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Question to council: William Marshal

Richard Stainthorp to ask the Lead Councillor for Culture Heritage and Recreation: William Marshal As I am sure the Lead Councillor is awar...

2 Jun 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Reading Fringe Festival Launch

On Friday 1 May I was lucky enough to be at the Reading Fringe Festival launch at Penta Hotel.  I know that Reading is filled with tonnes of talented people and culture but people still bash the town saying there's nothing going on.  The Reading Fringe Festival is an example of one of the many brilliant things that happen in our town.

I was there to present the prizes for the Design a SuperHero and Mayor for the Day competition. Crazies Hill Primary won the Design a Superhero competition with Beerskit and Anais Buche from Chiltern Edge School won Mayor for a Day and actually had some excellent ideas for the Year of Culture next year (which I will be taking with me to my meeting about the Year of Culture tomorrow).

I was also treated to another performance from the brilliant Gog, who won Alternative Queen of Reading, and Mad Monkey Improv who were very funny and will be at the festival.The Reading Fringe Festival will run 15-19 July this year and the line-up looks like there's something for everyone.

This pic is from the Reading Post's excellent gallery which you can view by clicking on the photo.  Here I am with the winning and highly commended Mayor for a Day entry writers

Deputy Mayor Diaries: VE Day celebrations at the Maples Centre

Things got a bit busy in May - can't think why.  Anyway it's time I finished my Deputy Mayor Diaries now that I am the actual Mayor.

On Friday 8 May I dashed from the local election count, where I was seriously over dressed (I'd dressed for the VE day theme), to join the people at The Maples Centre for their VE Day celebration.  There were lots of activities on during the day with a raffle, games, entertainment buffet and toast to those that were not here to remember VE day 70 years on.

It was clear everyone was enjoying themselves and I was lucky to hear some of the stories of VE day from some of those at the event.  At 3pm we observed a two minute silence, joining thousands across the country to remember those who lost their lives to make VE day happen.

The Maples in one of the councils day centres, along with drop-ins in Caversham and Southcote.

27 May 2015

Thank you Reading and Battle Ward. My Mayoral speech.

Mayor making

Ladies, gentlemen and honoured guests, welcome. I am delighted to stand before you as the new Mayor of Reading representing Reading and 30 something women across the town.

First I should give my thanks to the residents of Battle ward for electing me and giving me this opportunity to become Mayor. Without them I would not be here. I would also like to thank the outgoing mayor Cllr Tony Jones for suggesting I should put myself forward as Deputy Mayor in 2014.

Although not Reading born I am Reading bred and I am beyond proud to be elected as mayor this evening. 

I started my life in Reading as a resident of Caversham when I was three moving into West Reading, and Battle Ward not long after. There I attended Wilson nursery and primary school, the school my son's now attend.

After many happy years at Wilson I moved on to Meadway Secondary in Tilehurst where I did my exams.  I attended my local brownie group and 2nd Reading guides and I strongly believe my time with the guides instilled a sense of community responsibility which in part drove me to want to be a councillor.

I enjoyed dancing ballet for 22 years and while training to teach ballet, I joined the University of Reading and completed a degree in Rural Environmental Science in 2000.  In December last year I was honoured to be made Alumna of the Year and the university have made me feel very welcome on my return.  I know the university are very keen to strengthen the relationship they have with the town and I will support them in doing so in my year as mayor.

After graduation I worked for Waitrose and then the almost compulsory Prudential, where I met my husband.  I am now at Capita where I was transferred in 2008 and I should take the time to thank them for their flexibility while I was deputy mayor and going forward as Mayor. Not one for having spare time I also work in social media for TotsBots, a proud British manufacturer of cloth nappies, have a allotment and have recently discovered the joys of minecraft which I play with with my boys.

I became a mother in 2007 and 2010 and it was the birth of my youngest son that inspired my first charity.

Babies in Buscot are a charity raising funds to support the Buscot special care baby unit at the Royal Berkshire hospital.  Not long after I was elected as a councillor in 2010 my son arrived 9 1/2 weeks early. They gave him exceptional care and my husband and family wonderful support. He was in their care for 4 1/2 weeks before being kicked out for loud behaviour.  This was one of the main drivers for me going for the mayoralty,  it is my way to say a huge thank you.

My second charity was a hard decision to make. My year as Deputy Mayor has introduced me to many excellent local charities. I ummed and ah'd but one kept coming to the forefront of my mind.

