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Wednesday 11 October Met the new vicar of St Cuthbert’s Church.
We attended the institution of Reverend Anthony Tooby as the new vicar of St. Cuthbert’s Church. The induction was quite a formal event conducted by the Bishop of Berwick Rt. Rev. Mark Tanner and the Archdeacon of Lindisfarne Ven. Peter Robinson, together with every vicar and father of all the Blyth Churches. The church was full. Whilst it was a formal occasion the Bishop was very down to earth. He said that Blyth, with a population of 30,000, might see 1,000 attending Sunday services which means that 29,000 do not. After signing the Deed of institution, the new vicar is given the keys to the church, a map of the Parish and a copy of the electoral roll. The church bell is tolled. Items such as an ewer of water, a candle, a bible, bread and wine are displayed each with their own significance. The vicar was welcomed to his Parish by various members of local organisations. In my welcome speech I agreed with the Bishop that we have too many meetings and not enough events in which to meet and speak to people. After the service we left the church and walked to the church hall, noting the scaffolding for the building works and the new toilet. There was a wonderful buffet. A lot of volunteers were needed to organise the whole event and there was a good community spirit. Best wishes to Revd Anthony Tooby and his wife.
Monday 4 September Tour of Britain cycle race.
The race was organised by NCC but BTC were financial sponsors. The race started in Keilder and finished in Blyth, 211 kilometres later. It came through Blyth twice giving local residents a good chance to see the 120 riders. The velodrome was in High Street car park. The rider’s entourage, of about 40 vehicles, was in the Keel Row car park. The market place had a huge screen displaying the whole of the race. There were bicycle display tents, the podium and the OVO corporate marquee. BTC also had a small marquee where we entertained local businesses and other volunteers. Many local people had decorated the streets with painted bicycles and bunting although I wish a few more had been involved. We had our two cycle murals erected at Broadway field and they have received compliments. There were thousands lining the streets in Northumberland and I think everyone is always amazed at the speed the cyclists travel. There was a slight controversy at the end when Edvald Boasson Hagen crossed the line first but Elia Viviani was later declared the official winner from team Sky. The whole event was covered by TV and it gave a tremendous boost to tourism in Northumberland. It was a really enjoyable day.
Saturday 9 September. Beach Hut Radio relocated to the Steamboat Hotel.
All councillors had been invited to the opening of their headquarters and we were impressed by the two fully fitted studios. The other facilities that will be created will be a learning centre for budding radio broadcasters. Peter Jackson from County and I broadcast live on the community radio. Looking around the building brought back many memories of the Steamboat and the Star and Garter Hotel and we wish Richie and Chris and all the other volunteers good luck in their venture.
Tuesday 12 September. County Hall, N.C.C.
I had a meeting with Cllr Peter Jackson, the new Leader at NCC, and Cllr Richard Wearmouth where we discussed economic development. The Leader outlined his plans for Blyth and Northumberland and future Partnership agreements. A Parish conference is arranged for October.
Wednesday 20 September. We had entered Northumbria in Bloom where Ridley Park received a gold award plus silver awards in other categories but we had our own Blyth in Bloom awards ceremony in the Comrades Club. Councillor Kath Nisbet opened the event. The competition had been judged by Jimmy Reith, Bob Stephenson and Dave Clough. There were a number of entrants but the winners of the various categories were: -
Best Front Garden Glen Brown
Best Back Garden Robert & Beryl Cessford
Best Back Yard Isobel Hatcher
Best Community Group Tynedale Residential Home
Best Allotment Stephen McMillan
Discretionary Award for Best new garden Jean Hayton
The awards were presented by Jimmy Reith and Adam Greenwood of Perennial Favourites had sponsored the competition. Everyone had a good evening and we are all looking forward to next year’s competition.
Friday 22 – Sunday 24 September. Solingen.
Over the weekend the Mayoress and I visited Solingen for their Town Twinning event. It’s called the festival of lights and they hold a huge fireworks display. They have several twin towns representing the Netherlands, Israel, France and east Germany. They also have twins in Africa but they are too far for a weekend visit. One of their old railway stations has been converted into an Arts Centre, with enough space for 16 artists to live in and a restaurant where the Bergermaster, Tim Kurzbach, welcomed guests to an evening of international exchange. As well as twin town representatives, civic guests and councillors there were a number of other politicians present. In response to the Bergermaster’s address I was asked to give a brief speech which I did, carefully not saying too much about Brexit.
Wednesday 27 September. Blyth and District Talking Newspaper.
