Friday, 21 October 2016

A great night at Pride of Formby Awards

Friday night was awards night at the Gild Hall in Formby. This is a new and most important initiative from Formby Parish Council and got off to a brilliant start. There were twelve awards including Good Neighbour, Carer, Fundraisers, for Courage, Teacher, Young Person, Community Hero and Lifetime Achievement. The businesses of Formby had rallied around to sponsor the awards and local residents John Parrot, David Fairclough, and Elite Super Heavyweight Champion Alex Dickenson joined me in handing out the awards. The evening was expertly compered  by Sandgrounder Radio's Neil Newton.

A full report can be found on the Formby Bubble website who helped sponsor the event and I shall not try to compete with their coverage here but rather record my impressions of the evening.

The first thing to say that these were genuine awards, the folk nominated fully deserved to be recognised by their community and Formby Parish Council are to be congratulated for setting up the event. A special mention must go to mother and daughter Maria Bennett and Dawn Brodie who led the team that made this event possible.

It is, of course, invidious to pick out any single award winner all were worthy winners but I will risk criticism by focusing on the two young people who won awards Hannah Ashby and Daniel Hunter. Both in their separate ways were inspirational.

Hannah was on holiday on a Greek Island with her family this summer when she witnessed at first hand the plight of refugees as they arrived. She was moved to do something practical about the situation and when she returned to Formby she set about fundraising for Unicef’s ‘Stand up for Syria’ project. In addition to other activities Hannah organised a sponsored mile walk across the fields to mimic the excruciatingly long and painful walk from Syria to Bodrum that so many Syrian children have endured in order to save their lives. She is to be wholeheartedly congratulated.

The other young person to win an award was Daniel Hunter who received a standing ovation in the Gild Hall when his story was told. Daniel’s Mum had been diagnosed with cancer and she nominated him because of all the support he had given her. The list of household chores he had willingly carried out was truly impressive.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

My Mayoral Blog in this weeks Visiter

World Mental Health day fell on the 10th October and it has dominated my activities this week. For the first time ever there was a Mayoral reception in Southport Town Hall to mark the event. Mental Health remains an underfunded and neglected area of care. We have seen destressing cases, for example, when a young women was held in a police cell because there was no appropriate hospital bed available. I know of cases where the only available hospital bed for someone in crisis was hundreds of miles away. The situation is particularly acute in services for adolescents.

There is a desperate need to discuss mental ill health so as to challenge the stigma that still surrounds this topic. I have spent over thirty years working for a mental health charity. Speaking with some of the people who use our services it is clear that public attitudes towards those with mental health issues still need to be challenged.

In the Town Hall this week we focussed on one particular topic that is of great importance to people recovering from mental ill health- namely getting and keeping a job. It was good to hear the stories of those people who had been successfully in achieving that goal. It was great to hear from employers and here I must give a special mention to Morrisons and their representative Anna Ingrams.

If mental health is to be treated in exactly the same way as physical health, every employer should have trained Mental Health First Aiders just like they have physical first aiders.

I began the week by opening an Art Exhibition of work submitted by people using mental health services. They had all attended a workshop called ‘Art for the Terrified’ and produced some really amazing pictures.

Finally on the mental health theme I was greatly encouraged when I attended Merseyside Scouts Annual meeting. One of the presentations came from the 4th Crosby Scouts who told us about two of their projects-one connected to the canal and one on mental health. The young people in the troop had chosen the topics themselves and they spoke movingly of what they had learnt about mental health issues and their resolve to do their bit to alter public attitudes.

Deyes High Awards evening

David Stewart and I after the presentations
I was pleased to be invited to attend the Awards Evening at Deyes High School in Maghull. It is always uplifting to hear the stories of young people and their successes. At Deyes I heard not only about their academic and sporting prowess but also their service to the wider community. When there is far too much negativity about young people it is important that these stories are heard.

The guest speaker, former Deyes student, David Stewart spoke about his journey from Deyes High to a top job at QPR. He was a football obsessed teenager whose parents guided him to maintain his academic studies. At University he recognised he wasn't going to be a top professional and saw an opening in performance analysis. After an unpaid internship he got a permanent job and subsequent promotion. His talk was well received by the school.

Without doubt to two best delivered presentations of the night came from Head Boy, James Thompson, and Head Girl, Amy Louise Baker. It was very impressive that two young people spoke so compellingly,-theirs was not a flat monotonal offering but something where both the content and the way it was delivered commanded attention even at the end of the evening.

When I got home I checked out the school website and found that they had taken up World Mental Health Day and this piece appeared in the school newsletter:

World Mental Health Day took place on Monday 10th October 2016. This week during form time, Year 12 students have been discussing different mental health problems, to raise awareness of this important issue. Some of the conditions students have been discussing include stress, anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder. They have been discussing how to recognise the signs of mental health problems, coping strategies and sources of help.

