Mayors Blog

16.09.19

A lot has been happening recently in Hythe – the Venetian Fete, Hythe Life Food Festival, the Mayor’s Boot Fair, and Brockhill’s Prize-Giving to mention but a few. And I’m very glad to be able to write that all of them passed off with amazing success.

The Venetian Fete was a triumph of good organisation and good weather this year. The Committee, Volunteers and Participants really did Hythe proud.  Imagine coming to Hythe for this, having lunch in town at one of our restaurants – then taking a trip on the RHDR railway – back for tea and a stroll along the beach – then a spectacular show on the canal with fireworks and a picnic… You would go home deeply impressed at what a marvellous place Hythe is. You would tell all your friends…

 

 

Certainly, my guests from the Cinque Ports and from Poperinge in Belgium received the best possible impression of Hythe as a beautiful, friendly, vibrant and well-organised place – and ultimately this really matters because our reputation is what brings the best teachers, doctors, artists, visitors and businesses to Hythe, from which we all benefit.

 

 

After that, hard to follow as it was, Hythe Life Food Festival, rated in the Top Ten for the whole country, brought great food from all around the World to the Green for 3 days, along with music, crafts and yet more sunshine.  Large numbers of people attended from near and far, looking from the Green out to West Hythe and Lympne, and up to St Leonard’s and Saltwood… absolutely beautiful and charming, and all with a happy, relaxed atmosphere.

 

As regards the Mayor’s Boot Fair, also on the Green, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who came, the stallholders and the volunteers.  It went extremely well with both sellers & buyers very satisfied – and we raised £800 for the Hythe Green Preservation Society which is improving the wooded margins of the Green and planting wildflowers in collaboration with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

 

 

Finally, the Prize-Giving evening at Brockhill School was by far the best event of its kind I’ve ever attended. We were summoned by real trumpets played by the students; Emily Wrigley gave a performance of Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine that was just stunningly good – a really clear, big, pure voice, well-trained and very accurate and expressive.  This was followed by Dance, Choral Music and Drama – all excellent – and video presentations on school trips and the School Farm, showing the many sides to the school.

I have concluded from my own observations this year that Brockhill is now an excellent school with high quality teaching and a very positive learning ethos. I discovered, however, that this secret is now well and truly out – parents are very keen to get their children into Brockhill which is achieving the best academic results of any non-selective school in the region. What struck me, in particular, was how calm and confident the Head Teacher, Mrs Schwartz, seemed on such a big day. She clearly knew that everything was in place and completely trusted her staff and pupils. And she was right – the whole complex event involving lights, sound, performances, video, speeches, & hospitality ran like Swiss clockwork. Amazing but true.

Anyway, I could go on about the wonders of Hythe but this is a blog and not a saga so I’ll hold off now till the next thrilling installment.

20.08.19

Hythe Town Council’s decision to reduce our carbon footprint to zero by 2025 is giving rise to some detailed planning now.

The sub-committee mapping out how we can achieve this is  putting forward proposals to establish a baseline, our current carbon footprint, by feeding in various data sets to an online calculator. Then, as soon as we know where we are, we’ll be able to make a number of quick and significant reductions to our harmful impacts by switching to environmentally friendly energy suppliers and investing in energy-saving devices, etc.

One thing I hadn’t appreciated until recently was that this process is likely to end up saving us money rather than the reverse.

It seems our new electricity should be cheaper than the old and investment in insulation, energy-efficient equipment, and solar panels etc should bring a good return to the Council in the medium term – far better than the interest received by keeping money in the bank.

The more you think about this the more opportunities it throws up – contracts can also be weighted to account for local, social, and environmental benefits. We can reach out to form a Business Plan for HTC and for the whole of Hythe – working together, seeking feedback and ideas on how to make our town more beautiful, less polluted, and more sustainable.

I can also now share all these ideas with all the other Cinque Port Mayors and we can begin mapping out progress right across Kent – not just on reducing our carbon footprint but on other key areas such as reducing plastics, increasing tree-planting, and saving habitats and species.

As you may have surmised, I’m now becoming a bit of a wonk on this…

There are other things in Hythe and the Universe – the Mayor’s Boot Fair where we raised £700 for the Hythe Green Preservation Society – the Community Orchard – the excellent results our young people achieved in their exams – and, tomorrow, the amazing Venetian Fete – but I’m focused now like a laser – this is the big issue we’re facing and we’re making progress.