We were invited to the annual social event held at the Seahorse. The officers, Mr Dickson, Mrs Lockhart and Ms Brown welcomed us to the event and explained the production process. The news and local stories are recorded at the Blyth Academy by volunteers and copied onto memory sticks for distribution to the listeners who have their own playback devices. It is a much-appreciated service.
Thursday 28 September Visit from Royal Navy Commodore.
We had a visit from Commodore Phil Waterhouse, who took over as Naval Regional Commander for Northern England in February. He is the Navy’s ambassador for the North East. He was accompanied by Charles Wood from Calliope, Newcastle. They are very keen to be involved in local events, when possible, to promote the naval service. They were very interested in our tall ship Williams II and its future voyage to the Antarctic and our June Maritime festival. We receive occasional reports from HMS Blyth but it is not possible for her to visit us in the near future.
Friday 29 September. Macmillan Coffee morning.
We attended one of the coffee mornings at the Blyth Academy at Cowpen, in the Open Learning Centre. The staff, sixth formers and other guests made us very welcome. It is such a worthwhile cause and it’s good to see the pupils involved in a community event to raise funds for this cancer charity.
Saturday 5 August. This was Blyth’s RNLI open day and there was a good turnout from visitors. Adam Dixon was the event manager. There was a change this year as the event was split between two venues, the lifeboat station on Quay Road and Ridley Park. At the station, the shop and cafeteria were open and as well as the two Blyth inshore boats, lifeboats from neighbouring stations at Cullercoats and Tynemouth were on the river. The water safety posters were displayed in the café and the competition was won by Rihannah Langan. Ridley Park hosted the fundraising stalls and we tried our luck at various tombola’s including the Ladies Guild stall. The army cadets performed some music and Beach Hut Radio presented a show. As well as the police and other services on the adjoining road we spoke to Dave Lucas from the coastguards. We had not realised that the local coastguards were also located in Blyth.
I understand RNLI raised £4,000 on the day which was a great achievement.
Sunday 6 August. Teardrops family event at Blyth Rugby Club. This is a charity that supports bereaved parents and has been running for twenty years. We were met by Margaret and Terry Emm who helped organise the day. We opened the event which was compared by John and Simon and there were numerous really good performers on stage. Throughout the day there was a lot of activity in the field. We also met some of the Northern Ice Wheelchair curling team who were also raising funds for their charity. There are so many worthwhile charitable organisations who need our support. Congratulations on a really well organised fund-raising day.
Saturday 12 August. Although not a Blyth Town Council sponsored event we visited the local Food and Drink event at Ridley Park. It rained in the morning but that didn’t spoil the two-day event which was enjoyed by all. There was a variety of different cooked foods available. There is so much good local produce and we sampled (and bought) some cheese, bread, ginger wine, fudge and sausages.
Tuesday 15 August. Kai Schreiber, who represents the mixed choir ConBrio from Solingen, our twin town in Germany, had been in contact to say they would be visiting Blyth. On the Tuesday morning, we greeted them in the council chamber and they surprised us by performing some songs for us. You can see and hear this on the front page on this website. They presented us with a pair of butter knives made in Solingen and engraved with the name of their Bergermaster Tim Kurzbach. There were 22 singers, plus the conductor and some family members.
On Tuesday evening, there was a concert in St Paul’s Church, Seaton Sluice. Community choir singers from Seaton Valley, Cramlington and Blyth performed first. They practice and perform simply because they enjoy singing. After a short interval for tea and cake the German choir performed. The ConBrio choir had a wide repertoire from choral, folk and pop in both German and English. They are very professional, as you would expect, and everyone enjoyed the performances and they were asked for an encore.
Thursday 17 August. We attended evensong at St Cuthbert’s Church and the ConBrio choir joined in with the church choir for the service.
This was followed by a concert based on tales of Lark and Nightingale which again was excellent and they had to do another encore. Cecil Smith, who had organised this part of the concert and who knows a lot more about choirs than I do, informed me that the multi part harmonies would have been very difficult to learn and sing and they performed them in both German and English.
The German group also planned to visit Alnwick Castle and other coastal towns; have an Olympics fun sports day at the beach and of course shopping in Newcastle.
As an aside, we also visited the church grounds where the “Holy Weeds” group had decorated the garden with painted bicycles in readiness for the Tour of Britain cycle race which will pass by the church. We also saw the grave of Willy Carr, local strongman – perhaps the statue should be relocated here.