In October last year I went to the Fibromyalgia support group at Prospect Park hospital. I heard about the challenging and debilitating condition.  Although little understood, is thought to affect 1 in 25 people in the UK. The condition affects the muscle and connective tissues causing those with it considerable pain. It comes and goes. You can have it at a variety of levels, it can cause people difficulties with their everyday lives and it is something that can be controlled but not cured.  I heard stories about how people had had to leave jobs, education, were in their works attendance disciplinary system and found employers, and even some GP'S did not know about Fibromyalgia.

I have to admit i thought it sounded terrible. I have seen a friend struggle with fibromyalgia so you can understand my shock when I was diagnosed with the condition in February after several months of unpredictable pain at the end of 2014.

I was worried that choosing this charity would be seen as selfish but then I remembered the people in that room in October. Supporting Fibromyalgia UK would benefit hundreds of people in Reading and, if I can raise awareness of the condition and raise some funds to help the support group and national research, all the better for it.

In past years the mayor has supported three charities.  As I do not have a third charity I will spend my remaining time supporting the arts in Reading and  promoting the year of Culture. As chair of the Arts and Heritage forum i have had the opportunity to meet many of the wonderfully talented people working hard to enrich the cultural life of Reading. Some people say there is no cultural life in Reading and how wrong they are. There is something on pretty much every week, far more excellent events than a single person could hope to attend. We are flourishing as a town and, with the year of Culture ahead of us, it's starting to really take off. We have visual and performing arts. Written word, music, world music and folk traditions.

I urge you all to try something new - an exhibition, music, go to a gallery, have a go at art, be creative and push your boundaries.

Finally, none of what I have just said would have been possible without the support of my parents and sister and my husband. I would like to thank them for the past year and say thank you in advance for the next.

I hope I do the position of mayor proud and make Reading proud.  It is a wonderful town filled with great people. A couple of quotes to spell out my year as mayor 'I promise that I'll do my best' 'Do or do not. There is no try.'

19 May 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Girlguiding County Annual Thanks & Celebration Evening

I sometimes think one of the many reasons I stood to be a councillor is my time with the Girl Guides - 2nd Reading Guides at St Georges.  They instilled in me a sense of duty to my community which has never left me so I was very pleased to be invited to the Girlguiding County Annual Thanks & Celebration Evening on 24 April.

The evening started with a presentation from 5th Tilehurst Guides who have been very busy.  They got us all up to date with their success as National Heros for Trading Standards with their loan shark badge (I blogged about it here). 

What next for 5th Tilehurst Guides?

They also talked about #Girlguides Make Informed Decisions a peer to peer alcohol awareness project they are doing along with Reading Borough Council.  They will also be designing a responsible retailer award for licensed premises - something I know the Oxford Road Neighbourhood Action Group would welcome.

The Tilehurst Senior Section told us about their trip to Ghana to help build an orphanage and there were long service and special recognition badges awarded.  I also met a current 2nd Reading Guides.  They are still going but are based elsewhere.

We were also told all about the Brownies 100th birthday celebrations and the Big Brownie Bash.  They looked like they had a great time and their uniforms are so much nicer than my brown cotton dress with wooly hat!

It was lovely being back with the guides.  I even spotted Thirtover Place on an exhibition board where I had a very damp but fun camping experience many years ago.  We didn't have modern tents and a wash block though!  We had canvas you couldn't touch when wet and chemical loos we had to empty ourselves.  How things have changed.

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Annual Council Meeting of the Berkshire Federation of Women's Institutes

I was invited to attend the Annual Council Meeting of the Berkshire Federation of Woman's Institutes (WI) on Monday 20 April and the Hexagon.  I hot footed it from work and was greeted warmly.

I found the whole meeting very interesting.  I really didn't know much about the Women's Institute apart from that I learnt watching Jam and Jerusalem.  We did sing Jerusalem but there was not a jar of jam in sight.

The theme was Inspiring Women and it was also the WI's centenary!  There was the usual business of an AGM but there was also a very inspiring talk by National Chair Janice Langley.

There was also a talk on Lady Brunner and the WI by her son Sir Hugo Brunner and there is an exhibition on the topic at a nearby National Trust, Greys Court, where she used to live.  We recently made a quick visit  to see the bluebells but I am going to go back and take some time at the exhibition.

There were awards given for a variety of topics.  I was very pleased to hear there was a competition to design bee hotels!  Bees are very important to our ongoing food production.  It was suggested I should join but I'm a bit busy at the moment but it's certainly something I shall consider in the future.

Wasn't really a photo taking event however I did get this snap of Janice Langley the National Chair

5 May 2015

29 Apr 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: ACRE Diversity Day

Saturday 18 April was a busy day.  From opening a pottery painting cafe I headed to the University of Reading for the ACRE Diversity Day.