 

18.07.19

Back to Brockhill Park Performing Arts College this evening for the InStep 2019 Gala EveningBrockhill College doesn’t just teach and inspire its own students; dancers from 5 secondary schools, 12 primary schools, and various pre-schools and nurseries also learn to dance there under the artistic direction of Jackie Mortimer and her remarkable InStep Dance Company.  This amounts to a very substantial Community Arts programme. When you consider the tens of thousands of hours that must have gone into the organisation, staging, choreography and teaching of an evening like this it becomes truly mind-boggling.  The standard is always very high and the Peter Catmull Theatre has been packed out each time I’ve attended. I notice that the Arts Council of England is supporting the company and that numerous enlightened individuals from Hythe and further afield are also sponsoring it and acting as patrons.

 

Dance is surely the most essential artistic activity in any culture and what the young people gain from this joyful discipline and dedication must be literally beyond words.

This evening, I was particularly engaged by the wide range of cultural reference in the dance of the 11 different companies who performed. There was a sense of global vision and limitless interplay of influences, ranging from yogic asanas to African American Break Dance to Classical Ballet and Experimental Jazz. The choreography, in particular of the lisanmaayas Company piece, Into Existence, was mesmeric, moving seamlessly from stillness and intensity to sparkling dynamism.

Fall from Form by The Mayakaras was also intricately and inventively conceived, and the complete assurance of Company 1’s Practically Perfect Poppins made Broadway Musical numbers look easy despite the immense complexity of the ensemble choreography.

 

 

Once again, the Mayoress and I were thrilled by the energy and excitement of the dance at Brockhill. I would urge anyone reading this to attend one of these performances and to consider sponsoring InStep.

 

 

 

 

(Instep dance Company is Dance Company in residence at Brockhill Park Performing Arts College and has played a major role in the development of community dance work in the Hythe area for over thirty two years. Past members are currently dancing with the Ballet Boyz , Verve Dance Company, Lila Dance and National Youth Dance Company.© Tony Nandi 2019)

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Briefly, I should also mention the progress that Hythe Town Council is now making towards building a sustainable future for all our young people in Hythe and for future generations.  The Climate Emergency working group is now starting work on reducing HTC’s carbon footprint to zero by 2025. This will involve examining all direct and indirect sources of carbon emissions such as heating, lighting and fuel and putting in place measures to change the ways we do things.  In addition, Cllr Hawkins Plastics working group is engaging businesses, schools and other organisations in Hythe to plan for an end to all throwaway plastics in Hythe, and Cllr Martin has decided to double HTC’s carbon offsetting target for this year by applying for another 500 saplings to be planted in Hythe by organisations other than HTC.

 

On Monday, the work to set up the Hythe Wildlife Trust will begin and as soon as it’s incorporated fundraising will get underway with a view to commissioning expert studies of our ecosystems in Hythe and what we can do to protect and strengthen them.  I know I keep banging on about the Climate and Ecological Crisis facing us but that really is my duty as Mayor as I see it. I stand to be corrected by our local historians but I doubt that previous mayors remained silent for fear of boring everyone when we were faced with the threat of the Spanish Armada, Napoleon, or Mr Hitler.

 

 

 

The current crisis is many orders of magnitude greater than any of those we faced before, or, indeed, than any crisis ever previously faced by Humankind – so I promise to go on and on and on about it till we’ve finally overcome this challenge just as we did all those in the past.

 

 

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10.07.19

I have it from three separate sources now that I’m, apparently, planning to sell the Hythe Mayor’s chain and give the money to the Hythe & Romney Marsh Food Bank.

This is completely untrue – but what a beautiful rumour!

Thank you so much to whoever made this up and to anyone who has heard it, believed it, and repeated it. It’s a Fairy Tale version of reality but it expresses a profound truth. If I was faced with a straight choice between strutting around in a gold chain or feeding our hungry children – of course, I would choose the latter.

I’m so happy that, apparently, this is how many people perceive me and the new Hythe Town Council – radical, compassionate, and on the side of the marginalised in our society. I was speaking with the Mayor’s Chaplain, Lt. Callum McKenna from the Salvation Army the other day and he told me that demand for the Hythe and Romney Marsh Food Bank has increased – wait for it – 20-fold over the last year.

20-fold.

Many young families are struggling to feed their children in the school holidays because there are no free school meals.

Callum and the Sally Army and the Food Bank volunteers have started a scheme to feed whole families over this period. It ought to be a time of fun and freedom for children in the Summer Holidays and not one of hunger. Not in Hythe. Not in 2019 in one of the richest countries in the world…

So, yes, if the chain belonged to me, and if I could sell it to feed hungry children in Hythe, of course I would be visiting the Mayoress tomorrow to get the best possible price I could for it.

But this is the real world and things don’t work quite like that.

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One quick question for you: have you seen a wasp this year?

No-one I’ve asked that question has answered, ‘Yes’.

I’ve seen more hoverflies this year than last and more butterflies (but no Peacocks or Red Admirals on the buddleia), and I’ve heard one cuckoo at Newchurch. But I haven’t seen a single wasp or heard a single owl calling.

