Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Excellent up to the minute panto from All Souls Dramatic Club

All Souls pantomimes are a Southport institution. All institutions need to adapt to survive and All Souls did that gloriously with their Sleeping Beauty show this year.

There was an exciting and innovative use of high quality video not just in the opening sequence but throughout the show that added to the production.

Nothing was lost from the traditional format we had all the usual gender bending devices; a script writing Dame, a principal boy, a precious item the audience have to guard ( a dragon slaying sword) and masses of audience participation- oh yes we did. The jokes were the proper blend of those that made you laugh out loud, or groan, the risqué and the parochial. The show concluded with the Dame and her son leading an enthusiastic audience sing-a-long by which time we all felt we knew one another as most of the groups visiting had been name checked.

All Souls have a loyal and growing audience-over 3,500 people have already booked for this year. They have kept the pantomime fresh, we even had a post modern feminist twist at the end. The principal boy -who is a bit of a wimp- and is of course a girl- fails to slay the dragon with the magic sword. The princess seizes the sword and decisively slays the dragon. Excellent stuff.
At the end of the show I got to meet the cast. It was a great pleasure to attend.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

My Visiter column this week

I visited the Christmas Shelter on the 25th December. This project operates for five days over the Christmas period providing food, shelter and companionship for those in need. It was so heartening to meet the volunteers who were giving up part of their Christmas Day. There was a real variety of people; Mums and daughters, married couples whose children had left home, a good representation of church folk and people just dropping in with home-made goodies. Ken, who was organising, soon had me slicing onions and bagging up sandwiches and then meeting and greeting folk with a cup of tea.

My next engagement was just as friendly. I had been invited by his family to Richard Crittenden’s 100th birthday party at the Gild Hall in Formby. His children, grandchildren and great grandchildren had laid on a brilliant afternoon including their own version of the old television favourite ‘This is your life’. Richard has certainly led an eventful and good life. My role was to present him with the birthday card from The Queen. 

Before I went to Formby I popped into Sandgrounder Radio to chat with Neil Newton about what I have been up to so far as Mayor and my plans for 2017.

One thing I talked with Neil about was how impressed I have been with the young people I have met. A couple of visits stand out in my memory. Readers of the Visiter will know of my interest in mental health. I have been keen to engage young people in discussions about this once taboo issue. The
11th Sefton East troop of scouts invited me to their meeting. One of their leaders, Antony Dowell, works with me at a mental health charity has put together some materials for scouts to use. My evening with them was a great success and they ask me some seriously searching questions. I have written up a full account onhttp://themayoralblog.blogspot.co.uk where you can also find some photographs

The second group of young people I met were at Chesterfield High School. They had undertaken a course with the UK Military School Academy -a group of former service personnel. It was clear that the students had enjoyed the experience and parents I met were enthusiastic about the benefits of attending.

Next week Afternoon Tea in the Mayor’s Parlour in aid of an Alzheimer charity and a traditional panto to attend amongst other engagements

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

My Visiter column this week

For many people Christmas begins when they listen to the broadcast of service of Nine Lessons and Carols and the lone boy chorister sings the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City. Nothing beats a live performance and I was pleased to be at Holy Trinity in Southport for their carol service which blended the traditional, including a choirboy singing the famous solo, with the new and unfamiliar all performed to a very high standard. There was more excellent music in Ince Blundell at the Amadeus Chamber Choir’s carol concert.

 One group of people we must not forget are those who are homeless or who have fallen on hard times. Once again this year a shelter will be open over the Christmas period and it is heartening how many people have volunteered to give up part of their Christmas to spread some seasonal joy. I shall be visiting the shelter on Christmas Day.

Another group of volunteers who will be working over Christmas are the Samaritans. Around eighty people give their time to provide this important service. Thanks to an initiative by Soyful Alam, the Iman of the Southport Mosque, and Rod Garner from Holy Trinity £400 was raised for this local charity. I was delighted to be there when the cheque was handed over to Christina Morgan the Director of the charity.

