Thursday, 23 February 2017

Visiter article this week

There is an impressively large number of people involved in charitable and voluntary activities in our borough. It has been my privilege to meet many of them and to acknowledge their contribution and thank them for their work.

I have also been able to support their fundraising efforts. This week I want to tell you about my own fundraising initiative. On 1st April I shall be hosting the Mayor’s Charity Ball in Southport. I have decided that the money should go to locally based charities. In particular I shall be supporting the 800 Group of Charities. The name was coined when the group was established because between them the charities had provided over 800 years of service to the local community. Full details of the membership will be posted on and more information will be available at the Ball.

The 800 group of charities provide an impressive portfolio of local services. They work with a wide range of client groups including those with mental ill-health, learning difficulties, older people, those with hearing and sight loss and those in need of hospice care. Tickets are available from the Mayor of Sefton’s Office on 0151 934 2062 or  I very much hope you will support this event.

As preparations for the Ball are taking place the day to day work of the Mayoralty continues. I have collected money raised for the Mayor’s charity from members of the Castle Bingo in Bootle and from staff at Magdalen House-my grateful thanks to both of them. The Scouts in Lydiate interviewed me as part of their Writer’s Badge and I was also delighted to attend a Shabbat Service of Southport’s Reform Synagogue. As readers will know as I have visited groups throughout the borough I have been delightfully surprised by the quality of the home-made food that I have been offered. Certainly the Synagogue and my recent visit to a 100th birthday party at the Soroptimist House in Southport rank very high on my list of the best baking.

Next week I am off to another 100th Birthday celebration, this time for Southport resident Ethel Williams. I have also been invited to visit The Seafarer’s Centre in Seaforth. The Centre extends the hand of friendship to thousands of seafarers every year. They provide practical and emotional support for seafarers, the often invisible workforce on whom we all depend to ship 95% of UK trade.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Three young women open a new business in Southport's Ocean Plaza

I was pleased to help launch a new business at Ocean Plaza. Three young women who have already set up a Vets practice in Widnes and have now opened a new one in Pets at Home in Southport. There was, of course, cake, balloons and a ribbon to cut. I wish them every success.
Photo by Daniel Woodcock
Photo by Daniel Woodcock

Visiting those who go down the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters.

the new mega cranes

I have spent the day with the Liverpool Seafarers' Centre which is located in our borough at Waterloo where they provide recreational facilities for seafarers including access to the internet, subsidised international SIM cards, a library, bar, cafĂ©, TV lounge and a chaplaincy.
The organisation has been on the go since 1856 and brings together the two main church organisations providing support to those who go down the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters.

Unloading cocoa
The centre is well used and I met sailors from several countries including India and the Philippines. I was then taken to visit a couple of ships. The first one was carrying a cargo of cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast which was being unloaded. The Master of the ship showed us round and I was accompanied by Geoff Rafferty who is a trustee of the centre. In a previous life he was a pilot on the River Mersey and I met him first when the City of Liverpool conferred on the Pilots Association the Freedom of the city

We can sometimes forget how important merchant shipping is to us. 95% of the UK's imports arrive by sea. The new Port of Liverpool, also in Sefton, is taking shape. I was present earlier this year at the new Port of Liverpool Academy which is an excellent initiative of Hugh Baird college in Bootle to prepare local people for the new jobs that will come with the development. At present there is nowhere in the north that the new large container ships can dock. The furtherest north port for them is Felixstowe on the east coast. The new mega cranes, pictured at the top of this posting, were floated across from China and are already a landmark that can be seen as far north as Formby. As yet the new facility is not open for business. Many local people are concerned about the logistics of shifting the cargo from the port to a rail head or the motorway. It strikes me it is a job for a railway.  Of course the ships sail out of Liverpool with cargo and we saw rows of new Jaguar cars lined up waiting to go to China and the USA. The biggest export would appear to be waste metal which finds its way to China, the USA and Turkey.

The second ship I visited was a Greek owned and Bahamas registered vessel carrying grain from Australia. It had been 45 days at sea and many of the crew were finishing their contract in Liverpool and being flown home. The Master Dubovchenko Ievgen from Ukraine  showed us round. He was also being visited by representatives of the owners who had made a day trip up to the NW to see the ship. This being a Greek owned ship there was a Icon of St Nicholas which, I learned, is always hung on the bridge in Greek ships.

The Chief Engineer them took us below to the Engine room where we met more of the crew. The approaching Hurricane Doris may well hold this ship up in dock as it is not possible to unload the grain whilst it is raining. This may not please the owners but the crew were looking forward to visiting the city. Apparently one of the popular destinations is the large 24 hour supermarkets.

Merchant shipping is central to our economy. We are a trading nation. There are no doubt those who are keen to build walls but that is not in our interest. As the Master of the first ship I visited (which was crewed by people from Russia, Ukraine and the Philippines) 'we are all sailors here, citizens of the world. '

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Ethel Williams 100th Birthday

It was a real pleasure to meet Ethel Williams on her 100th Birthday. Ethel lives at Dovehaven in Southport.
Ethel was born in Leigh Lancashire in 1917. During the war she served as a Land girl in Montgomeryshire in central Wales where she met her husband who worked for the Forestry Commission and settled after the war.

