‘It’s been a privilege to be Ipswich Mayor, in a town we are so proud of’
PUBLISHED: 15:06 17 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:16 17 May 2017
As his year as Ipswich Mayor comes to an end this week, ROGER FERN reflects on the last 12 months, reveals some of the highlights and tells of the good causes he has been supporting.
Ellie and I have thoroughly enjoyed a fabulous year. It has been a great honour and privilege to be the Ipswich Mayor and Consort. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Ipswich and have tried very hard to be good ambassadors for the town of which we are so proud.
From the outset, of course, we knew it would be a busy 12 months. It has been, with just over 700 engagements!
We’ve tried to accept every invitation and have invited ourselves to places we’d like to visit. I’m a natural ‘nosey parker’ and being the mayor is an ideal opportunity to see places and meet people ordinarily it would not be possible to do so.
Ellie has been willing to go along with this approach, although working full-time means she has not always been able to accompany me. A warm reception and generous hospitality has been part of every visit for which we are very grateful.
On many visits, we’ve met people we know including former pupils (who I don’t always recognise as they have altered more over the years than I have!) of mine and their parents.
We’ve come to the conclusion that Ipswich is like a big village in which lots of people know lots of people. Indeed, by the end of some conversations, one almost feels related to the other person with so many mutual friends and acquaintances!
The gold chain and coat of arms is frequently the starting point. Having been worn by mayors of Ipswich for the last 146 years, it is extremely precious both as an historic artefact and for its sheer monetary value. But, then, after all, we are the county town of Suffolk.
The mayoral ‘theme’ has been ‘everyone counts’ reflected in the two charities we have been supporting. One of them is the Chapman Centre, now part of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG), a centre for those on the margins of the community for a whole variety of reasons.
The other is the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends project. Ipswich is now registered with the Society as ‘working towards dementia friendly status’. This is the first big step in the direction of becoming a ‘dementia friendly town’.
I shall continue to contribute to this process, after the mayoralty has finished, via the Ipswich Dementia Action Alliance.
Thank you very much indeed for all the support at fundraising events; the money will be used well in both organisations.
In addition, the number of volunteers and donations to the centre has risen significantly, whilst more and more individuals and organisations are trained as dementia friends. This is extremely encouraging.
The period in office has included many highlights. We were delighted to be present at the formal opening of the University of Suffolk on August 1.
Throughout the year, numerous concerts, productions, performances and art exhibitions show how many extraordinarily creative and talented people there are in and coming to Ipswich.
The Queen’s 90th birthday was a splendid opportunity for all kinds of celebrations. We’ve joined several people celebrating their 100th birthday. One of them, in particular, stands out. He’d been a Spitfire pilot in the Second World War and declared ‘we fought and died for our freedom which must never be given away!’
This was further emphasised when we joined thousands of others in our twin town in northern France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Arras. Last May, we were set the challenge of visiting every school and college in Ipswich. There are 56 and the target was met on the final day as Mayor!
We’ve enjoyed many encouraging conversations with headteachers, staff and pupils/students about how their schools can become even better. We’ve also met children and young people at uniformed organisation events, concerts and similar splendid settings.
We could go on! Suffice to say, we are extremely grateful to all those who have made the year so memorable for both of us. We wish the new Mayor and Consort every success.
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