Oxford Canal Heritage Project Launch and Open Day

I had great fun this morning with the Oxford Canal Heritage project.  We started with an opening at the start of the canal on Hythe Bridge Street where I gave a short speech and thanked those involved for the work done so far in the project.


We moved on later to the Old Fire Station where we had coffee and lovely biscuits made by Restore.  Tony Joyce gave a short speech as chair of the Civic Society,  as did I.

Some might think that canals are really only relevant to the past but this could not really be further from the truth – canals are often vibrant arteries of life in our Cities and Oxford’s is certainly no exception.

Not only is Oxford canal a green lung and recreation space for many of Oxford’s people and visitors it also contributes to the economy of our City in so many other important ways. Transport is easy along the canal towpath and along the canal itself for water-borne vessels. People use the canal for walking, jogging, cycling, angling, boating and many other pursuits. Many enjoy a simple wander along its towpath in this green and pleasant part of Oxford absorbed by the myriad fascinating and wonderful sights and sounds along its banks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’ll probably be aware of how acutely short of housing Oxford is. Of course the canal helps here too as there are many boats moored that are actually the homes of Oxford people who are contributing greatly to our City in all sorts of ways. I think this is a great way to live and be housed and will certainly do all I can to make sure the Council supports canal-dwellers as well as it possibly can.
It is good that plans to redevelop the Jericho Boatyard are progressing and I think that will be very important in preserving the traditional Oxford Boating community as immortalised in booked such local author Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights. There are many other great books about Oxford Canal such as “A towpath walk in Oxford” by Mark Davies and Catherine Robinson.

Canals are often not as well-known as rivers in Cities, and are seen as poorer second cousins. The Thames, or Isis has certainly been making itself known recently with its flooding earlier in the year but today is about taking some of the limelight for the canal. I’m so pleased that the Canal Heritage project has done, and is doing, so much good work to challenge that relative obscurity and bring the canal back into the public eye, back up the agenda of so many people and organisations.

It’s good to hear the vision of the project in ensuring that the canal becomes a distinctive and well-known destination for locals, students and tourists and visitors. I think opportunities to learn about the canal’s industrial heritage while enjoying its natural environment will be very attractive to all who live in, study in, work in or just visit our City. I am delighted that future visitors will be able to find this gem more easily thanks to a dedicated gateway, improved signage and accessible information presented in a range of formats from information pillars to audio trails. This is great work!

Oxford is a City that is good at community involvement so I am pleased to see that this is also an aim of this work. Knowledge, skills and interests of many local communities from Wolvercote to Jericho have been invaluable in getting it this far. I am grateful to all their input and that from the boating community, neighbourhood forums, community associations, schools, faith groups, businesses and shops. It’s a great team effort!

If you haven’t had a look at it yet I recommend the excellent website that has been set up about this project. It has a wealth of resources including maps and a great audio guide. See www.oxfordcanalheritage.org


50th anniversary of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre League of Friends

LOF 50I attended this event today to thank all the League of Friends volunteers, on behalf of the City, for all their work.  Sir Jonathan Michael, the Chief Executive of the OUH/NHS Trust also gave a speech and who will be unveiled a commemorative plaque for this event.

LOF at the NOC started with  a small tea bar and has grown magnificently to the present shop with its excellent range and a trolley service to wards with newspapers and confectionery etc.  I know it is a great comfort to patients and plays a very real role in their positive experience here and their recovery.  Some patients have no other visitors so a friendly LOF visit can have really positive effects on clinical outcomes.  The total of the excellent work this League of Friends has done since 1964 is incredible.  In 50 years its volunteers have:

  • Gifted £1,126,200 to the hospital
  • Buttered and filled 3 million rolls
  • Served over 5 million drinks
  • Given 500,000 man-hours of time (worth over £3,000,000 at minimum wage!)

These are great achievements and a real credit to the generosity and kindness of LOF volunteers at the hospital.

Dignity action day with the National Pensioners Conference

Dignity Action Day PosterI attended this event today as Deputy Lord Mayor and was very pleased to open it with a few words of support and thanks.  It was a joint event of the Oxfordshire Unison Retired Members branch, the National Pensioners Conference and the Oxfordshire Pensioners Action Group.