Thursday 24 August. Royal Warwickshire Regiment Memorial Dedication Service. This was the culmination of months of hard work. Blyth Town Council staff had collaborated with the Blyth Battery, the Regiments, NCC, Horton Church and others to organise this event.
At the beach, there is a circular bedding plant display which BTC & NCC created to coincide with the Tall ships event and which we will use next year to commemorate 100 years since the end of the 1914/18 war. Ex councillor Alisdair Gibbs-Barton floated the idea of using it this year to commemorate 100 years since nine soldiers were tragically drowned off Blyth beach. The Blyth Battery were coincidently researching the family history of the event. Via the Planning and Development Committee I was also proposing a scheme to commemorate historical Blyth buildings, sites, people and events of note by erecting blue plaques. The Warwickshire Regiment wanted to be involved. As one of the soldiers was buried at Horton Church we wanted them (Father John Swinhoe) to be involved and we needed a padre (Jon Whalley). As the soldiers had drowned we thought the RNLI lifeboat should be involved. At one stage HMS Severn was going to be involved but the ship was decommissioned. The Pipe Band from Ashington agreed to perform plus some other musicians and buglers. Through advertising on social media and by publishing in the Midlands press some relatives were located as was Wendy Shannon from Australia who we met in July. We needed and got a 25-pound gun to announce and end the minutes silence and to record each soldiers name. There was a lot of military protocol to consider but eventually a program was arranged.
The flower bed was laid, blue plaque and information board designed, ordered and erected. Programs printed. Invitations sent out. Flag pole and flags resourced, grass cut, bins emptied, audio system checked. Everything needed to be ready for 24th August.
Everything fell into place. The weather was reasonable. All the military personnel arrived together with everyone involved in the event. The public played a part. Best of all, several of the relatives arrived from various parts of the country. The service took place without a hitch. All of the nine soldiers were remembered individually. Wreaths were laid.
We revisited the flower bed with the relatives. Everyone was invited to visit the Battery and they had put on some refreshments for guests.
Some of the relatives then visited Horton Church.
We all headed back to the Council Chamber for some more refreshments and there was a lot of good conversation and friendships made. We were pleased that the soldier’s relatives visiting Blyth for the first time said that everyone had been so friendly and they would be visiting us again. Everything worked out well thanks to a lot of hard work.
Friday 25 August. I was asked to do an interview to advertise the Tour of Britain cycle race which finishes in Blyth on Monday 4 September. We tried to do a recording outside Frameworks shop but the traffic was too noisy. We moved to Broadway field next to the two cycle murals which BTC had recently erected. The recording will be used on social media together with quotes from other towns on the cycle route. I had also written some notes for use in advertising and an article for a souvenir programme.
Saturday 26 August. The Blyth Carnival organised by Headway Arts supported by Blyth Town Council took place. The traditional parade started at the Headway Arts Centre in Cypress Gardens and they walked down Waterloo Road to the Town Square. There was a model elephant and tiger, a live mermaid, Laurel and Hardy figures and a host of cowboys, cowgirls and costumed dancers. There was a good crowd on the route eager to see the parade accompanied by the Samba band. There were some small fairground attractions in the Town Square. With live music, dancers, Samba Band, an escapologist and other performers the crowd were entertained. The market stalls were back to their traditional places in Market Street and there were more traders than I have seen for a long time. We hope they will all return. On the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday there were more fairground rides in the Town Square. With the charge set at only £1 for most rides on the Monday the children (and parents) were well pleased.
Thursday 6 July. In the morning, we attended the swimming competition between the six Blyth primary schools at Blyth Sports Centre and together with Lee Paris we presented the prizes. In the afternoon, we moved to the sports hall which hosted the track and field events and again presented the medals and cup. This event has been sponsored by Blyth Town Council every year since the Olympic Torch relay came through Blyth in an effort to encourage children to aim high and go for the Olympics.
Friday 7 July. Again, we were at Blyth Sports Centre which was celebrating its 50th anniversary. They held a challenge to swimmers to swim 18,240 lengths, one for each day the baths have been opened. The 24-hour challenge was easily broken with 21,000 lengths and all participants were given a commemorative medal for their efforts. Swimmers of all abilities took part including Olympic medal winner Nick Gillingham. Neither of us got wet! I was asked if I had been there as a councillor when the baths were opened 50 years ago – I was still at school!