I was asked to say a few words to open the event and I spoke about how diversity in Reading is one of the towns strengths and something we should treasure and maintain.

There were lots of things to do and see and I enjoyed talking to the Berkshire Carers Service, Berkshire Autistic Society and Reading Voluntary Action who told me about how they are focusing on volunteering oppotunities for 16-24 year olds (see www.RVAyouth.org.uk).

Sadly it was a flying visit so I didn;t get the chance to see everyone but I hope to return next year with a bit more time!  I also made sure everyone knew about next years Year of Culture as because I want the year to reflect our town fully.

The welcome was made by Harish Raichura, ACRE Trustee
An energetic performance by Niquelle LaTouche and friends

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Opening of Mad Hatters Pottery Painting Cafe

 I was delighted to be asked to open the Mad Hatters Pottery Painting Cafe in Tilehurst because I am a bit of a fan of pottery painting and my husband has been presented with many a hand painted mug designed but one of the boys.

The cafe has been created by Fiona Stevens and it sits happily in the Tilehurst Triangle area and easily accessible by the 17 bus!  As well as pot painting they also serve all the bits you would expect from a cafe.

It was opened on Saturday 18 April. I was made to feel very welcome by Fiona and her family and I was invited to paint a square on their giant pottery pig.  Luckily chairing the Arts and Heritage Forum doesn't require artistic skill!

With Fiona Stevens

28 Mar 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Nominations for the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

Yesterday, 27 March 2015, I attended the Berkshire College of Agriculture for a ceremony to present two British Empire Medals and twelve certificates celebrating nominations to the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service which is the MBE for voluntary groups.

Mr James Puxley, Lord Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire, arranged the ceremony and two Reading groups where awarded.  They were East Reading Horticultural Therapy & Community Based Training Ltd - known as the Ridgeline Trust and Parenting Special Children.

It was a wonderful event and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to Reading's two recipients and I sincerely hope they are selected to receive the award.
Parenting Special Children receiving their certificate

The Ridgeline Trust receiving their certificate from the Lord Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire
The 12 certificates.  Also nominated were Alzheimers Dementia Support, Bracknell Foodbank, Children 1st West Berkshire, Early Adopt-a-Street Initiative, Jealott's Hill Community Landshare, Link Visiting Scheme, Open Kitchen, Slough Special Voices. The Herschel Park Volunteers and West Berkshire Cruse Bereavement Care

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Oxfam and the Henley Business School Certificate Presentation

As Alumna of the Year for the University of Reading I do try and attend as many events at the University as I can.  This engagement was on Tuesday 24 March.

Students of the Henley Business School, led by Dr Daniel Gozman, had been working with local Oxfam shops.  They had been using the skills they are learning to see if Oxfam could or should improve these three areas:

Customer loyalty:  should there be a customer loyalty scheme?  How would it work?  How would customers be rewarded?

E-commerce: How can the stores improve listing on the Oxfam web store?  What equipment would be needed?  How much space would be required and how should items be selected?

Crowd funding: How is this done? How can prizes be gathered?  What types of events should ther be?

The three groups of students made presentations to Oxfam, Jim Odell from Kemp Little Consulting, Jannah Patchay and independent consultant and Alex Furneaux from Capgemini.  They were then asked questions about their proposals before the studies were handed over to Oxfam.

You can read more about the event here:


22 Mar 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: West Forest Sinfonia

This is a tricky one to write about.  First I shall give you the facts.  The West Forest Sinfonia give concerts of professional quality with musicians drawn from across Berkshire.  Today's conductor was Philip Ellis and we had a wonderful piano performance from the very talented Georgina Sutton.  It was held in the Geat Hall of the University of Reading which was a stunning setting.

The pieces played were:

Beethoven - Egmont Overture
Mozart - Piano concerto K in D Minor
Faure - Pelleas et Melisande
Schubert - Symphony No.5

The reason it's tricky to write about is because music means different things to everybody.  I found the concert enchanting.  I have enjoyed classical music since I was little, being introduced to it through the famous ballets and Fantasia.  I have expanded my collection over the years but I don't find myself listening to it very much.

I love classical music but I find it very distracting so having it on in the background usually ends in me stopping doing whatever it was I was trying to do.  I love the rhythm and the 'rules' and find my brain connects to the music.  I find it very relaxing and I imagine the ballet moves that could accompany the piece I am listening to.  This meant this concert was very enjoyable.

The conductor and musicians were also fascinating to watch.  I can't recommend attending a live concert enough.  It really is a very different experience to listening to a CD.

Sadly my relaxed mood didn't last long because when I got home the boys had turned the front room into a pig sty! 

