Agenda item - Mayor's Thanks
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The Mayor will give thanks for her year in office.
3.1 The Mayor stated that prior to the formal business on the Agenda she wished to take the opportunity to reflect on her year in office and to thank those who had supported her throughout her term.
3.2 The Mayor stated that she wanted to begin by thanking you all individually and collectively for enabling me to take the Mayoral Office for a year despite knowing that I would be the city’s youngest ever mayor.
And what a year - undoubtedly a year to remember. I know every Mayor says that, but for me, never did I expect, when I asked for a sabbatical from my employer Terrence Higgins Trust in order take up the role that:
· We would have European elections and I would become an MEP
· There would be a snap general election and we would get a new Prime Minister
· Brexit actually happening
And now a global pandemic on a scale we have never experienced before, which meant chairing the city’s first ever “virtual” council meeting on Skype
I have thoroughly enjoyed the mayoralty and am indebted to the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Alan Robins, for covering engagements when I was in Brussels or Strasbourg, and to my family, for not complaining when I jumped straight off the train on a Friday after a week in Brussels, to attend a mayoral event, and then follow it up with almost back to back events all weekend and Monday morning before taking the afternoon train back to Brussels.
The diversity of engagements I have attended has been truly staggering:
· The opening of a school
· A secret garden party
· A music festival
· A number of charity events, and
· A fundraising dinner
The year has been an amazing voyage of learning and discovery; I found out so many things, met so many people and visited so many places in Brighton and Hove that I never knew before.
But, like most things, it’s not always about quantity, but quality. This year has obviously been a once in a lifetime experience for me, but I wanted to make each and every event special for the many amazing people I met. I hope I managed to do this, not least, by remembering people’s names once I was introduced to them (although Robbie was always an extra help with that if need be!), circulating the room and listening with interest to the stories of everyone who was there.
And there are so many highlights to choose from, but I particularly enjoyed:
· Leading the PRIDE parade with my then baby Rafi on our cargo bike, with my consort Tom on our Brompton too.
· The Actually Gay Men’s Chorus blew me away so much when I first attended one of their concerts last summer, that I asked them to sing at my Christmas reception at Brighton Town Hall, and for those of you who were there, I’m sure you will agree that they were just phenomenal. We are incredibly lucky to have that calibre of talent in our city. And I thank them again for supporting my work this year.
· We had the most memorable Christmas ever: as a family we attended the service at The Royal Sussex County Hospital (where my son Rafi was born) and visited the Trevor Mann Baby Unit where Rafi spent his first few days. One of the nurses even remembered him – memorable because he was so large when most of the babies in there are so small… they called him the whale! That was followed by Christmas lunch for the elderly and isolated at St Andrew’s Church in Hove. There were more than 100 people present, and they especially seemed to love having a giggle and Christmas sing-along with Rafi. And we loved it too!
· But as you know, I chose to focus my year in office on children, young people and women, and so it is no surprise that some of my most memorable relationships have been built with them. ‘My First Friends’ nursery in Withdean, is an excellent example of how I’ve managed to effectively build relationships with organisations, charities and businesses. I was first invited to the nursery in October with my two-year-old, by ward councillor Sarah Neild, ahead of remembrance Sunday.
· It is such an amazing, small nursery, serving some of the most disadvantaged people in our community. We are so lucky to have such a caring team of people working there. When I visited, the kids and staff had made remembrance-inspired artwork that I still have and have put on my wall in the Parlour.
· As a thank-you, I invited them to the smaller remembrance service at the Old Steine on the Friday prior to remembrance Sunday, and the children took centre stage and helped me lay a wreath. Councillors who were present will no doubt remember it well. Since then, the nursery has supported many of my own events as well as events I’ve been involved in, with children, across the city. Thank you, My First Friends.
· Burning of the Clocks was an absolute wash-out, and my 2-year-old Rafi and I got absolutely drenched!
· And towards the end of the year, I got to see Brighton Drama Group Youth perform The Adam’s Family. You simply would not have known that they were all children, and I told them that after the show. For those of you who aren’t aware of it, The Adam’s Family is an extremely difficult piece of musical theatre for young people to perform, due to the amount of innuendos and comedy involved - but they didn’t half pull it off. I have no doubt that many of them will go on to have professional acting careers in the future.
As Mayor I have had the opportunity to chair citizenship ceremonies, a hugely emotional day because so many of those becoming British citizens have had to endure a long and arduous road to citizenship. It was great to listen to all of their individual stories and to congratulate them on completing their journey to become British citizen, adding to the richness and vibrancy of this wonderful city.
When I could, I attended events on the bus, by bike or walking. People loved to see the mayor mixing amongst them and found it even quite entertaining! When appropriate, I also included my son on official engagements, which helped people connect even more. It was also a great opportunity to show that you don’t need to be a certain age, gender or demographic to be mayor. The first thing people usually said was ‘aren’t you young to be mayor?’ To which I often responded that it was just good make-up.