Tuesday 25 July. We presented a certificate and gift to five-year-old Oliver Jackson. He had been upset at the amount of litter left behind on the ground after the beach music event by thoughtless people and volunteered to collect it in bin bags. He was thanked for his spontaneous effort and civic pride, see him receiving his award by clicking here!
Monday 31 July. In the council chamber, we greeted Wendy Shannon from Perth, Australia who was visiting Blyth. She was the great, great niece of Lt Ken Wallace Brown, one the nine Warwickshire soldiers drowned in Blyth 100 years ago. His grave is in Horton church yard. More of this later.
Thursday 1st June. I was invited to the Rotary club lunch at the Spartan hotel. The president Michael Jackson and Secretary Colin Baxter explained some of their fund-raising activities and charitable works and Colin Watson described their work over recent years in Africa on a water project. Dr Reginald Carr was recognised as citizen of the year. The chair uses his authority to fine members if they arrive late and fine others if they arrive too early, but it’s all for good causes.
Friday 2nd June. This was the Maritime Festival weekend and Friday was party night in the boat-shed. Entertainers, the tenth avenue band, were very good. On the Saturday Clive Gray had invited us to open the festival and there were many activities at the quayside. Although the weather was not too good on the Sunday the various river races took place and prizes were presented. Clive had explained the Williams II tall ship project and the proposed journey to Antarctica to celebrate Captain William Smiths discovery of the Southern Shetland Islands.
Friday 9th June. We attended the flower festival held at the Central Methodist church. We had been invited by Mrs Jennifer Cox, the committee secretary. Reverend Ann Shepherdson explained the many church activities. The Bede Academy children’s choir performed with some very entertaining songs and actions. After tea and cakes we viewed the flower arrangements again and toured the stalls in the upper rooms.
Monday 19th June. Together with local councillors we opened the new BTC play park at Newsham Farm Estate and children from Newsham Primary School attended along with head teacher Mrs Anne Marie Armstrong. Kompan, the company which installed the equipment, worked with the school to provide the most suitable apparatus. The children enjoyed the new play area.
Thursday 22 June. We attended the Northumberland school’s sports day at Cramlington Learning village together with 1,000’s of children taking part in numerous sporting activities. Commonwealth, World and Olympic gymnast Craig Heap was there to support the young athletes. Wearing the mayor’s chains, one child asked which sports competition I had won them in! The Tour of Britain cycle race was officially announced and youngsters from Morpeth Road Academy were there in force riding their cycles around the track.
Saturday 24 June. BTC held the Northumberland Live all-day music event at Blyth beach with numerous entertainers headlined by the Undertones. The windy day meant that a parachute display could not be held, but 10,000 enjoyed the artists performing on stage. Various organisations helped to sponsor the event including BMW, Transped and Port of Blyth and we were interviewed on the radio to promote Blyth. Jan and Manu, two councillors from Solingen, came over from Germany to see the event with the hope of exchanging bands in the future. Take a look at the event here!
Monday 26 June. We were invited by Newcastle’s Bishop, the Right Reverend Christine Hardman and her husband Roger to afternoon tea in the grounds of their home. She is only the second female bishop to take a seat in the House of Lords. It was an enjoyable day at a venue near the Town Moor which neither of us had been to before. They are both keen cyclists so we may see them in Blyth in September.
On Thursday 18th May I was elected as the Mayor of Blyth Town Council and my wife Olga became Mayoress. The main function of the Mayor is to chair the council meetings but there are other civic duties. I thought I would keep a log of monthly events throughout the year.
Friday 19th May. On the first day after being elected a party of 40 visitors from our twin town of Solingen in Germany arrived and we welcomed them to Blyth at Arms Evertyne House. The group had travelled by coach and ferry via Hull and stayed for three nights at our Commissioners Quay hotel. On the Friday evening, we joined them for a traditional English fish and chip supper at the Coastline restaurant. On the Saturday, the group went to Amble and Bamburgh castle and as they had some spare places on their coach we joined them. On Saturday evening, there was a formal reception. I gave a welcome speech and Bernd Clemens and Councillor Jan Salewski replied on behalf of the visitors group and their council. Two of the group were journalists and we were interviewed several times over the weekend as they were very interested in Brexit and how it might affect our town-twinning friendship. On Sunday, the group went to Corbridge and Hexham and in the evening the local Town Twinning Group held a farewell supper at the Golf Club to which we were invited. On the Monday, the group had a guided tour around Newcastle and we said our farewell at the ferry terminal. A very hectic four days! Later we received copies of the various Solingen newspaper articles which were very favourable to Blyth as a place to visit.