Weekly Column: Mayor Billy Sheerin
Date published: 08 November 2019
Mayor Billy Sheerin at the North West in Bloom awards
This weekly column from the Mayor of Rochdale, Councillor Billy Sheerin, is about the places he has been and the people he has met during the week commencing Monday 28 October to Sunday 3 November 2019.
On Monday 28 October, I attended a BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) Learning Conference at St Albans House, organised by NHS HMR CCG with partners to celebrate Black History Month. It was a thought-provoking event.
The conference was a multi-agency event, so a variety of providers were there who work across health and social care organisations in Rochdale. We all learnt about the inequalities affecting BAME communities and workforces.
After lunch, we also discussed the state of health of the BAME communities, which is statistically worse than other groups living in Rochdale. We were split up into groups - I was in the adult social care section – and we learnt how we have very few BAME people coming for help when help is available in adult social care, so we are keen to break down the barriers that seem to exist.
Wednesday (30 October), Pennine Care Trust held their AGM and ‘Pennine Care People Awards’ at Rochdale Town Hall. Marzia Babakarkhail, a former judge, women’s rights activist and refugee, spoke at the ceremony. She nearly had us all in floods of tears.
Marzia told her story of how she fled from Afghanistan, found refuge in Oldham and didn’t speak a word of English or know anybody. She fled as she was fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan which was frowned upon - the Taliban found her by following her home one day and she was forced to escape. She described the help she got here in Britain and it was one of the most moving things I’ve ever listened to.
Listening to someone who has undergone this persecution was very powerful; ‘I wanted to die but I was dead already’ is one example of a sentence that really got to me. I think she is incredibly brave for standing up and telling everyone her story.
Later, we had a meal and I presented the staff with their awards. Chizzy Akudolu was the guest speaker and host for the ceremony and Bollywood dancers also entertained.
Thursday (31 October), it was the annual Rochdale 30 Celebration at the town hall. Rochdale 30 is part of the Rochdale Loves Small Business initiative, who organise Small Business Saturdays, and host this annual celebration of independent businesses within the borough.
It is very important that we support small businesses as they feed the larger businesses and help the economy to grow. The internet at present is having quite a large impact on small businesses, and large businesses too, so they really do deserve our full support. Small businesses are our lifeblood.
Thank you to Ruth Pringle who began the campaign and I hope the 30 small businesses who have been chosen this year will feel the benefit of networking and linking with other independents.
Friday welcomed the North West in Bloom Awards at Southport Convention Centre.
When I began and joined up with the Township in Bloom group in 2011, I remember going to my very first awards ceremony at Southport where in those days, we only went up once for an award, but we won gold then and we couldn’t believe it. We never dreamed that we would surpass that one gold award.
We’ve been striving for years to be the overall Large Town/Small City category winner and this year we did it. I don’t think I sat down, we just kept going up for more awards!
I was delighted with the ‘Outstanding’ for Castleton railway station - we can’t do better than that, even though there is still work to be done - and Castleton war memorial also got Outstanding… not one but two awards in my little ward! I was really pleased about that.
Our In Bloom is community based, volunteers are the ones who fire it and get terrific support from environmental management. Petrus, Outdoor Learning Centre, Springhill Hospice and Zen Internet are just a few examples of who put in the work themselves, so local authorities don’t have the need to put in any input. It’s a massive team effort which cannot be won alone.
I couldn’t be happier with the outcome and was so proud to go as the Mayor of Rochdale this year.
The Annual Law Association Dinner took place at Bella Vista Restaurant on Friday night (1 November). I was met by the President Zoe Clough, a solicitor working at AST Hampsons specialising in wills and probate, and Nazir Afzal OBE, the famous lawyer involved in the Rochdale grooming scandal.
The Rochdale Law Association was established in 1905 and has a history of supporting its members with help and guidance, as well as the wider Rochdale community through fundraising for local charities.
The after-dinner speakers this year were Janette Benaddi and Frances Davies who are two crew members of the Yorkshire Rows. The Yorkshire Rows team consisted of four Yorkshire mums who took part in a race across the Atlantic in 2016, to raise money to build a cancer care centre in Leeds.
The Yorkshire Rows were the first all-women crew to row across the North Sea, even battling a hurricane on one of the days, and are holders of a Guinness World Record for rowing the 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. They described what they learnt about life along the way; how family is the most important.
Zoe Clough also made a speech about how difficult it had been for women to break into the legal profession. It was a really interesting night, I had the most enjoyable evening.
I was invited by Maggie Beswick to the official launch of Little Sparks Nursery in Wardle on Saturday (2 November). I met all the staff who will be working there, and they were very nice people. I wish them all the best for the future, it was a pleasure to cut the ribbon, and I believe this nursery is a much-needed facility locally.
I then went along to a Jolly Josh mystery meet to witness the beginning of a dream come true – Jolly Josh, a group for young disabled children in Rochdale, now has a new facility at Ensor Mill in Castleton.
Bringing comfort and relief to many families around the borough, I am so glad my ward is blessed with this charity and will give my full support. I wish Carole Kelly and the Jolly Josh team every success in their new permanent home.
To end the week, on Sunday (3 November) I was invited by Keith Whitmore from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to the last steaming of an 1888 coal tank loco at Keighley and North Valley Railway.
I was invited along with the Mayor of Keighley due to my interest in railways and my involvement with the East Lancashire railway and Castleton station, and we were both greeted by the Chair of White Valley Railway on arrival.
The train is one of a kind and is one of the only ones like it left. I was glad to be invited to support the heritage railways.
The Mayor welcomes invitations to events held by local organisations and individuals. Due to demand, it may not be possible for the Mayor to attend every event he is invited to.
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