I would like to thank all the people sent in toys for the Mayor’s Christmas Toy Appeal. Because of their generosity over 400 children will get a Christmas present. A special mention to ASDA in Southport who supported the appeal by acting as a collection point and to local business Paymentshield who collected gifts from their staff.

I would like to report on a couple of events involving young people. The 11th Sefton East group of Scouts invited me along to be interviewed as part of one of their badges. We had a great evening and they asked lots of challenging and interesting questions. I also attended ceremony at Chesterfield High School to mark the end of a course undertaken by some students and delivered by the UK Military School Academy -a group of former professional soldiers. It was clear talking to the students this had been a great success.

My final engagement of Christmas period will be in Formby where I shall be at 100th Birthday party for Richard Crittenden

Monday, 26 December 2016

A Mayoral Christmas part one

A merry Christmas to everyone. My Christmas card is based on a photo taken at the Formby Nativity Play 2016 by the Formby Bubble and reproduced with their permission. The Nativity reenactment is one of the highlights of the calendar in Formby and hundreds of people attend. The main street is closed to traffic and apart from the human members of the cast we had a donkey, goats, and sheep and an eagle. It was, as always, well done.

There were lost of carols, I read a lesson at Holy Trinity's nine lessons and carols. I am always impressed about how many people say their Christmas truly starts when they hear a boy treble sing the first verse of Once in Royal David's City. Live performances have far mor impact and at Holy Trinity we an excellent service, the music was of a very high standard and the boy chorister was brilliant. The service was well attended but I can't help thinking that there are lots more people in the town who would really have appreciated the event.

More carols came from the Amadeus Chamber Choir at the Ince Blundell Chapel (see picture above). It is a spectacular setting for this annual event. I am constantly surprised how few people know of its existence. The quality of the music matched the surroundings and the concert was sold out.

You can read about my visit to the Southport Mosque where £400 was raised for the Southport Samaritans. It was the first official civic visit and was arranged by my chaplain Rod Garner and the Iman  Soyful Alam. The picture shows us handing over the cheque to Christina Morgan along with Soyful and Rev Jane Morgan.

Christmas Day saw me at the Southport Christmas Shelter. It was good to met all the volunteers who were giving up part of their Christmas to make and serve up food. There was a real variety of volunteers;  Mums and  daughters, married couples whose children had left home a good representation of church folk and people just dropping in with home made goodies.

some of the Christmas Shelter Volunteers

tables all set and ready to go

The Southport Christmas Shelter is a separate charity which opens its doors for five days over Christmas on the Crisis at Christmas model. The volunteers all turn up for training before the event.

The Christmas parade, organised by Birkdale's Adam, brought Christmas presents to the children who use the centre in Ainsdale, Well done Adam.

Then there was the Elderberries Christmas party where I handed out certificates for their tomato and chilli festival

One carol concert that was not what I expected was held at the Temperance Institute and Martin Connard was my host. We were treated to an inter-galactic tour of planets, cultures and faiths to explore the spirit of Christmas. It was a great community event with plenty of audience participation which was enthusiastically entered into by the crowded hall.
 After the concert we came across something else unexpected dating back to 1898 and which had been stored in the Institutes loft, but more of that in the New Year.

I heard lots of school children sing carols. My good friend Antony Hill and his friends organised a coffee morning for the Mayor's charity at  CHET and the pupils of St Mary's village school came and sang for us all.

There was more music of a high standard from the Bach Choir at the Christmas Concert.

