maintenance of law and order within the Shire, or County and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown.  

Last week Jim Davies stood down and a new High Sherriff was installed at a ceremony at St Georges Hall. Stephen Burrows Esq DL is the new person and his period of office began in April 2017 and lasts for one year.   

 

Jim was a popular High Sherriff and went about his tasks with great enthusiasm and gusto. He has livened up many an event and stood alongside me at the rededication of the Bootle War Memorial in the pouring rain for nigh on a couple of hours.
Jim is on my left with the black umbrella



Since 1399, when The Duchy of Lancaster became associated with the Crown, reigning monarchs have appointed the High Sheriff of Lancashire.  As a result of the Local Government Act 1972, the Duchy now appoints High Sheriffs in Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.  Today, The Queen  'pricks' the names of the three High Sheriffs 'on the Lites' (on the list) with a bodkin, in the presence of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.


The ceremony- and the selection procedure- owe more to the concerns of times past than that the C21st. The bodkin is allegedly used as in times gone by a shrewd person may reasonably have wished to have avoided the job. Charles the 1, when starved of cash by parliament, resorted to collecting Ship-money that parliament did not have to authorise and it was the High Sherriff's job to do the collection. John Hampden was the chief opponent of this backdoor tax. By using a bodkin the monarch's choice could not be altered as may have happened if the pen had been used. 


The ceremonial uniform that is worn by male High Sheriffs today is called Court Dress. It has remained essentially unchanged since the late seventeenth century and consists of a black or dark blue velvet coat with cut-steel buttons, breeches, shoes with cut-steel buckles, a sword and a cocked hat. A lace jabot or white bow tie is worn around the neck. In my experience in Merseyside they opt for military uniform instead of Court Dress. Jim often had difficulties with the spurs and sword

Monday, 17 April 2017

Formby Passion Play

Passion Plays go back to medieval times and tell the story of Holy Week. The early ones were I think in latin and had a musical component

Formby's Passion play- which extends to include the resurrection-is much more modern. It was attended by about 500 people who assembled in Chapel Street and walked , singing Easter hymns, to the land adjacent to the Formby Pool where the play was performed.

This years play was, I understand, written and directed by Dympna Edwards and was a great success. Everyone at Churches Together in Formby should be congratulated for the staging of this play. It brought the community together and it was good to see folk from all the churches -and some who were not connected at all- playing their part


Rabbit on at Freshfiels Animal Rescue Centre Ince Bluindell

I spent a couple of hours at the Freshfield Animal Rescue Centre in Ince Blundell today as part of the 'Rabbit On Event'. My chief responsibility was to present a volunteer award to Ether Webber who has been a regular at Ince Blundell since 1995.

Meeting so many dedicated volunteers like Ethel has been on of the highlights of the last year. It is folk like her that make such an enormous difference to our community. Charities like Freshfield could not operate without the active participation on their army of voluntary workers.

I got to have a good look round the farm and although it was a day dedicated to rabbits I got to meet lots of other wild and domestic animals.

I was introduced to Jürgen the physic pig who has be asked to predict the outcome of football matches . Ollie Cowan over on the Champion has been covering the story

Whilst in Jürgen's field I met a very territorial turkey and a pot belly pig. (I should say that Jürgen is so called because he was found abandoned in Anfield. ) The man in charge of the wild animals was Paul and he is very enthusiastic about the care of Urban foxes many of which are brought to the centre.
Hugo posing for the camera

Whilst I was there I met Chelsea who was giving a talk on hedgehogs and she introduced me to two of her charges; Belinda and Hugo. They were both brought to the centre before the hibernation time. Their body weight and injuries meant that left in the wild they almost certainly would not have survived. The centre has about 75 hedgehogs at present fit and ready to be returned to the great outdoors.

I had no idea the breadth of the work undertaken at the centre which has now been open for 40 years. It was really good to see so many people attending the event and I wish the centre every success in the coming years

I also got to meet Fudge who was rescued by the Centre and has now been successfully re-homed


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

My Visiter Column this week


In my column last week in the Visiter I promised that there would be more music and so it has proved. The Mayor's Charity Ball was held at the Floral Hall in Southport on Saturday and topping the bill was Dannielle Louise Thomas. She is one of our own- in so much as she was brought up in Crosby and attended Sacred Heart School. Her performance and her choice of music were pitch perfect. It was the high point of a successful evening. Around 200 people attended from across the borough and supporters of some of the key charities I work with came from much further afield.




Thanks are due to the volunteers on the Mayor's charity committee who did an excellent job. I shall be reporting later the local charities who will be supported by the money raised at the event.

On a glorious spring morning, I joined volunteers organised by Marine Conservation to help with a survey and litter pick on the beach at Formby. A wide range of folk including several families who were make good use of their half term break turned out. Also volunteering were employees from Merseytravel and from Churchill Retirement homes who have a new development in Formby. It was good to see how clean the beach looked but as we walked up towards Ainsdale -with Blackpool Tower and the Lakeland Hills visible on the northern horizon- it soon became apparent that there was lots of plastic in amongst the sand dunes and on the foreshore. Plastic is a real environmental problem as it takes so long to decay-let alone the damage that it does to sealife. Thanks to Andy for organising the event


Next up was my visit to
 Clarence High School in Formby who were supporting the Dignity in Care Campaign. I was particularly pleased to able to promote this event as I have been involved in social care services all my adult life and I know how important it is to raised the profile of this initiative. The students had planned and excellent morning with dance and poetry reading and there was a cake sale. There were more young people to be congratulated for their achievements when I attended the Duke of Edinburgh Awards evening.

There is more music and young people next week as my appointments include a trip The Atkinson for a performance by SONG the Musical Theatre Company.