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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