Finally on this round up there was the Mayor's Christmas Toy Appeal launched in Southport Town Hall with the support od the local branch of ASDA. 400 children identified by the Children's Trust  will get toys this Christmas thanks to everyone's generosity.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Tales of mince pies and Christmas dinners only tell part of the story Visiter column

Tales of mince pies and Christmas dinners could easily fill up the Mayor’s diary this week but instead I want to start by telling you about some of the really inspiring meetings I have had with young people.
Picture by Conrad Ainslie

I have attended two presentations from students who have completed the Prince’s Trusts Team programme. The first was at Hugh Baird College in Bootle and the second was sponsored by the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. The 12 week scheme offers work experience, challenging community projects and an adventurous five-day team building residential trip. It was clear from both groups of students that the programme had a positive impact on their self-confidence. It was great to meet young people determined to make the best of their opportunities.

I have also handed out certificates at the Sefton Shining Stars Awards for young people who have been nominated for their exceptional achievements. I was particularly impressed by the stories of young people who have taken on caring responsibilities or who had overcome many difficulties to reach their goals.

I had the pleasure of welcoming Redgate Primary School from Formby to the Town Hall. We have devised a special quiz for school groups that visit and these young folk enthusiastically joined in. They were a great credit to their families and school.

I have also heard the pupils from St Mary’s Little Crosby sing carols and Christmas songs at a Coffee Morning held at Crosby Hall to raise money for the Mayor’s Charity Appeal. They were brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance.

There was more Christmas music from the Southport Bach Choir at Holy Trinity and an amazing Inter-galactic carol concert at the Temperance Institute-you’ll have to read the Mayoral Blog 

http://themayoralblog.blogspot.co.uk if you want to know more. Danielle Thomas sang at the ‘Light Up a Life’ Service at St Joseph’s Hospice and on Saturday I attended the Formby Village Nativity Play which is undoubtedly one of our borough’s great community events.

Over the Christmas period I shall be helping to celebrate a 100th Birthday in Formby, attending the Amadeus Chamber Choirs Concert and on 25th December visiting the Southport Christmas Shelter- which provides food, warmth and companionship for those in need.

A final word about those Christmas meals and mince pies; as I write The Elderberries, the friendly gardening club, gets my vote for the best, but there are still ten days left till Christmas.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

St Joseph Hospice visit

On Sunday I attended a service at the Hospice called  'Light up a Life' . Danielle Thomas sang and there were carols and readings. That morning we had heard the terrible news of the bombing of the Coptic church in Egypt. Bishop Tom told us that he had met the murdered Bishop. At the end of the service candles were lit in memory of loved ones who had died and had been cared for at the hospice

My Visiter column this week

I have launched a Christmas Toy appeal for the children most in need in our borough. You can make sure the children wake up on Christmas Day with a present under the tree and a memory to treasure forever. All you have to do is donate brand new, unwrapped presents by 20 December at the following locations: Bootle Town Hall; Southport Town Hall; all Sefton Council libraries and leisure centres and Asda in Southport. Donations of gift cards and toiletries are also welcome for older children and teenagers.

If you want to know more about the appeal I have recruited an army of Christmas Elves who you can reach on my special Appeal hotline: 0151 934 3359 or visit: sefton.gov.uk/toyappeal  

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear but very cold. I was booked to be at Aintree (which is in Sefton rather than Liverpool) to open the Jockey Club's new Aintree Community Hub a duty I performed with Sir ‘AP’ McCoy

The Aintree Community Programme has five themes – Health & Wellbeing; Mental Wellbeing; Community Engagement; Disability; Riding in the Community. All programmes have been designed to ensure we focus on the important issues in our community whilst being aligned to racing and Jockey Club roots. Most recently, the Aintree Community Programme received funding from the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Trust to build a Community Hub at the Racecourse in order to focus and support the key themes of the programme.
I was particularly pleased to see that 'Mental Welbeing' was one of their chosen themes.

Sunday afternoon I joined the Christmas parade organised by Adam Brown which took Christmas presents to the young people at Springbrook Children’s Home in Ainsdale. The parade arrived at its destination the Scout Hut in Pinfold Lane where I met many of the families who were receiving gifts. Well done to Adam for putting on the event.