Mayor reflects on a busy term so far and there’s still plenty to do

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MORPETH Mayor Joan Tebbutt has enjoyed a busy seven months as the town’s civic head, but as she told Herald Chief Reporter ANNA SMITH there is still plenty to do before she passes on the baton.

DIARIES don’t get much busier than those of Morpeth’s civic leaders – and Mayor Joan Tebbutt is certainly no exception.

Morpeth Mayor Joan Tebbutt with posters for her charity concerts.

Morpeth Mayor Joan Tebbutt with posters for her charity concerts.

Since she was elected last May, Coun Tebbutt has attended events of all kinds, from club and society gatherings and charity fund-raisers to concerts, citizenship ceremonies and awards’ nights, not to mention almost weekly council meetings.

In June there was a special role to play as Morpeth commemorated the 100th anniversary of the death of Northumberland Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison.

Coun Tebbutt was particularly proud to be Mayor in Emily’s centenary year after helping to provide funds for the restoration of her grave at St Mary’s Churchyard during her service as a county councillor some years ago.

“Being Mayor has been really lovely, an unbelievable experience,” she said.

“I genuinely feel that this community has opened its heart to me. People have been so warm and there have been so many invitations to events.

“I knew lots of people already because I have been involved in the community for a long time, but as Mayor you get a lot of formal invitations and people show you around their premises and tell you all about what they do. I really enjoy it.”

Throughout the first seven months in the job, Coun Tebbutt has also been working to raise awareness and much-needed funds for her chosen charity, Henry Dancer Days, which was set up by former Morpeth resident Jane Nattrass in memory of her son Henry, who died at the age of 12 of aggressive bone cancer osteosarcoma.

The charity offers support to families affected by the illness, providing funds to help them enjoy days out together, as well as equipment such as ipads to enable children in hospital to keep in touch with their friends.

Coun Tebbutt has so far collected more than £5,000 for the fund, including a whopping £1,000 raised by Morpeth First School.

She said: “The school raised the money at its performances by asking parents to contribute to it. It is a fantastic total.

“The whole community has been supportive and Henry’s family is just so thrilled.”

One of the Mayor’s main aims for her remaining five months in post is to add even more to the total.

A trio of concerts have been organised next month in a bid to do just that.

The Band of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers kicks off the series on Saturday, February 8, with a performance at King Edward VI School (KEVI).

There will also be a 15-minute slot for the KEVI Steel Band and student soloists Rebecca Megwa, Laura Brown and Chloe Dodd.

Pupils have volunteered to help manage the car parking, film the event, provide lighting and sound expertise, serve refreshments and sell raffle tickets.

Proceeds will be shared equally between Henry Dancer Days and the Army Benevolent Fund.

Coun Tebbutt said: “I was originally thinking of sharing the money with Help For Heroes, but then I was told that other Forces’ funds are really struggling. Having been a social worker, I’m interested in the individual support that the Army Benevolent Fund gives so I have chosen that instead.”

On Thursday, February 20, there are two concerts at St George’s United Reformed Church. Women’s choir Werca’s Folk will perform at 7.30pm, but earlier in the day, at 4pm, the group’s Director Sandra Kerr will present a new children’s show The Bagpuss Lady.

Ms Kerr wrote the original music for the Bagpuss TV show and will perform stories, songs and dancing with her students from Newcastle University.

Coun Tebbutt has been buying Bagpuss paraphernalia from ebay, which will be raffled by local first schools to raise further funds.

“I know there is a lot of excitement around Bagpuss so this event should be delightful,” she said.

“I realise that three concerts is a lot to be going on in one month, but they are so different that hopefully we will get people coming along to support them.”

On Saturday, March 8, the fund-raising takes a more active turn with the Lions Swimathon at Morpeth Riverside Leisure Centre.

A host of local organisations will be putting in teams for the sponsored swim, with proceeds split between the Lions and the good causes supported by entrants.

Coun Tebbutt is entering two teams for her charity, one of which will include Mayor’s escort Alison Byard.

She said: “It is a lovely event, but I’m ashamed to say I’m terrified of water so my job will be standing by the side cheering the teams on.”

The Mayor will, however, take part in the action for another good cause the following day when she joins in a 200ft zip-wire event at Morpeth Rugby Club in aid of Oxfam.

The event will include a family fun day.

Coun Tebbutt said: “I have never done anything like this before, but I have always wanted to.

“I was asked to take part during the Mistletoe Fair and I told the Rev Simon White about it so he is going to do it as well. He is going to have his church garb on so I will wear the Mayor’s chain. I’ll have to try to fasten it down though so it doesn’t hit me in the face on the way down.”

On Saturday, April 12, the Mayor’s Ball will be held at Morpeth Town Hall.

Tickets include a three-course meal, entertainment by the Virtuoso Jazz Trio and a disco by Stuart Stocks.

Proceeds will again go to Henry Dancer Days.

“It should be a fun evening,” said Coun Tebbutt.

“The Virtuoso Trio are brilliant. The leader George Macdonald plays the clarinet and it reminds me of when I was little because my Dad was a clarinetist. It is the music that I love.”

The Mayor’s final fund-raising event for Henry Dancer Days comes on Wednesday, May 14, as a charity Golf Day is held at Longhirst Golf Club.

Leaflets advertising the event have been distributed to some 80 golf clubs around the region and it is hoped that retired England cricketer Steve Harmison will attend.

Entry costs £240 per team of four, which includes breakfast, a barbecue on course and an evening buffet.

Fund-raising does not take up the whole of the Mayor’s diary for the coming months.

Other events lined up include playing host to a 6th Morpeth Cubs’ visit to Morpeth Town Hall, attending the Credit Union AGM and Rotary President’s Dinner, taking part in the Women’s World Day of Prayer, attending a concert by KEVI School and the Mid Northumberland Chorus, and the Wansbeck Music Festival winners’ concert, presenting the Morpeth Civic Awards and attending the Henry Dancer Days Ball at Beamish Hall.

A new Mayor will be appointed on May 21.

Coun Tebbutt said: “When the new Mayor is appointed that will be the end of my year. I might well take a holiday.”