Hythe Town Council recognised and declared a Climate AND Ecological Crisis last week. Most of the attention has thus far been directed at the Climate aspect of this, leading to reducing our Carbon Footprint to zero by 2025 by making sure our energy is from renewable sources and by planting trees, etc. But we mustn’t forget the Ecological side.

Scientists believe we’ve lost at least half our insect population in the last few decades and the numbers of birds, bats, and reptiles etc have all crashed.

Climate Breakdown would be catastrophic, especially for Hythe – but a Mass Extinction of species would surely take our species, Homo Sapiens, down with it.

Fortunately, we’ve woken up to this now in Hythe and I sense a huge desire and energy to act before it’s too late.

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04.07.19

I’ve delayed blogging again until now because I was looking forward to this evening’s Hythe Town Council meeting and, particularly, the debate and decisions on motions relating to the Climate & Ecological Emergency, Reducing Plastic Waste in Hythe, establishing a Hythe Wildlife Trust, and acquiring free saplings from the Woodland Trust to be planted in Hythe this Winter.

And now I’m delighted to be able to report that all these motions were passed in the context of very helpful and positive debate, and that there will also be a Facilitation Day for Councillors with a view to bringing about even more efficient & productive working and better communication in future.

Tonight, then, set out the framework for what I hope we can all achieve together here in Hythe whilst I’m Mayor, and thereafter.

Firstly, there is the very serious recognition of the crisis that we all now face with the prospect of Climate Breakdown and the Mass Extinction of species.

Then there are practical steps to address the crisis locally, such as reducing the Council’s carbon footprint to zero by 2025, planting trees, protecting & enhancing bio diversity & abundance in Hythe in partnership & consultation with all those who want to contribute.

What could possibly be better or more important than that?

I believe Hythe can be a leader on these issues, setting an example to the whole of Kent and further afield. We’ve got the talent here and the resolve – and now we’ve also got an agreed plan.

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One group that is already making a big difference in Hythe are the Hythe and District Conservation Volunteers. In the last few months, they’ve been working in the ancient quarry at Eaton Lands, improving paths and steps, clearing invasive species, building bug hotels, and removing large quantities of rubbish.

The results are absolutely stunning, revealing a magical space full of ferns, birdsong, and dappled light.

The wildflower meadow, adjacent, is also wonderful now and well worth a visit, full of butterflies and buzzing with insect life.

27.06.19

Well, I’m still shaking after events at FHDC yesterday when the motion was passed by one vote to order the Executive to withdraw its application for planning permission at Princes Parade.

I was there with my District hat on & spoke in the debate.

– ’nuff said…

In other news, I’ve been meeting with leaders of Hythe’s business community in recent days and am enormously impressed by their community spirit & vision for Hythe. (Let’s remember that it’s these men & women who keep our High Street alive in cooperation with Hythe Town Council.)

There are signs now of progress on the Hythe Against Crime CCTV initiative for our High Street. Shopkeepers cannot afford to be broken into & have damage to their shops without compensation so I hope this will assist our traders & our police.

Christmas Lights is another big concern for both HTC & our business community and I hope that by working together & with the help of HTC & the Venetian Fete organisers, etc, we can put on a wonderful display for all our residents & visitors this year.

There are also exciting ideas about reducing plastic (which Cllr Hawkins is leading) and increasing bike use.

Changing topic – we also discussed child poverty at FHDC yesterday, and I’m very concerned about this issue in our area. I know Hythe is often described as being rich and prosperous etc, but the fact is that many members of our community are still marginalised here due to poverty, domestic violence, child abuse & neglect, elder abuse, drug & alcohol problems, mental illness, racism, homophobia, and so on.

My message to all our citizens suffering for these reasons is please seek help.

We have excellent services in Hythe to help you – Age UK – GPs – Churches – The Salvation Army – Women’s Aid – Alcoholics Anonymous – Citizens Advice Bureau – Social Services – Police – Teachers – Councillors and Counsellors – we are a kind and compassionate community here in Hythe.

If you’re in trouble, you are also more than welcome to come and see me, personally, here at Oaklands. I’m here to help.

24.06.19

It was Hythe Civic Society’s day on Saturday, with a display in the undercroft on Planning & Conservation in Hythe, showing some of the things that Hythe has lost over the last 100 years or so due to bombing, road widening, and the relentless rush of progress. It was also apparent that many of our most important ancient buildings in Hythe may be far less protected than they should be – which is something I’ll now take up with my FHDC hat on.