21 Mar 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Ugadi Celebrations

Happy Ugadi!  Today is the new year for a few parts of central and southern India and I was invited along to join in the celebrations.

One of the things I love about Reading is the sheer number of different cultures we have. It's adds to the richness of life in the town.  Today I had the chance to meet members of the Telugu Association of Reading and Around (TARA) and I received a very warm welcome.

I was treated to some very tasty food, excellent singing and dancing and great company.  While I was there Mr Srinivasa Alluri was given a special recognition award for his work with Manavata and 3H - Healthy (food leads to), Happy (people and a more) & Harmonious (community).

TARA runs a lot of events throughout the year to educate children about their Telugu heritage which is rich in art, music, dance, language, poetry and family.  I do hope they are part of the Year of Culture in 2016.

A big thank you to everyone who made me feel so welcome and the organisers of this wonderful event.

17 Mar 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Reading Primary School's Music Festival

What a truly wonderful evening tonight was.  400 children from 17 Reading schools took part in a celebration of music and dance.  It was the 70th anniversary of the Reading Primary School's Music Festival (RPSMF) and the event was called 'Thank you for the music'.

It was a joy from beginning to end.  The voices of 400 children made a wonderful sound and it was great to see the songs signed by some children from The Avenue too.  There were also dances and solos performed by some very talented children.  We were also treated to a performance of 'Let it go' by Anne Fairbrother.

The following poem was written by Mya Darji who also read it out this evening:

A celebration of music

The celebration of music has evolved over many years,
It all started with the Medieval cheers.
This century brought us Rock 'n' Roll and Elvis,
Girls dropped to his knees watching his pelvis.

The beatles gave us a 60's vibe,
And the Bee gees kept disco Staying Alive.
In the 80's Pet Shop Boys about West End Girls,
And Prince wanted to shower them with diamonds and Pearls.

The 90's brought us Brit Pop.
With the Spice Girls, Blur and Take That,
But in the Noughties, Robbie sadly left and they went splat.
And in the Teenies, we saw their revival,
But that shows sharing good music
Is a fight for survival.

The schools who took part were: Caversham Park, Caversham Primary, Churchend, Emmer Green, E.P. Collier, Garland Junior, Hemdean House, Katesgrove, Manor, Meadow Park, Moorlands, Oxford Road, Park Lane, Redlands, St Annes, The Avenue and The Hil.

I was sad to hear this may have been the last of these events due to the difficulty getting volunteers.  I sincerely hope they can keep going and make it to their century!

8 Mar 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Alternative Queen of Reading

This was the second event I attended on Friday 6 March.  I was delighted to be asked to judge the Alternative Queen of Reading.  I saw myself as a Darcey rather than a Craig although as one point I was nearly booed - whoops!

The Alternative queen is a celebration of all things female. Today is International Women's Day which is another day to celebrate all women have achieved but also to focus on the work we still have to do to achieve fairness and equality for women all around the globe.

There were six acts.

Penelope Porchette who shared her confessions of a serial dieter 'Under tall not overweight'.

Gog who was very funny and shared a song about the British habit of queuing - unless you're in a pub.

Nichole shared a poem about her life then a song called In The Garden which were both very moving.

Cassie Magnolia sang and danced about.

Alex Reindorp was the lady of the house.

Miss Pearl La Peach did a very glittery (and brave) burlesque act.

You can read more about them here.  The winnner was Gog and the runner up Cassie Magnolia.

It was a wonderful evening with many ukuleles and much laughter and fun all compered by Baroness Maria Von Hackemann.

Photo thanks to Richard McKenzie

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Women's World Day of Prayer

On Friday 6 March I attended two very different  events to celebrate women.  The first was the Women's World Day of Prayer at Abbey Baptist Church. This was an event that was taking place across the world and this year the service had been written by Christian women of the Bahamas and the theme was:

Jesus said to them: what have I done to you?

It was an very interesting service.  I am not a Christian but it gave me food for thought and many of the lessons were universal.

The women of the Bahamas had highlighted six concerns they had for the islands and during the service each was addressed and a wish given.  They were:

Poverty - Blessed
Domestic Violence - Blameless
Migrants - Accepted
Teenage Mothers - Included
HIV & Aids - Never Alone
Breast Cancer - Cured

We were also asked to write down a word or phrase demonstrating how we could express radical love. This is what I wrote because truly listening is very different to hearing:

It was a multi denominational, global event which made the day even more special.

6 Mar 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Theatretrain - Perform It! Playathon

What an lovely way to spend a Sunday evening!  On Sunday 1 March I was invited to watch Theatretrain Reading's Perform It! Playathon.  It was an intriguing title and I was really looking forward to it.