As regular readers will know I have done my best to raise mental health issues during my Mayoral year and a few days earlier had hosted the first ever Mayoral reception to mark the day. Well done Deyes High.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

World Mental Health Day sees first Mayoral reception

Anna Ingram (from Morrisons) and I
World Mental Health Day 2016 saw the first Mayoral Reception in Southport Town Hall to mark that occaision . For me the day had begun as Neil Newton's guest on Sandgrounder Radio broadcasting from their new studios in Houghton Street. I was delighted Neil had me on to talk about mental health and he proved to be an informed and sympathetic interviewer. Their is still much work to do in combatting stigma concerning mental ill health and securing the appropriate resources to ensure that the necessary services are available.
My second port of call was to host a reception at the Town Hall. The focus of that gathering was employment and it was good that people seeking work , services providers and employers turned up. It was especially pleasing that Anna from Morrisons was their  sharing some important and relevant insights.

Neil and I at Sandgrounder radio
Imagine Independence run an employment service in Sefton which has attracted national acclaim. The staff team are led by Olga Snell who along with her team shared their experiences. It was clear that work needs to be done to with bodies representing occupational health specialists. There were reports of some very good people working in that area alongside some rather disturbing examples of failure to understand the type of reasonable adjustments and support people recovering from mental ill health might require. A second area of concern was the failure to provide support to small businesses. Across the region small businesses are important employers and many of them would welcome more information and support. A recent survey revealed that many employers would like to know more about successfully employing people recovering from mental ill health. about  Everyone attending I spoke to felt the event was worthwhile.

My thanks to the Town Hall staff for their support.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

my article in the Visiter for this week

In my mind I tend to divide my duties as Mayor into two broad categories; the formal ‘state occasions’ and the community events. This week I undertook two state occasions and a host of community events.

In April 1989 ninety six people went to a football match and did not return. Last week the Freedom of the City of Liverpool was awarded to the 96 alongside Marina and Kenny Dalglish, Professor Phil Scraton and Bishop James Jones. More residents of our borough died at Hilsborough than from any other part of Merseyside. It was appropriate that I should represent Sefton at St George’s Hall for this important ceremony. The emotional climax of the night was the singing of I’ll never walk alone by Waterloo based mezzo soprano Danielle Louise Thomas. I had the opportunity of speaking with some of the local families. It was a difficult occasion for many of those in the Hall but everyone felt that it was proper and fitting that the highest honour that the city can bestow should have been awarded to the 96.

Waterloo and Crosby in Bloom Awards took place on Wednesday. It was really encouraging to see so many people participating.  There were certificates and Trophies in a range of categories including schools, front gardens, window boxes, containers, commercial premises, pubs, open spaces etc.

Crosby U3A (University of the third Age) visited me in Bootle Town Hall. These tours are very interesting especially when you have a well-informed group like U3A. There is a lot to see especially relating to Bootle’s role in the Battle of the Atlantic and Captain Johnny Walker.

Merseyside Business Awards took place on Thursday evening and I will write more about that next week along with other events including a MacMillan Coffee Morning and a trip to the Opera. Information and lots more photographs can be found on the Mayoral

There was a full congregation for my Civic Service which was held at Holy Trinity Southport. The church certainly has a 'wow' factor especially when, as on Sunday, the impressive architecture is combined with excellent music, a well ordered service and a thought provoking sermon. The Vicar, Rod Garner, is writing about his sermon elsewhere in the Visiter. The service has been described to me as 'beautiful, uplifting and inspiring'. My sincere thanks to everyone at Trinity It was a memorable occasion.

Crosby U3A visit Bootle Town Hall

Crosby U3A visit to Bootle Town Hall

 Crosby U3A (University of the third age) visited Bootle Town Hall recently. These tours of the Mayoral corridor and the Council Chamber are very popular with local history groups. Bootle Town Hall has a lot history recorded in the gifts that the Council has received over the years. My experience is that  the U3A bring a extra local knowledge with them that adds to our understanding of history of the building and the borough. This visit was no exception as among those attending was the redoubtable Brenda Murray whose long life has been spent studying the history our area.

I met Brenda again later in the week when we both attended A Night at the Opera hosted by Sacred Heart Catholic College and performed by Una Voce. Brenda proudly told me she was the college's oldest old girl having left in 1942.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Starting the 10k run at Aintree in brilliant sunshine

A record number of runners almost 1300 turned out for the Matalan Merseyside 10k on Sunday morning. My job was to sound the hooter to start the race and to hand out the cups and cheques to the various winners.

It was good to meet so many local runners including this gentleman who was from Litherland who attended Litherland High School

Dejene Gezimu from Liverpool Harriers in an impressive time of 31 minutes and 26 seconds and first home in the women's race was Catherine Howard of Knowsley Harriers who crossed the finish line in 36 minutes and 36 seconds, followed by Kirsty Longley of Liverpool Pembroke and Sefton Harriers who finished in 37 minutes'

Kirsty  had to get off early to take her young daughter to a birthday party so I gave her her prize before the official presentations. There were lost of different categories including different veterans categories up to 70+ as well as team prizes.