Thursday, 28 July 2016

In safe hands, 250 years of the Liverpool Pilots

Captain Chris Booker planned the visit of the three Cunnard Queens to the River Mersey last year and was himself on board and in charge of the Queen Mary as it turned off Crosby on its way to berth at the Pier Head.
Chris is Chairman of the Liverpool Pilotage Service and I and other Mayors from across the region gathered in Liverpool last week to recognise the important role played by the pilots.
For 250 years the ships entering the River Mersey have had the benefit of a pilot to guide them into harbour. Their professionalism is central to the good name of the port. In wartime and peace their contribution in keeping sailors safe has been enormous.
Much of the shipping activity on the |Mersey takes place in Sefton. The new Port of Liverpool facility which will allow the largest container ships to dock is in Sefton. I was recently at Hugh Baird College to play a part in the opening of the new Port of Liverpool Academy. They have identified a raft of jobs that will be needed in the new port and is offering training from NVQ up to degree level courses to prepare local people to take advantage of the new employment opportunities. At present Felixstowe is the furthest north that these large container ships can dock.
To mark the 250th anniversary the Liverpool Pilotage Service Chris Booker received, on behalf of his members past and present, the highest award the city can bestow. The proceeding began at the Seafarers Church where during a service of thanksgiving- which included the choir singing the introduction to Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony- we learned about the history of the Liverpool Pilots. Sadly too often, especially during the first two centuries, a large number of pilots have lots their lives. In the two great European Wars of the 20th century tragedy struck with a large loss life each time in single incidents. In our borough we should especially remember the Charles Livingston which was driven ashore on Ainsdale beach in a violent storm in 1939 with the loss of twenty three pilots, apprentices and crew.
During the service Waterloo based  mezzo soprano Danielle Louise Thomas sang  Bring him Home. Danielle-Louise sang in the charity concert in Blundelsands given by the Amadeus Chamber Choir and it is always a pleasure to meet her.

After the church service there was Civic Reception for the 56 current pilots and members of the Retired Pilots Association including several from our borough where we were entertained by the Port Sunlight Sea Dogs It takes seven years to train of a pilot and they are recruited from the ranks of Master Mariners. Chris Booker and his colleagues will have an important role to play in the new Port of Liverpool- the success of which is central to this areas prosperity in the 21st century.

The Formby Festival -a great success

The Formby Festival was a great success. I was invited by the Parish Council to help judge the school choir competition. It was a very difficult task. I was delighted to see that there was a panel of judges. It soon became clear that we had all focussed in on two choirs: Freshfields and Our Lady's. The organisers took away our score sheets to tot them up. It seemed to take a long time and reason became clear when they emerged from their tent. Marking separately the judges had independently scored the two top choir with identical marks. Congratulations to both choirs
the joint wunners

the joint winners

The judging panel

One of the local traders supplying the Festival

A new start up business from Ainsdale at the Festival 

Formby's own brewery Red Star did a roaring trade

On stage with the winners for the presentation

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Rotary, award ceremony Service above Self

The Southport Links Rotary Club have for several year organised "service above Self Awards for Southport Primary Schools.

I was fortunate to be invited to hand our the certificates and trophies to the winners. In truth this was one of those occasions when the cliché; 'they were all winners' is true.

Members of the club had visited each of the participating schools and prepared a report. Without exception the information they discovered was impressive. There is so much that is positive going on in our schools.
The winners were Our Lady of Lourdes RC Primary School from Birkdale who are pictured above (courtesy of a passing parent) with their trophy. The other picture is of Farnborough School also from Birkdale.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Taryn, Head for a day at Farnborough Road Junior School

After visiting the Botanic Gardens I dropped into Farnborough Junior School to meet their new Head Taryn Sinclair. Taryn was elected by the pupils after an extensive campaign complete with videos and campaign literature, (Thanks to Neil Middlehurst and his team at the Borough Council for assisting with a ballot box and polling booth and the regulation stubby pencils)

Taryn showed me around the school and introduced me to each class, The school was having a fun maths day with, for example,  battle ships to practice co-ordinates and various other mathematical skills which I must admit I had never encountered before.

One thing I did notice was how well received Taryn as she went round the school. If I was Mr Antell, the Head for the other 364 days a year,  I would watch out........