Another focus of my mayoral year has been my 20 charities:
3. Parents Carers Project
4. Brighton Housing Trust
5. Brighton Table Tennis Club
6. Brighton Women’s Centre
7. Clocktower Sanctuary
8. Cruse Brighton and Hove
9. Extra Time
10. Grace Eyre
11. Oasis Project
12. Off The Fence
15. Sussex Nightstop
17. The Martlets
18. Survivors Network
19. The Hummingbird Project
We have already raised a 5-figure sum, and some charities have used being a mayor’s charity to their advantage by mentioning it on successful external fundraising bids. It has been a huge amount of fun - both attending their own fundraising events such as garden parties but also the benefits held at The Royal Pavilion. I want to thank Karl, from Moshimo, for his amazing work in helping to organise, sell tickets and provide yummy Japanese grub for the benefits. They wouldn’t have happened without him. My biggest disappointment was having to cancel my gala dinner in March because of the coronavirus but I’m so pleased that the sell-out dinner at the Pavilion has been rescheduled to September.
Which brings me on nicely to my Covid-19 Community Champions initiative. This was really inspired by the voluntary work that I saw so many individuals in my own ward, of Regency, do. And although not everyone who should be nominated has been nominated, I consider the nominations as representative of groups such as those on WhatsApp, Facebook, as well as Mutual Aid, and so this recognition goes way beyond the individual pieces of work here. We received over 100 nominations in just over 2 weeks, which is astounding.
The panel of judges included Jess Sumner CEO of Community Works, Davinder Dhillon Chair of the Chattri Memorial Group and Bert Williams MBE Co-Founder of Black History Month, alongside myself were amazed by the high quality of nominations, many of which brought a tear to my eye, so we agreed that every single person nominated should become a Covid19 Community Champion, receive a certificate and be invited to the Parlour at a later date.
We then singled out 17 nominations who would receive a Gold Certificate and these people or small businesses with little resource, who were partaking in some sort of new activity, focussed on deprived communities in the city.
The Covid19 Community Champions, and I’m sure councillors will recognise some of these names are as follows:
Abdel Karim Eltayeb
Dr Hannah McKenzie
Dr Tim Worthley
Kyna from Grace Eyre
Rev Betsy Gray-Hammond
Heroes Team - Dale George
Helen Mullany and
Matthew Beetar and all the volunteers from Brighton Together
Adrian Garcia Mato
Volunteers of Brighton Table Tennis Club
Thank you to all of them for the superb work they are doing.
And the Gold Champions are as follows:
· Bill Barry, who was nominated by his 19-year old son, targets Craven Vale with food deliveries & helps those who are isolated and lonely.
· Caroline Orsola, is a full-time working mum of three who is co-ordinating the Hollingdean Mutual Aid Group
· Rashida Elghissat, Sabri Ben Ameur & Laila Rashdan. Rahid & Sabri are focussed on providing food and reassurance to migrant families whilst Laila rings Arabic-speaking women and passes their requests onto Rashida & Santi to deliver.
· Jason Roberts, has sourced, raised money for and delivered PPE, created and organised groups of volunteers, all whilst carrying on with his job of being a Coastguard.
· Bryan Coyle, set up East Brighton food co-op.
· Demita & Elaine from My First Friends Nursery, delivering food including Easter eggs to children in need in the local community and ensuring a disabled resident with family and a keyworker working shifts have sustenance.
· Louis from Dubleaus, a small, newly opened greengrocers in Whitehawk who has been delivering for free.
· Vinod, Meena and their staff James, Samala, Macy & Martha at Bright News, reassured customers with a leaflet drop and started free deliveries.
· This one brought a tear to my eye when I read it: Kushma Massey, an 86 year old with limited vision who has made 25 thank you cards for carers.
I am so proud that these are the types of kind-hearted, caring people we have in our city.
To conclude, I want to thank the mayoral staff team: they do so much more than write speeches, coordinate diaries and drive: Minna, Elaine and Robbie - you are the best team a Mayor could ever wish for. And flowers have been sent to you all to show my personal appreciation for all of your hard work, during what was a very challenging year. I will be forever grateful and hope to pop back into the parlour for a cuppa tea and a chinwag once it is safe to do so.
I would now like to say a few words about my Chaplain, Anthea Ballam; Anthea has not only chaired the poems section before full council meetings, but her friendship, support and good humour has been invaluable, as have her words of encouragement to all of us, ahead of Full Council meetings. Thank you so much Anthea, and I hope you’ve received your flowers too.
And to Tom, my fellow ward councillor, co-parent, husband and consort - now this year couldn’t have happened without the sacrifices you have had to make: the juggling of family, work and council, as well as the emotional and physical support you’ve given me. You are the glue that holds it all together. Thank you. You will receive your commemorative badge.
Of course, huge thanks again to my Deputy, Councillor Alan Robins, for his exceptional work this year. As many of you know, Alan has gone above and beyond, never complaining and always smiling. And without whom, there would have been no mayoral presence at events, especially those happening mid-week. I hope you’ve received your flowers, as a gesture of thanks, Alan. I wish you every success during his time as Mayor: you’ve had a pretty thorough induction(!) and I know you will be superb.
This year has gone by in a flash. It seems only yesterday that I sat on that dais, with my son tugging at my hair, as I made my acceptance speech. Serving this great city, my adopted hometown, as Mayor has been an enormous privilege, an absolute honour, and one that I have enjoyed immensely. My thanks to you all.