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Mayor’s Blog

Mayor’s Blog

Refugee Week, and more

Refugee Week

Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Founded in 1998 and held every year around World Refugee Day on the 20 June, Refugee Week is also a growing global movement.

Through a programme of arts, cultural, sports and educational events alongside media and creative campaigns, Refugee Week enables people from different backgrounds to connect beyond labels, as well as encouraging understanding of why people are displaced, and the challenges they face when seeking safety.  Refugee Week is a platform for people who have sought safety in the UK to share their experiences, perspectives and creative work on their own terms.

Refugee Week’s vision is for refugees and asylum seekers to be able to live safely within inclusive and resilient communities, where they can continue to make a valuable contribution.

In last week’s blog I shared with you a report on The Complete Freedom of Truth event which took place in the Town Hall. The opportunity to talk and listen to young people from many different countries sharing their experiences was a real privilege and eyeopener.

Last Saturday Bucky Doo Square became the local focus for Refugee Week with an event organised by the Bridport Refugee Support Group which has already supported the settlement of a Syrian refugee family in Bridport.

As part of a government scheme, they have:

  • Secured local authority consent to resettle the family
  • Found affordable housing for the family
  • Raised £20,000 (but more is needed!)
  • Arranged tuition in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

They are also providing ongoing help for the family as they settle into our community and move towards independence and employment. The experience gained by the Bridport Refugee Support Group has been to be invaluable in supporting the more recent group of Ukrainian refugees now seeking security in the local area.

David Rickard, Leader of the Council, told me: “Bridport Town Council is happy to welcome refugee families to our town. Supporting this initiative is another way to show our commitment to the values we embrace as a Rights Respecting Town.” a statement I fully agree with.

When I arrived at Bucky Doo, Mustafa, a Sudanese refugee, was singing solo in his native language over a backing disc, his beautiful voice had the crowd spellbound.

He was followed by Dorset Red who delivered a series of a-cappella songs with a strong social conscious theme very much in the spirit of Refugee Week.

They were followed by a choir made up of some of the Ukrainian women now living locally, after being forced to seek refuge in another country due to the war in their homeland. The Square was packed with people who listened in silence and clapped and cheered loudly after each song.

On Sunday morning Anne and I along with our granddaughters joined the congregation at the Chapel in the Garden for a multicultural gathering to mark the end of Refugee Week.

The group of people there, some of whom are pictured above, shared experiences and thoughts through conversation, song, poetry and prayer about what it means to be a refugee. The sentiments were powerfully brought home to us by hearing Home a poem by Warsan Shire a London based Somali writer and poet. Click HERE to hear Sinead Cusack reading it.

Seals Cove

Something fantastic has been created inside a factory unit at the bottom of Shoe Lane – Seals Cove, a family centred indoor activity centre.

When I was invited to cut the ribbon to open Seals Cove I had no idea what to expect, I had heard rumours of a soft play area and a climbing wall inside a factory unit which I’m sure you will agree does not paint a particularly attractive picture. So I arrived wondering what I would find and I have to admit my expectations were not high.

As soon as I opened the door I was blown away by what I saw before me, the vision of local businessman Chris Seal is something to behold. It is immediately obvious that a very large sum of money (£1 million plus) has been invested in this venture and the standard to which it has been executed is of the highest order by a range of local craftspeople. But before I was able to venture inside I had to cut the ribbon and the group of families already queueing to get in helped me count down to the magic moment.

Once inside, the full extent of this fantastic addition to Bridport’s local and visitor offer became apparent. General manager Tess Frecknall showed us round and our first stop was the coffee bar and over a welcome cup of excellent coffee she told me:

We have opened purposefully just ahead of the summer silly season to allow us to find our feet, allowing our local families the opportunity to visit and enjoy the facilities before we expect (and hope!) to become very busy.

From September we will be launching a range of memberships for The Reef Soft Play to offer frequent visitors a really great value package.  Prior to that we have our Summer Loyalty Cards where the 7th visit will be free.  We ask all visitors to only enjoy food and drink from our venue – this of course helps to make our business viable – but we have chosen and priced our items so they are reasonable and affordable. 

The climbing wall will also offer memberships in the near future to allow competent climbers to enjoy a climb on a more regular basis.  To take advantage of this our instructors would need to assess a climber’s technique and skill level initially and then assuming they meet the challenge, then they may join.  We offer instructed sessions to help inexperienced climbers achieve this level of competency”. 