Brilliant Botanic Garden Volunteers

The brilliant Botanic Garden volunteers have magnificently maintained this jewel in the Southport crown. I met David and Ann Cobham when I visited the the Churchtown park. I have been coming to the gardens on and off for decades to visit the playground with my daughters and to listen to the brass band on a Sundays. The cuts in local authority funding inevitably led to a reduction in spending on the parks. One of the really uplifting things about Southport is the manner in which the townsfolk have been determined not allow austerity to diminish places like the Botanic. There are lots of examples of volunteers making a real difference: Lord St in Bloom, Rotton Row, Birkdale Civic Society, King's Garden to mention just a few. David and Ann and all their volunteer colleagues have achieved an exceptionally high standard and on a very large scale. One of the important things a Mayor can do is to give recognition and thanks to groups like the Botanic Gardeners on behalf of the community. Since my visit I have been recommending almost everyone I meet that they should visit Botanic Gardens. I have visitors staying shortly for a family wedding and 21st birthday and I will certainly put a visit to these gardens on their itinerary.

thanks to John Dodd for the photos

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

It was a pleasure to join the Chair of Little Altcar Parish Council, Cllr Anne Ibbs, for her civic service. We gathered at St Michael's and All Angels for evensong in the sunshine. This is a particularly impressive church building dating back only to C19th but the site has been a place of worship for centuries. I was much taken with the picture behind the altar ( a reredos in the jargon) which is a really stunning Arts and Crafts painting by Craven, Dunhill and Jackfield from cartoons by Heaton, Butler and Bayne. The scene is not of the last supper but of Jesus after the resurrection breaking break with Cleopas and Mary after walking with them to Emmaus . It dates from 1879 and is painted on to ceramic tiles. I was lucky enough to be shown around the church by one of the choir.

Good luck to Anne during her year of office and to all the other Parish Councillors I met.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Crosby Lions Carvival a grand day out

A grand day out at Crosby Lions Carnival. I was very impressed with the support that the Lions received from so many local people and organisations. It must be a very big undertaking but everything seemed to be running smoothly and the weather held for them.

One of the issues that inevitably cause problems for organisers is how do you manage the traffic so as not to inconvenience local residents unnecessarily. As you can see from the notice below the Lions had all that under control.

I had the pleasure of being accompanied by the President of Crosby Lions and his wife and got to meet the charities and uniform organisation that were help making this event a success. I failed miserably on the coconut shy and did little better on the tombola. Crosby is lucky to have people who voluntarily give so freely of their time to organise such events.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Debates on equal marriage and UK attitudes to refugees at Southport URC Assembly

The URC has come to Southport for its General Assembly and as Mayor I was delighted to be asked to welcome the members.

It was a gloriously sunny day and Southport looked at its best, people I spoke to were very impressed with our town and the weather.(Regrettably I knew the weather forecast for the rest of their stay was wind and rain)

I stayed in the Floral Hall whilst International and Ecumenical guests were introduced. There was an impressive list of visitors including representatives of a churches in Pakistan and from the Coptic churches -two communities experiencing discrimination and pressure. The Coptic Bishop  Angaelos spoke later in the afternoon and his address has received some coverage especially his comments on refugees which include this passage:

As the Church, we need to address the issue of refugees. The infant Christ and the holy family were refugees; we must be able to look for the face of Christ in every refugee. The EU referendum showed that there are deep disagreements and misinterpretations about refugees in the UK. As the body of Christ we must be advocates for the fairness and justice that Christ not only preached but demonstrated, in his incarnation for us

Whilst I was  I was still in the Assembly a minister from the NW region opened a debate on refugees and urged members to be part of the effort to change the conversation about refugees and their contribution to our society. Other people spoke in favour. It had been explained to me prior to attending the session that the method of decision taking was not the one I was used to; there are no whipped votes and those attending were meant to listen to the points made, respect those with whom they found they did not agree and try to find a way to reach a consensus.

Later during the Assembly continued their decision making by returning to the issue of equal marriage which had been the subject of a special Assembly in 2015. The press were far more interested in this than they had been about the plight of refugees. The proposition that URC churches should be allowed to celebrate same sex marriages was approved by 240 votes to 20. More precisely the motion empowered local congregation to carry out same sex marriages -the decision lies with individual churches.