Then we were treated to a free guided tour of the Mediaeval buildings in our High Street by Paul Mills (pictured). Paul’s focus was mostly on the Hall Houses from the 13th to 15th centuries that are dotted along our High Street which were all horizontally divided in subsequent centuries. Paul also ventured some comments on the likely positioning of our long-lost harbour over the Mediaeval & later periods, as it shifted & eventually disappeared. (On this subject, cf Hythe Civic Society’s publication, “The Last Days of Hythe Harbour.”)

On Sunday – yes, I doggedly represent Hythe every day of the week – it was Folkestone’s Civic Service and the extraordinary ritual of the Blessing of the Fisheries, complete with incense, holy water, processions, a Bishop, and a Brass Band. The people of Folkestone were extremely welcoming – and I must mention that Terry, our excellent Town Sergeant, got me there and back safely and made sure I was appropriately robed and chained for all the pomp and ceremony.

And, finally, this evening, Hythe Town Council held an Extraordinary Meeting at the Town Hall to approve the audited accounts, and amongst other items, to consider our response to the proposed development at Otterpool Park.

There was a very well-informed & lively debate, and the Working Group’s response was eventually adopted by a majority vote, objecting to the development as it is proposed on several grounds, including Water Supply, Waste & Waste Water, Affordable Housing, Ecology and Loss of Agricultural Land, Transport, Energy Sustainability, Pollution, and Health Provision. (Please see the full text of Hythe Town Council’s Response under the News Tab on this website.)

I sincerely hope the District Council will now consider all the matters raised and radically re-think its proposals.

21.06.19

Really delighted to have been invited to Brockhill Park Performing Arts College’s Arts Showcase 2019 this evening. I know what a high standard the students at Brockhill Park are capable of, having attended the farewell performance of Year 13 BTEC, “Look What We’ve Done!” in May with Cllr Hawkins. We were both very much moved and exhilarated by the show.

This time, it’s the 2019 Arts Showcase of Dance, Drama and Music. The Mayoress, Alison Martin, & I have been looking forward to it immensely.

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And wow !

The Lighting, Sound, Production, Choreography, & Direction were again all of the highest standard – brilliant performances of ensemble dance, especially the inspired Legends and Myths by Year 12 BTEC. The Choral singing was very accurate with good variation of dynamics and there was an irresistible comedy musical skit, “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” with Jasmin English, Casey Galt and Annalise Burr, with male teachers outrageous in drag as the Mamas…

Casey Galt also performed very convincingly with Jasmin English in a piece of Physical Theatre which was nuanced and subtly conceived and Casey then sang with smouldering confidence in “Idontwannabeyouanymore.”

The other solo musical performances were all strong and well communicated to the audience by Sullivan Rawlins, Annalise Burr, and Jonny Brookes but it was Kyra Atherton’s extraordinary tour de force in her rendition of Jealous – Labrinth that left the audience genuinely stunned and, moreover, most of us in tears… Wow!

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There’s a wealth of talent at Brockhill Park Performing Arts College. The teaching is excellent in all departments and the students respond with enormous joy, energy & dedication. How great to have this jewel here in Hythe.

 

19.06.19

Terrifying pictures in the Press today from the Arctic – sea ice seems to be mostly gone now and the ice caps are melting much faster than expected. Melt pools are forming. The methane locked up in the permafrost is being released. Polar bears, who need the sea ice to hunt seals, are heading inland and starving.

If this goes on, we’re going to lose most of Hythe and the whole of Romney Marsh within a few decades. The first sign will be that property will become uninsurable.

We’ve got ten years, apparently, to turn this around. Otherwise, we reach the point of no return and we get runaway climate breakdown.

We really haven’t got the right to inflict that on our grandchildren.

18.06.19

Today was a bin day – meeting at Fishermen’s Beach with Elaine from the Romney Marsh Litter Pickers and Simon Burchell, FHDC’s Contract Management Officer for Waste Management, to discuss dog, er, waste.

People are walking their dogs on the beach, putting the, er, resulting substance in black bags & then dumping it in the winch casings.  (There’s also a litter problem in the same area.)Simon was very helpful – we’ve agreed the best place for a bin (visible both from the car park and from the beach path), and the fishermen were also, unsurprisingly, very supportive.

Then off to the High Street to inspect the bins outside the Tanning Vault and at the bottom of Market Hill which the seagulls are in the habit of raiding, spreading rubbish in all directions. It seems we may need “seagull flaps.”  The bins are also a few years old and need a lick of paint. More work for Simon, coming his way.

Anyway, here’s to Elaine & the litter pickers, giving their time & energy to keep Hythe & our district clean and beautiful – imagine what would happen to your Council Tax if it wasn’t for them.

And as for the people dropping litter and dog, er, matter on the beach…please stop it.

17.06.19

Great! Margaret at Oaklands says we’re ready to start the Mayor’s blog – so here goes:

“Captain’s Log, Stardate 4385.3…”

Doug Wade

Mayor of Hythe