MAYOR’S MOMENT: Getting involved with groups and events

Chris Blanchard-Cooper, Jacky Pendleton and Billy Blanchard-Cooper enjoying the masquerade ball
Chris Blanchard-Cooper, Jacky Pendleton and Billy Blanchard-Cooper enjoying the masquerade ball

The past week has been a busy one for me: with much going on in my personal life, with groups I am involved with and of course in my role as mayor.

I’ll start by mentioning that I had the opportunity to meet with David Twinn of the Littlehampton Twinning Society in the mayor’s parlour to discuss the society.

It was pleasing to be passed a picture by a local artist from our twinned town of Chennevieres-sur-Marne in France to mark the 35th anniversary of our towns twinning. This will be displayed along with other items from the twinning society at the entrance to the Millennium Chamber.

I also look forward to meeting with residents from Chennevieres-sur-Marne when they visit in late April. If you wish to become a member of the twinning society they would be delighted to hear from you; it’s a great way to make connections across the waves and make new friends.

Later that same day I attended a meeting of events groups within the town. I learned of many different events which various groups are currently working hard to put together for the town’s enjoyment throughout the coming year.

Without space to mention them all, one which is approaching quickly is a beer festival at the Arun Yacht Club on April 14 and 15, with the ferry service running to this event on the Saturday. For more details visit www.arunyc.co.uk.

I’m looking forward to supporting as many of the other future events discussed as much as possible, whether during my term as mayor or after this comes to an end.

On Friday I was delighted to meet with pupils from the Littlehampton Academy who were hosting an international conference as part of the More Powerful Together project, on the theme prejudice and discrimination.

This event included pupils from participating schools in Turkey, Norway and France, each presenting a different topic. This was made even more challenging for them by all presenting in English rather than their own first language and all did extremely well.

The French group tackled racism, homophobia and sexism, the students from Turkey spoke on refugees, while the students from Norway handled body issues and mental health.

Paul Sanderson, chaplain at Littlehampton Academy, spoke of how the academy took part in this scheme as special funding was available and it tied in well with plans to introduce a LGBTU support group for Littlehampton students.

I’ve seen the world move forward with its attitudes towards discrimination but I know we still have a long way to go. I am sure that with students being properly educated like this and discussing these issues, progress will continue in years to come.

That same afternoon I took a quick, unscheduled visit to All Saints Church in Wick to meet with Father Tom Robson who, along with others, had organised messy church.

This was the third of similar messy church events which are arranged to encourage the younger members of the community to meet in a relaxed, informal and welcoming environment within the church and this one appropriately was on the theme of Easter.

There were many activities for children to do including Easter card making, the story of the resurrection, and even an Easter egg hunt.

I thought this was a great idea and Father Robson is especially warm and welcoming and makes the church doors feel open to all.

That evening I attended mayor of Bognor Regis Phil Woodall’s civic reception at the Shoreline Centre at Butlin’s. This venue holds a special place for me personally but I’ll tell you more about that shortly.

During the reception many people who have helped and supported Phil during his year as mayor were acknowledged, including the three ladies who have made the many different waistcoats he has worn during his year.

Grants from Bognor Regis Town Council were presented to groups to help them continue with their work for the area. Of course as with any event there has to be a raffle and this was arranged with funds going to his two charities – the Alzheimer’s Society and Epilepsy Action.

The following evening, accompanied by my husband Chris, I returned to the Shoreline Centre at Butlin’s.

As mentioned, this venue holds a special place in my heart as this is where, in 2012, Chris and I were married with a reception for 300 of our friends and family, so it was lovely to be back there enjoying two events in one weekend.

This time it was to support Jacky Pendleton, the chairman of Arun District Council, with her masquerade ball in aid of her charities, Home-Start and the ChallengeU programme for children in Arun at risk of offending.

With guests all suitably masked and dressed in their best glitz and glam, the evening was wonderful and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

It also proved to be an ideal relaxed opportunity to meet with councillors from neighbouring parishes who I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting.

Jacky was the perfect hostess for the evening and I hope she enjoyed the evening as much as everyone there did.

With spring now here, the clocks gone forward and weather getting better, a lot of groups are all busily planning away for all sorts of things for everyone in the town to enjoy in the coming months.

If you’re looking for something new to do, or seeking a new circle of friends, please do seek them out and get in touch as I know they will be delighted to hear from you and welcome your extra supporting hands.

When you’re involved with events it can be a lot of work, but speaking from personal experience when it all comes together and you all sit back to share in the success, there is no greater sense of achievement and no greater reward than that feeling.

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