It did rain for the rest of the URC Assembly but the comments I gathered from those who came to Southport for the event confirmed the impression that I got from the IDTA the previous week; namely that the Floral Hall/Convention staff were very highly thought of and that the quality of hotel and guest house accommodation was equally highly praised.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Strand Partnership Schools councils defibrillators fundraising reaches £7, 665.10p

It really was pleasure to join pupils and staff from the schools that make up The Strand Partnership in and around Bootle. The Schools Councils had met together to mark the culmination of their fundraising for the Oliver King Foundation. We met together at Formby Hall along with Mark King to hear all about the ideas that the schools had for raising funds and spreading awareness about defibrillators.

One of the schools has a link with a school in Sierra Leone and had taught everyone there method of applause that they had brought back with them, The first time they did it it took me by surprise because after some rhythmic clapping they all went 'sssshh' accompanied by wave movements with their hands.

It was clear that these schools had really become committed to this project and had come up with so enterprising fundraising ideas.

He was a keen sportsman who excelled in football, swimming, athletics and many other sports. Oliver passed away suddenly in March 2011, aged 12, from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) The Foundation, among other things, raises money for defibrillators and training sessions on their use. Together the schools raised £7,665.10p. My job was to hand out the medals to the schol council reps which I was delighted to do.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Southport Schools Partnership. Schools Council celebration of their contribution to the town

Ben Mitchell with his special Community Hero Award

The week ended on a high with a visit to Southport’s Learning Partnership meeting at Greenbank High School. The evening brought together representatives of School Councils from across the town to celebrate their achievements. Tina Cullen MBE –international hockey player and teacher- presented awards to the four consortiums which all consisted of primary and secondary schools for their work in the community. I was privileged to give to three students special Community Hero Awards for their exceptional contribution. Full details are on the 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

British Citizenship ceremony in Southport Town Hall

The British citizenship ceremonies organised but the Registrars Department are, I believe, very important. It marks a right of passage after all the official actions have been taken. This is the first one I have presided at in Southport and it was good to be able to mark this occasion three new citizens; a doctor from Pakistan,and two women one from Canada and one from Latvia. I am sure that they will contribute greatly to our community.

Good to meet folk from the older persons forums

I was in Bootle Town Hall to meet with representatives of older peoples forums in the borough. My main job was to hand out 'thank yous' to all those who give up their time to make sure the voice of older people is heard by statutory authorities.

It was good to see so many groups turn up to promote their work including Age Concern, Alzhiemers Society, local volunteer groups, housing association and Sefton Pensioners Advocacy . They all make an important contribution to our communities.
After the formal business I showed people around the Town Hall and, as with previous visitors, learnt a lot from the local knowledge that they brought

Monday, 4 July 2016

The International Dance Teachers Association Annual event at Southport

I left the Knitted Bible behind and headed for the Floral Hall to the Annual Dinner and Dance of the International Dance Teachers Association. The Association has been coming to Southport for four days of dancing, lecturers and dining for about a dozen years.

On the steps of the Floral Hall I was greeted by Wayne Sleep and we chatted about the Mayoral chain. He was clearly pleased to be in Southport and later in the evening performed an amazing comedy dance routine based on Charlie Chaplin. I did reflect that it one day I was encountering full range of activities from the Knitted Bible to Wayne Sleep.

There were over 400 people at the Annual Dinner and I made a point of getting around the tables and asking what they thought of Southport. I am delighted to report that there was universal approval. Everyone spoke highly of their accommodation and loved Lord Street. The venue, with the Ballroom in the Floral Hall and the Theatre next door, suited their needs perfectly.

I was lucky to be sitting with the President Lynda King during the dinner who was an excellent and interesting host. The cabaret after the meal was breath taking. Not only did we have Wayne Sleep we had  demonstrations by: Gerhard & Amor – World Showdance Champions and  Warren & Kristi Boyce - Reigning British National Professional Ballroom Champions.

There was high praise for the staff of the Floral Hall and for the meal they produced.

On my way out I bumped in Wayne Sleep again which rather satisfactorily completed the night.

The Knitted Bible at Birkdale URC for two weeks

I was invited to open the Knitted Bible Exhibition at Birkdake URC on Sunday afternoon at the suggestion of Brenda Porter. The exhibition has its origins in Hartlepool and is now touring the country, this is its first visit to our borough. A full explanation can be found on the website of St George's  church .