The most inspirational speaker was Rodney Bickerstaffe (pictured), a former president of the National Pensioners Convention, and I really enjoyed his message and the passion with which he delivered it.

We all know that we are an ageing nation – thanks to improved lifestyles and improved health care people are living longer. Many people who are past working age give a huge amount to our City and beyond in the stunning amount of voluntary work they do and I am hugely grateful for that.


I firmly believe that those of us of working age or younger have a duty to ensure proper dignity for older people all around us. Dignity throughout life is so important to health and well-being and it gets no less important later in life. Any type of age-based discrimination is utterly unacceptable in our society and I think the Dignity Code encompasses that extremely well.  The Dignity Code is an excellent guide for everyone in any interactions they have with older people and I hope will be extremely useful – I will certainly be using it in my future thinking and planning as a councillor.

As I think it’s so useful, here’s the Dignity Code in full:

The purpose of this Dignity Code is to uphold the rights and maintain the personal dignity of older people, within the context of ensuring the health, safety and well being of those who are increasingly less able to care for themselves or to properly conduct their affairs.

This Code recognises that certain practices and actions are unacceptable to older people, such as:

• Being abusive or disrespectful in any way, ignoring people or assuming they cannot do things for themselves
• Treating older people as objects or speaking about them in their presence as if they were not there
• Not respecting the need for privacy
• Not informing older people of what is happening in a way that they can understand
• Changing the older person’s environment without their permission
• Intervening or performing care without consent
• Using unnecessary medication or restraints
• Failing to take care of an older person’s personal appearance
• Not allowing older people to speak for themselves, either directly or through the use of a friend, relative or advocate
• Refusing treatment on the grounds of age

This Code therefore calls for:

• Respect for individuals to make up their own minds, and for their personal wishes as expressed in ‘living wills’, for implementation when they can no longer express themselves clearly
• Respect for an individual’s habits, values, particular cultural background and any needs, linguistic or otherwise
• The use of formal spoken terms of address, unless invited to do otherwise
• Comfort, consideration, inclusion, participation, stimulation and a sense of purpose in all aspects of care
• Care to be adapted to the needs of the individual
• Support for the individual to maintain their hygiene and personal appearance
• Respect for people’s homes, living space and privacy
• Concerns to be dealt with thoroughly and the right to complain without fear of retribution
• The provision of advocacy services where appropriate


The Spirit of Christmas

spiritI went as Deputy Lord Mayor this evening to an amazing concert at Christ Church Cathedral. It was entitled “Spirit of Christmas” and arranged by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign. I was honoured to be sitting at the front and had a really good conversation with Bill Ronald, the Chairman of the Trustees.  The event was a mixture of audience carols, lovely music from the choir of the Dragon School and some wonderful light-hearted Christmas-themed readings from well-known celebrities including Michael Elwyn, Robert Glenister, Jemma Redgrave, Honeysuckle Weeks and Alison Steadman OBE.  The whole evening was an utter delight, set off beautifully by everyone lighting candles to hold, starting from Lily, a seven year old child who has benefited from a lot of support from the MDC.  I gather concerts like this regularly raise around £15k – pretty impressive but so important for the lives of so many young people diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy.

If you can possibly afford to make a donation to this excellent cause, please do so now via this web link to the MDC donation page.

The utter hypocrisy!

temple cowleyI took this screen shot just now, 2320hrs. It shows a Labour Oxford City Councillor saying how much he enjoys the Gym and Swimming Facilities at Temple Cowley Pools. And Mike Rowley, the Labour executive member with responsibility for leisure facilities, has “liked” the status.  The Labour Councillor would have been at the pool and gym first thing this morning by my reckoning.

This is just a few hours after the Labour ruling group on the City Council was laughing at and interrupting Jane Alexander of the Save Temple Cowley Pools campaign when she gave a public address to the full City Council meeting yesterday evening about how much the pools, gym, sauna and steam are used and loved by the local community.  Flabbergasted only starts to describe how I feel about this Labour contempt for the people of Oxford.

That is truly shocking hypocrisy!

Note the post I have reproduced here has a little icon of the world just beside the words “17 hours ago via Mobile”.  That icon means the post is public and visible to anyone in the world with a facebook account, so I haven’t breached any privacy.