When I raised the topic of discussed ‘Plastic Free’ Tess added “I challenged my hospitality manager Zoe to avoid plastic options as best she could when we set up the bar – it’s a frustratingly difficult challenge – however there’s not a plastic straw or bottle used on our bar (except for the fresh milk) and we will continue to put pressure on our suppliers to avoid unnecessary packaging or reuse and recycle as much as we possibly can.” Music to my ears.

I will let the images below, taken during a tour of those parts already open, give you a taste of what is inside Seals Cove and urge you, whatever age or fitness level you are, to go along and have fun. I know I will be going along with my granddaughters and whilst they are enjoying the soft play area and climbing wall I will also be having a go at the climbing wall.

To find out more click HERE

Messy Art on Hive Beach

One of the joys of having grandchildren and looking after them when their parents are at work is it gives you the opportunity to play, have fun, and allow the child in you to emerge.

Last Tuesday morning Anne and I took our 3 year old granddaughter along to Hive Beach where Jo Burlington was holding one of her outdoor messy art sessions. It was quite windy so our first task was to collect some stones to hold down the reusable plastic sheets we were going to work on. The first project was to use fabric paints to decorate a cotton carrier bag. The freedom with which a three year old applies paint is lovely to watch and very soon her bag was a wonderful blaze of colour.

The second activity involved using a pipette, quite a challenge for little hands, to drip paint onto a sheet of paper and move it around to create an abstract artwork. Jo gave me a piece of paper to try my hand at it and I was fully engaged and enthralled for the next ten minutes or so.

The final task was once again involved the use fabric paint but this time the idea was to create a ribbon flag. Needless to say as soon as the flags were complete the children could not resist running around with them streaming out behind them.

Although not an official ‘Mayoral Event,’ it was certainly one which this Mayor really enjoyed and if you ever get the chance to take part in one of Jo’s Messy Art sessions, jump at the chance you won’t regret it. To find out more click HERE

West Bay Watch House

On Thursday evening I was invited to attend the opening of the newly refurbished Watch House Cafe in West Bay. Voted one of “top 20 of the UK’s best seaside restaurants, cafes and shacks” by the Guardian it is easy to see why after over 10 years of trading it has become a favourite with locals and visitors alike.

The newly refurbished dining area replaces the rather fragile tented area most exposed to the southwesterly storms. The new space retains that beachside cafe feel and the wood fired pizza oven, which was being put to excellent use that evening. The Napoli pizza I had was excellent, with a thin crispy base topped with a rich tomato sauce, capers and anchovies and the wood firing gave it a really authentic taste.

Speaking to owner Steve Attrill he told me: “The Watch House, like its sister cafe’s, the Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock and the Club House at West Bexington prides itself on using locally sourced, fresh & sustainable ingredients as the basis for creating all our dishes and wherever possible we aim to support local suppliers”

Steve has for many years been a great supporter of the beach cleans that take place monthly at West Bay and regularly provides free coffee, tea or chocolate for the litter pickers, which is particularly welcome during the colder months of the year. He has also done a huge amount of work to reduce the amount of single use plastic his cafes use with all three already achieving SAS Plastic Free status.

His latest move to reduce the amount of plastic used is a venture into wooden bellyboards or ‘Dinoboards’ created exclusively by Dick Pearce, Cornwall. The bellyboards are handmade from wood – as a sustainable alternative to cheap polystyrene bodyboards discarded in their thousands annually. The Dinoboards are available for sale and hire from the fossil shop next door to the restaurant along with buckets and spades made from recycled plastic which when finished with can be easily recycled again.

In addition to the indoor seating area the outdoor space has also been refurbished and a red sail added. Apparently the local gulls do not like red and will be less inclined to swoop in and pinch food. I wonder if it works – only time will tell.

On the night Chef Jess had organised a reffle to support her father her father to raise money for Prostate Cancer. I could not believe ti when one of my numbers was called out, an extremely rare accurance!

I hope you will be as impressed as I was with the new space and excellent pizzas when you next visit the Watch House cafe.

And Finally – Magic Tenner

Have you spotted the Totally Locally ‘Magic Tenner’ posters in local business windows across Bridport?

Each poster has an image of the proprietor and/or employees and a number handwritten in the middle. That number denotes the number of local businesses your magic tenner supports.

We all know that supporting local businesses makes sense if we want to maintain a vibrant high street and wider business community, when you see that number on the poster it really brings home just how important purchasing from them is, and in doing so not just to them, all of the other businesses associated with them.

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