I must admit that ever since I received the invitation have been intrigued and every time I am asked what I do a Mayor I have told them about the knitted bible. I was intrigued and almost everyone I spoke was equally curious.

My invitation had asked me to open the exhibition and I must admit I had imagined myself cutting a ribbon or drawing back a curtain. It was clear that was not the case and I was going to be called upon to say something. As we were singing the hymn prior to opening and the minister, Janet Calderley, calling me up I was hurriedly collecting my thoughts. As I looked around the knitted figures it struck me how often through history the stories they were telling gave hope to people in times of deep despair. If I'd have time I would have looked up some examples: the spiritual songs sung by slaves of African American origin like Deep River with its longing and promise of a better land.  All I could drag to mind was a scrap of poetry from Wordsworth beloved by the great champion of non conformity, Isaac Foot:

.....his pure song, which did not shrink from hope
In the worst moment of these evil days;
From hope, the paramount 'duty' that Heaven lays,
For its own honour, on man's suffering heart.
But I couldn't remember the context or be certain of the words so I just went wit the sentiment.
After the opening I was shown round by the Moderator Rev Janet Embrey . I was much taken with David
and Goliath, not least because the giant looked like Hagrid. But it was the Last Supper and the nativity which stole the show.
We then went off for an excellent Afternoon Tea with masses of home baking. I popped into the kitchen afterwards to thank
the helpers and was delighted to see so many men taking their turn.
Finally it was back to the exhibition for some photographs. John Pugh and I posed behind the last supper and discussed which
of the knitted disciples was Judus. Traditionally he sits two away from Christ's right hand. There is some
dispute whether the disciple next to Christ is John or Mary Magdalene, but in the case of the knitted bible it certainly isn't Mary
The exhibition is on for two weeks and I would recommend that you let your curiosity get the better of you and go along.

The Ainsdale Show 2016-one of the NW's great little shows

Saturday saw the opening of the Ainsdale Horticultural Show, truly on of the great little shows. This is their 96 year and it is good to see that this well loved community event has adapted and is thriving in the 21st century. Congratulations to all those who give up their time to keep this show on the Green at Ainsdale,

I saw lots of local people enjoying the day. The weather was remarkably kind to us as once again Southport's micro climate bucked the national trend and there was no rain at the showground

I was met by the Chair Patrica Pearce who showed me around . I bumped into Ted Harthill who is a volunteer with the show and was looking after the impressive collection of trophies that the Ainsdale Show had gathered over the passed 90 plus years.

I saw a very impressive flower arranging demonstration on how you manipulate leaves to enhance your display.  All Ainsdale seemed to have turned out, local churches, schools, the civic society voluntary group, and lots of families. At the Ainsdale Village Church stand I met Brenda Porter who has been instrumental in inviting me to open the Knitted Bible exhibition at Birkdale URC church on Sunday.

My job was to hand out awards to young people. The Ainsdale show has developed many classes for local children to enter and there many proud parents snapping photographs.

Having met two former Ainsdale councillors it was a pleasure to chat to a current one Lynne Thompson. Lynne played an important part in  getting Ernest Jones his Legion of Honour medal,sadly she told me that Ernest has now passed away.

Mrs Pearce was kindly inviting me to afternoon tea when Sean Brady came along with his bike. Sean and I contested the 1983 General Election and he now runs Formby First and has posted some great pictures of the Ainsdale show on his twitter account.
Afternoon Tea was, as you can see, amazing. I was pleased to be joined by The Chair and a volunteer from the show along with the Manager of the Southport Flower Show and his wife.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Amadeus Chamber Choir Charity Concert in Blundellsands for Ebola orphans

Despite the attractions of the Wales v Belgium Euro '16 match I chose to accept an invitation to a concert. The Amadeus Chamber Choir was performing at St Joseph's Church in Blundellsands. This was a real treat for me and all held in a good cause-children orphaned because of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

click hear to hear a sample of their music
I was seated at the front of the church when, from the back of the church, the music began with Handel's Zadok the Priest. There was a moment when I wondered whether this was a recording from The Sixteen, or someone like that, it sounded so professional. The choir then worked its way through a very varied programme Palestrina, Buxtehude and Mendelssohn  until we came to a selection of modern numbers including Lennon and McCartney, Bob Chilcott and Herb Brown's Singing in the Rain. In between Waterloo's own mezzo soprano Danielle Thomas (well known to many for singing Abide with me at the Justice for the 96 Hillsborough vigil)  gave us Mozart.