It was great to hear Ethel's memories and to discuss how much things have improved. She spoke of how much difference the automatic washing machine made. Ethel played the organ at the Victoria Methodist church in Blowick.

Southport Reform Synagogue invite me to a Shabbat Service

The Reform Synagogue in Southport invited me to a Shabbat Service to be precise Tu B’shevat Shabbat Shirah. The Service leader was Student Rabbi Kath Vardi. There was a special, fruit themed chavurah afterwards.
I was most impressed by the was Kath Vardi led the service in large part singing the liturgy in Hebrew. We were invited to look at the scrolls and the way the readings were laid out.

It was good to hear that the Iman Soyful Alam was coming to the synagogue to give a talk and answer questions. He is certain to get a friendly welcome.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Southport's Holocaust Memorial service

The Holocaust Memorial service, presided over by Michael Braham, was one of the most compelling and powerful remembrances for the victims of genocide held in our town.

Young people from the VIth Form Colleges at KGV and Runshaw joined the pupils of St John's Ainsdale in reminding us of the enormous human cost of the holocaust. They told the stories of individual victims, those who had died and those who lived on after the war. Their thoroughly researched presentations had a great emotional impact.

Their contributions were followed by the Imam of Southport Mosque Soyful Alam. The packed congregation, in Christ Church on Lord St, had listened in respectful silence to the young people and to Michael Braham talk about the events that took place in the death camps of Nazi Germany and of the plight of refugees -especially the children- who came to this country and our town. The history they related addressed the theme of the service; how after the genocide can life go on.

pupils from St John's Ainsdale re enact a scene where children disembark from the kindertransport

Into the silence stepped Soyful to take his place behind the lectern. His powerful address confronted the continuing use of genocide in the world today. He spoke of his despair and our failure to learn the lessons of the holocaust. The world stands aside and fails to act. It is hard to find hope when night after night we see images of genocide and we know how many hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Soyful warned this failure to act undermines our common humanity and the bonds that should link us all together.

Such was the impact of Soyful's address that the congregation broke in spontaneous and prolonged applause and in the tea room after the service it was the main topic of conversation.

Peter Dowd MP's was unable to attend the service and I was asked to say a few words. As world events are played out and once again the warping influence of nationalism and populist politicians threaten the peace and stability of our world it is more important than assert our values. One of my responsibilities as Mayor is to preside over Citizenship ceremonies during which we declare our allegiance to the British values of respect and tolerance. We must fight intolerance and prejudice wherever we encounter it. The Holocaust was an indescribable atrocity, and we must never forget the victims of this evil and those other acts of genocide that continue to this day. The work of Holocaust Memorial Day keeps alive the memory of those who died and those who survived.  We own a great debt to those who dedicate themselves to educating the public. One such person is Pauline Collier (pictured above with the pupils of St John's), who is a Fellow at the Imperial War Museum. She has been central to the success of the Southport Holocaust Memorial service as long as I can remember. Thanks to her and those who work alongside her the next generation have been taught about the terrible event that took place.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

My Midweek Visiter column- first week in February

Spontaneous applause broke out during the Holocaust Memorial service in Southport last week after the Imam of Southport Mosque, Soyful Alam, had spoken. There were extraordinarily powerful and moving presentations during the afternoon including one from Rabbi Ariel Abel who told the congregation that he had recently discovered the details of how the genocide had directly impacted on his family.

Soyful Alam spoke of his despair at our failure to learn the lessons of the holocaust. The world stands aside and fails to act. It is hard to find hope when night after night we see images of genocide and we know how many hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed. Soyful warned this failure to act undermines our common humanity and the bonds that should link us all together.

Pupils from St John’s Ainsdale working with their teacher Sarah Myers and Pauline Collier-a fellow of the Imperial War Museum- acted out a drama exploring the concerns of children who escaped to Britain during the last war through the kindertransport scheme. They were followed by students from KGV and Runshaw VIth Form Colleges who had researched the plight of individual victims of the holocaust after a recent visit to Auschwitz.
The Holocaust memorial came at the end of a busy week. I attended Chinese New Year Celebrations with the Chinese Government’s NW Consul, cut the 10th birthday cake at the party for the Formby Swimming Pool, cut a ribbon tied over a new park bench to mark the 50th Anniversary of Formby Rotary and attended Diana Beldam’s 100th Birthday tea party in Southport. There are lots of pictures and information on the Mayoral Blog
Crosby Scouts held a Burn’s Night Supper at Sacred Heart School. I have been very impressed by the work of local scouts. Having seen them in action I fully understand why more and more young people are opting to join up. The Explorer Scouts in Crosby put on a great night and raise money for their chosen charities.
In the Mayor’s office we are gearing up for the Annual Charity Ball that will be held in Southport on 1st of April this year. All the proceeds will go to local charities. It promises to be a great night. If you would like to come along and support this event drop me a line at Southport or Bootle Town Hall. I will announce further details shortly.