I have a bit of a performing arts background and took ballet classes well into my late 20's.  I was also a ballet teacher until I had my eldest son.  I remember too well the nerves and excitement when waiting to go on stage.  The heat of the stage lighting and, in my case, the mild terror that accompanied a performance.

The young people who performed last Sunday hid this all very well.  I was treated to some wonderful performances.  There was singing, drama and dance but this wasn't any ordinary performance,  it took place as a live director show with instructions being received over the sound system from an unseen director.  The performers had to listen carefully and react to the instruction being given - very impressive!

There were many songs I recognised from popular musicals like Chicago, Les Miserable and Little Shop of Horrors, all sung very well.  The young people and staff involved should all be very proud of their performance.  They even managed to pursuede me to get my jazz hands out.

1 Mar 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Visit from Rudi Delvai - President of World Fair Trade Organisation

If you didn't know, we are half way through Fair Trade Fortnight and Reading, which is a Fair Trade Town, was proud to welcome Rudi Delvai, president of the World Fair Trade Organsiation (WFTO).  I was invited to attend a talk by Mr Dulvai about how Fair Trade organisations are certified.

I have always been interested in Fair Trade and its effect on the people it helps.  It was a very interesting talk where we were told how organisations are certified and how the WFTO ensure they continue to trade fairly once they have entered the scheme.

There was also time for quetions at the end.  I was interested to hear the Scouting movement are very keen to educate their youngsters on Fair Trade and, by using the pester power of children, get parents to consider switching to Fair Trade products.  I have first hand experience on this when last year my eldest bounced out of Beavers and insisted I buy Fair Trade bananas from that point onwards.  Luckily I was able to show him we already to.  Pester power - it works!

There are still lots of events still to take place and you can find out all about them here.

Reading also has a Fair Trade group and their website is here.

One of the audience members made a very good point about paying that bit extra for Fairtrade (although you can find products in places like Lidl and Aldi).  You would usually give 50p or a £1 here and there to charity so why not buy Fair Trade and provide a worker somewhere in the word with a decent wage.

Rudi Delvai, me and David Sutton

13 Feb 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Whitley Research Project - Presentation of Results and Recommendations

As I've said before being Deputy Mayor means a varied diary.  Yesterday I attended the presentation of the results of the Whitley Research Project by Fusion Youth and Community UK at St Agnes church in Whitley.

The team involved with the project, and who did the presentation, were Dr Claire Bankole, Revd Anika Parker, Skye Leon and Kim Anderson. 

They have spoken to people and groups throughout Whitley to identify the challenges faced by this community.  They have used this information to produce a report and recommendations on how to strengthen the community of Whitley and help them overcome the difficulties they face.

It was a very interesting and positive event.  Whitley has many strengths but, like the Oxford Road and West Reading, they are often tarred with an unfair reputation. The report identified the changes that need to be made for people living in Whitley to fulfil their potential.

I have a copy of the report and look forward to reading it.  You can download a copy here:

Click here to see the report.

3 Feb 2015

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Caversham Primary - school councillor badge presentation

Well today was my first engagement since the Civic Carol service in December.  I was invited by Caversham Primary School to present their newly elected school councillors with their badges.

Caversham Primary has three school councils - the main one, the charity council and the eco-council.  Each one has an elected representative from each class from Reception to year 6.

Each child's name was called out and they stood up looking as proud as can be.  I shook hands with each of the main school council councillors and they we given a round of applause and their badges.

It was lovely to be invited to make this presentation.  I believe it's important that children understand the importance of voting and democracy at a young age.  I reminded them it is important to listen to their class as they are not elected to represent themselves but  the whole class.

Who knows, I may even see one of them elected as a councillor in 10-15 years!

19 Jan 2015

Hot off the press - Into Battle!

You lucky lot are the first to see our latest edition of Into Battle, Battle Labour Party's newsletter.  In this edition:

Beresford Road park & Battle 106
Government cuts to the Council budget
Oxford Road Policing
Reading West Station
Residents parking and a few bits about what I've been up to.

These are just a few of the issues we are tackling for our residents.  The Battle councillor team work hard for you all year round.

Click the image to read our articles:


7 Jan 2015

Reading Abbey Quarter: have your say!

Having been successful with stage one of the Abbey Quarter Heritage Lottery FUnd application, the project are keen to hear your more detailed thoughts about the future of the Abbey Qaurter.  PLease take the time to complete this questionnaire:


I completed it yesterday and it only took a few minutes and will help shape the next phase of the bid.  You may even win a £50 shopping voucher!