I have been warned that when I write this posting I must not spend longer praising the food than I do writing about the concert. Suffice to say that I would come again just to eat the home made interval sweets and savouries.

The second half followed the pattern of the first-classical works giving way to lighter  pieces with Danielle Thomas performing in the middle. I was particularly stuck by the Crucifixus  by Lotti. If I shut my eyes the music sounded effortless, but with them open (and sitting in the front row) I was aware how carefully the choir was concentrating, all eyes were on the conductor David Holroyd. I don't think I've ever seen choristers follow their musical director so completely. I don't know how many parts the choir were divided into-at least eight by my reckoning-but they all came together impressively.

Chatting to some of the audience at the interval it was obvious how well the concert was going down. Several people said how much they enjoyed the varied programme. The choir sang the light and the classical equally well. Their website has on it a selection of numbers to which you can listen. I have picked out Blue Moon as an example available here.

The Amadeus folk are a very friendly group and they invited me back to their after show party with promises of food and wine. Now bearing in mind what I have said about the quality of the food I thought I might be in for a treat but the spread that the choir members had produced exceeded my expectations. The roast beetroot was amazing and the range of salads, meats, pates etc were every bit as good as the music had been and that is before we even looked at the desserts.

During the party two bits of good news filtered through; firstly that the concert had raised in excess of £1550 and secondly that the welsh team had pulled of an historic victory. All the commentators were discussing how the welsh team's great strength was their close bond  and how that had allowed them to achieve great things. I could not help but reflect that the Amadeus choir was similarly sustained by their friendship, their obvious pleasure in each others company  and their mutual joy in music making. I certainly intend to put their Christmas concert in my diary.

Friday, 1 July 2016

The Battle of the Somme commemoration Southport 2016

This morning we assembled at the Lord Street war memorial to remember the men who died at the Battle of the Somme. Afterwards I went the British Legion Byng House to hear a talk about the battle . I have produced below the script I had . The poem was written by Mike Morris to whom I wish to extend my thanks. Mike, a man from Netherton , wrote the poem to commemorate the men who died from his area on the first day of the battle. Mike helped me adapt the poem so it was relevant to Southport. I greatly appreciate the work Mike put in at short notice researching the necessary amendments.

We come today to remember the men who died at the battles of the Somme; especially the men of Southport and Formby.

I have a poem to read:

The first July dawn in Picardy 1916.
A short march from Maricourt chateau.
At last the incessant, pounding guns fall silent.
A skylark defies the dying din, soars and sings its joyous notes above.
Below, hearts pound in youthful chests.
Despite the warm red rum coursing through veins.
Four thousand Liverpool Kingsmen wait with Pals from Manchester;
Regulars from Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Wiltshire and Royal Scots Fusiliers.
These older heads will guide the young ‘uns through!
(Indignant, angry French comrades on their right-this is far from new to them!)
Steel bayonets click on rifle barrels,
Flashing light on pale young faces, mouths as dry as dust.
Shrill whistles call them to duty.
Duty bravely done-objectives dearly gained.
As lark gives way to nightingale, Montaubon is wrestled from the foe!
200 Liverpool Pals will never see another dawn.
The battles to come will see, many Southport men join the ranks of the fallen,      among them:
Privates Delbanco, Kingston, McDonald, Thomas and Thorp,
Lance Corporal Maybrick and Corporal Ramsbottom .
The wounds of nearly 700 neatly dressed; blood staunched.
But who can staunch a broken mind or replace a missing limb?
The Pals can sleep their fitful sleep.
Less final than nearly 20,000 comrades to the north.
On the first day of 141 days of hell.
Victorious Pals from Lancashire, Liverpool, Cheshire and elsewhere.
Belie the dreadful slaughter of that day
And the final, terrible toll of perhaps 300,000 souls.

“Their name liveth for evermore”. Rest in Peace.

During the service a lone piper played Flowers of the Forest. Below is a recording of Isla St Clair singing that haunting Scottish lament which was originally written for the fallen at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.