When I was 14, I went on a school trip to the Chichester Festival Theatre. We were shown around the backstage, the lighting desk, the dressing rooms, the space under the main stage and so on. I have never looked at the theatre the same since. Being Mayor of Buckingham has been something akin to this. I have had the opportunity to see underneath, inside and around so many features of our town. It has been a great privilege, a wonderful delight, a huge honour and a deep education to have seen and been a part of so much. We live in an amazing town!
Over the last calendar year I have written 176 blogs about events I have attended as your Town Mayor (Mayor Blog). And I have also chaired and attended many other meetings too. It has been an enthralling and thrilling year for both Julie, my wife and consort, and myself. This article is my (brief) review of this last year.
This has been an historic year for Buckingham. In common with towns and villages across the country, we commemorated the ending of the Great War a hundred years ago. It was a most solemn and very moving experience to be part of the parade and the service by the war memorial. It felt to me that the whole town came together then (and in several other events) to honour all those whose lives had been ended by armed conflict, whilst not overlooking all those for whom the war had harmed their lives forever. We use these memories to remind us always how precious is peace.
I did some research using the archives of the Town Council minutes of late 1918 and early 1919. I was struck by two points: at the last meeting of the Town Council, two days before the Armistice was announced, the Council stood in silence to remember the sad death of one of the sons of a fellow Town Councillor - Sgt Edgar Holton. And at the 1918 December meeting of the Town Council, they were glad to accept the offer from Mr R. R. Harrison to pay for the gilding of the Swan atop the old Town Hall, in memory of his late brother and in celebration of the peace. Something to remember when you see the sun glinting off our town’s weather vane.
This year has been about much else too. It was wonderful to be a part of the opening of the new Vinson Centre at the University, a majestic and beautiful building that will add to our local heritage. Indeed, I have spent much time this year building greater links between ‘town and gown’ after the Vice Chancellor and I went on a road trip to Wales to learn from universities and towns there on how best to do this.
At our heart, our town is a commercial market town. It was an honour to officially open the refurbished Villiers Hotel back in January. I have spent time with the local traders listening to their ideas for the development of our town. A few months ago, I convened a group of local business people to work on a town festival to compliment the Enterprise Festival co-organised by the University and Peter Jones Foundation. Work is underway and so watch this space!
Many of us have been concerned about the future of health and social care in our town as plans are afoot to build a new health centre at Lace Hill. I have attended meetings to listen to people’s views as well as enjoy the occasions when I have been a part of celebrations at local care homes. It is so joyful for me to see the effort made by staff into ensuring the lives of vulnerable people are made rich, warm and exciting.
Not ever being a particularly sporty person, it has been fabulous to be part of so many sporting events from the Buckingham United charity football match, the annual Moretonville football presentations, watch a game at MK Dons, be part of the Buckingham Rugby vice presidents lunch, and the Buckingham Athletic Football Forum. I have had a go at bowling and awarded the Tennis Club’s prizes and so on and on!
I could go on of course (please do browse my blog - there is so much more there).
I will end by saying that I feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful and glorious town, full of busy, committed and generous people. So many people are working hard to make Buckingham an even better place in which to live, work, study, visit, play and love! Long may this continue.
Councillor Jon Harvey
Buckingham Town Mayor