Opening RADECS 2013

This evening was a fairly brief event for me in that I was invited to the Town Hall to the opening drinks reception of RADECS 2013, a large conference that took place in Oxford this year.  It is the The 22nd European Conference on Radiation and its Effects on Components and Systems.    My brief was to give a bit of history on the Town Hall and the Civic office of Lord Mayor. Did you know that The present Town Hall is the third on the site and its foundation stone was laid in 1893 by the Mayor Thomas Lucas and without mention of the first builder – a Mr A Chappell of Lambeth – who was declared bankrupt in October 1893. The present design by Henry T Hare was built by Messrs Parnell and son of Rugby for £94,116 (note, Oxford’s average house price is now £356,299) . The official opening of the Town Hall was on Wednesday 12 May 1897, by HRH the Prince of Wales Edward VII.

The Lord Mayor of Oxford is a very old tradition, with the first recorded names going right back to the 12th century. There is a long unbroken line of Mayors of Oxford right up until 1962 when the dignity of Lord Mayor was granted to Oxford by Queen Elizabeth ll.  In Oxford, The Lord Mayor represents the City at civic and ceremonial events and spends a great deal of time promoting the City, the key initiatives of the City Council and supporting a wide range of Oxford based voluntary and other organisations.

The Lord Mayor generally carries out in excess of 300 engagements each year. These engagements cover a wide spectrum of events from high profile Royal visits and leading the City’s annual Remembrance Sunday service, to small community group meetings and charity events.  The Lord Mayor also chairs meetings of full council.

UCare’s meet the researchers event

UCARE (Urology Cancer Research and Education) is an independent charity committed to improving the treatment and care of cancer patients through research and education.  I went along this evening to an event where three researchers spoke about how funding from UCARE has really helped them to make progress in cancer research and treatment.

UCARE (Urology Cancer Research and Education) is a local independent charity founded by a group of clinicians, patients and supporters who care about fighting urological cancers, those of the kidney, bladder, prostate and testes.

Treating people with urological cancers continues to be a major challenge, 20% of all new cancers diagnosed each year will be a urological cancer; 54,000 new urological cancers are diagnosed each year – 10,000 cases more than breast cancer. Despite the frequency of diagnosis of these cancers, they receive little detailed or sustained media coverage and consequently no information enters the public consciousness.

We know that with early diagnosis more people than ever could survive the disease. Awareness of the signs and symptoms of these cancers remains woefully low amongst the general public. With early detection and diagnosis many more people could survive. There are known to be gaps in cancer survival rates between the UK and its European counterparts, and it is recognised that the primary reason for this is late diagnosis.
Research and awareness go hand in hand, so the health care needs of the community are at the forefront of the UCARE charitable object. Our part in educating the public on what to look for in the signs and symptoms of urological cancers, to help people make improved life style choices, and to give advice on seeking early intervention is vital. Since health awareness campaigns in the UK encouraged women to ‘know their bodies’, mortality rates for breast cancer, have fallen dramatically. Women are aware that they must seek early intervention. A higher public profile has resulted in more funds for research leading to new and more effective treatments and we aim that UCARE will have the same impact for urological cancers.

I didn’t have to speak at this event but was really impressed at how sometimes quite modest funding can enable work to continue or be started that enables much larger amounts of funding to be achieved from larger bodies.  Oxford is one of the world’s leading centres of cancer research and treatment so I was very pleased to be at the event to represent the City of Oxford and offer its full support to the excellent work of UCARE.

Filipino Community of Oxfordshire 10th annual sports festival

Filipino-sportsThis is the second event I have attended with the Oxfordshire Filipino Community and I received a wonderful warm welcome just as I did the last time.  The day started with a small procession and then we moved into the sports hall at Oxford Brookes for speeches, singing of national anthems, flag-raising, some traditional dancing and singing, and welcoming of all the teams. Every team member was named and all teams got to fly their own banners.  It was good to see some Thames Valley Police PCSOs in the procession with the Uk flag the Union Jack and also hoisting it up a flag pole after I had helped to hoist a Philippines flag.

