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28th May 2017

Well, I’ve been pretty busy mayoring all week – and a common theme seems to have been the strong sense of community (or perhaps communities) in Morpeth.

Wednesday was the midpoint of “Love Your Local Market” fortnight, and I joined a group of fellow town councillors on a tour of the Wednesday Market, meeting the market traders, Lottie from Sanderson Arcade, Neil Brown – the Market Manager – and other NCC officers with responsibility for the market. Morpeth’s Markets are run by a unique public-private partnership – with NCC operating the market, Sanderson Arcade managing the marketing and the Town Council (who hold the Market Charter) funding a marketing budget. The heyday of markets nationally is long gone, but our markets are doing relatively well, with several producers who started on the farmers market now trading on the weekly Wednesday market.

On Thursday, I had the honour of presenting the annual Morpeth Sports Council awards. Morpeth has a wealth of sporting talent stretching from rugby to swimming, badminton to judo, and many of our athletes rank high at regional and several at national level. But the striking thing for me was the dedication and support of the people running the clubs and organisations; these are real community-builders. And from the youngsters coming forward through these clubs – and I really liked the silver and bronze certificates of achievement that were awarded alongside the trophies – Morpeth will be able to claim sporting successes for many years to come.

On Friday, attending a Refugee Benefit event hosted by Morpeth Sanctuary Network, I found another strong sense of community. The Sanctuary Network stems from an idea by Joan Tebbutt, that Morpeth should “do something” to support refugees. That initial idea has brought together many committed people, many of whom were already working with refugees, creating a genuinely supportive community. It is invidious to single out individuals from such a group, but the Lauren Sanderson and Matt Dunbar who hosted and produced the entertainment on the night do deserve a mention. I understand that the evening raised some £1500 for refugee support – which is really impressive.

Then on Saturday, we had the Vigil for the Victims of the Manchester Bombing. I am proud that people in Morpeth wanted this vigil both:

  • as individuals to share in the grief and express our compassion for the victims and their friends and families,
  • and as a community to show solidarity with the people of Manchester and with them express our defiance against all those who would use such atrocities to instil terror and fear

My only regret is that the individual who had the original idea was hounded out of taking it forward.

There are those who say that holding a vigil achieves nothing and that practical support is what is needed. And yes – practical support is needed, so, I understand that the local Red Cross is talking to Morpeth Lions about a possible street collection while many shops are already collecting – but I also believe that the vigil enabled people to send a message of solidarity and compassion from Morpeth to the people of Manchester.

Now I am hoping that the coming week will be rather less intense, so I can catch my breath before Fair Day arrives on Sunday 11th June.  (Photos courtesy of Doug Harrison).

Vigil held in the Chantry Peace Garden Refugee Benefit Eevent