Today was the 10th annual sports festival of this community and it’s a great joy that for the first time this year the Nepalese community of Oxfordshire joined in for a friendly competition.  It was great to see so many different events happening today in including men’s basketball and volleyball for both men and women.  All these are so important for building camaraderie, community cohesion and sportsmanship among our communities and I could see they were a huge amount of fun for all the people and families present.


Philippines Independence Day Celebrations

philippines1I was invited to attend the celebration of the 115th Philippines independence today at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, hosted by the Oxfordshire Filipino Community, affectionately known as FilCom.  This organisation was founded 11 years ago in Oxford and this is the 10th annual independence day celebration it has held.  It was also the first time it was held at the Kassam Stadium, which, given the size of the place, I think us a good indication of how successful it is.

The morning started with a parade with some lovely flowers and fine Philippine national dress on display, including lots of very enthusiastic children.  There were brief introductions from lots of the sponsors and then we had a large joint mass, presided over by the Priest of the Church of Corpus Christi in Headington.  I stayed for lunch but sadly was unable to stay for the afternoon cultural show which looked like it would be great fun.

I learned today that there are probably about 3,000 Filipinos in Oxfordshire and about 1,000 of them are members f FilCom.  The Filipino community is hugely inclusive and integrated and engages in many religious, sporting and cultural activities.  The community does a huge amount for the people of Oxfordshire and it is said that if you removed all Filipinos from our County then the NHS would fall apart as so many work in our hospitals, particularly as nurses.

It’s fantastic to see the Filipino community successfully reaching out to so many other communities including Nepalese, Indonesian, Chinese, Malaysian and Vietnamese people. It is a real credit to the causes of celebrating culture, building relationships and advocating equality and diversity right across our county.  This sort of work is incredibly valuable, and never more so than in times of economic difficulty. I know that when times are hard, people can be tempted to blame their problems on others – and that helping people get to know their neighbours and set aside their differences is the best way to avoid this happening.


There were lots of dignitaries there, including Voltaire Onesino D Muricio, the First Secretary and Consul at the Philippine Embassy in London.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit the Philippines myself, and I have very fond memories of all I saw in Cebu and Bohol, and all the people I met. I hope that the Filipino community feels as welcome in Oxfordshire as I felt in the Philippines.

My first official engagement as Deputy Lord Mayor

Today I had my first official engagement as Deputy Lord Mayor.  Protocol says that I only attend engagements in this capacity if the Lord Mayor has been invited and cannot attend.  I learned that today she had five requests to attend events – she’s doing 3 and I’m doing 2.

lof_agmI had the great privilege of attending the AGM of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre’s (NOC) League of Friends (LOF).  To anyone who thought it was just some little old ladies who make tea I have to say you couldn’t be more wrong!  The NOC LOF is extremely well organised, is almost 50 years old and does a huge amount of good work including running a café and shop, visiting patients on wards, raising serious amounts of money for the hospital and much more!  I was humbled to meet a lady who has been a member of the NOC LOF for 47 years!

We heard from a member of hospital staff about some the equipment and facilities that have been able be be bought due to the support of the LOF and I was amazed to hear that in the last four years he has been able to spend a total of just over £362,000 from grants given by the LOF.  That’s seriously impressive and has enabled new facilities and some therapies not available on the NHS to be funded.

LOF is a steady pillar in the ever changing world of hospitals and healthcare and I know its presence and its services are things that that many patients, relatives and visitors find to be a great comfort.  A LOF volunteer is so much nicer than a vending machine!  I remember myself working on a LOF stall when I was a teenager, with my mother.  We were even allowed to sell cigarettes in those days!

The event was finished off with a fascinating presentation and speech about the Berks/Oxon/Bucks air ambulance.  Did you know that it has been operating since 1999.  Did you know that the helicopter can travel at 150mph and that each call out costs around £2,500 with an average of 3 call-outs per day.  That’s an awful lot of money to raise!

League of Friends is always looking for more volunteers and although many are retired there are also younger people involved and there are no age limits .  The Oxford University Hospitals Trust has a web page about Oxford LOF groups where there is detail about YOU can volunteer.  How about it?  It was good to hear the the Oxford Mail has already helped with the drive for more volunteers too.  It’s great when the local press gets behind local volunteering initiatives that help so many people both directly and indirectly.