The upside down week – and back again

Jim McMahon hands over the Churchill letter to Dinah Winch, Gallery Oldham
DONATION: Jim McMahon handing over the letter from Winston Churchill he has donated to Gallery Oldham

IT’S BEEN – literally – a topsy-turvy old week.

Few people reading this will have missed the story in the media about the Chadderton boundary sign being installed ‘upside down’.

Were we embarrassed? Certainly.

Do I accept this was a mistake anyone could have made? Certainly not.

My take on it is pretty straightforward. It was a cock-up and exactly the kind of mistake that Oldham Council needs to cut out to regain residents’ trust.

This should – as Michael Lawson from the Chadderton Historical Society rightly pointed out – have been the tale about a new sign that reflects what local residents want and restores a district’s proud identity. But that message was sadly lost in the fog.

The week did at least put itself the right way up eventually and end on a very bright note with recognition at North West in Bloom for some fantastic partnership working here in the Borough.

Bloom and Grow, a campaign which I credit the previous administration for putting in place, scooped the ‘Best City’ prize plus an Environmental Award.

Next we will have the honour to represent the region at Britain in Bloom 2012 and in the ‘City’ category and it’s a challenge I am certain we can meet.

Bloom and Grow has seen Council staff working with people across all sectors of the community and is a fantastic model of what I mean when I talk about our future as a Cooperative Borough.

Everyone involved here pulled together and did their bit, no matter how big or small, to deliver a common good: improving Oldham as a place to live.

Our Parks and Street Scene teams worked with residents from school age to the elderly, housing associations, local firms in our Business Improvement District, partners in health and the voluntary sectors, and many more to pull this off and I salute them all for their dedication and deeds.

Whilst writing today I have noticed that this Blog is just about to register its 10,000th hit since it was launched back in June.

Since taking office I’ve been at pains to nurture better and more regular engagement with residents and stakeholders – like the recent Question Time event, for example – because I believe it lies at the core of our approach to moving Oldham forward.

The Blog is just one small medium through which I want to make an ongoing dialogue, accountability and transparency the norm in how we operate.

Whilst I don’t kid myself that every Borough resident has read it, I think it’s important that people can read about my week and see what I am trying to do on their behalf.

An online blog like this can also theoretically live on forever in Google’s cached archives for everyone to see and read – but that’s not the case with historic documents.

That’s why this week I’ve purchased an historic note from Winston Churchill and made a personal donation to Gallery Oldham’s collection.

Regular readers here will know that I am a keen historian so, when I became aware of this document, I decided to prevent it from falling into the hands of a private collector and gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

Whilst I’m always looking forward with our plans for the Borough I also think it’s important that we value your heritage and ensure that it can be enjoyed and experienced by future generations.

Churchill, of course, knew all about difficult topsy-turvy weeks – especially during wartime – and that’s a thought which helps me put a proper perspective on the past week’s events.

Thanks for listening,


6 thoughts on “The upside down week – and back again

  1. A hearty congratulations to all those who brought us triple success in the 2011 North-West in Bloom competition. To quote from a letter which I submitted to the Oldham Chronicle earlier this year:

    ‘That some things have an intrinsic value, to which monetary cost is an insufficient barometer of its worth – its unit of exchange measured in the edification it brings – finds validation in the sublime reaches of our creative imaginings, delight in the aesthetic and stirring of the soul

    …in reading some of the comments on the Chronicle website, there is to be found the usual array of negative and disparaging remarks – “… a complete waste of money and resources” to quote one incensed critic.

    Chronicle Comment (Success stories, March 4) gave an impassioned riposte: “In the great scheme of things, this is not an obscenely expensive project. If it can get young and old alike interested in sprucing up their districts, even trying their hand at grow-your-own veg, then it is surely no bad thing. What’s wrong with nurturing a bit of civic pride?”

    Surely I’m not alone in not wishing to live in some insipid, featureless vacuum; where the clamour of a vexed minority – resolute in their opposition to such “wasteful indulgence” – would deny us the merest of pleasures, knowing, to quote Oscar Wilde, “the price of everything and the value of nothing”’.

    To cite my online post in response to “Green team is blooming great” (24 October 2011)

    “To be the recipient of one award should be enough to bring into question the criticism of those opposed to Oldham’s North-West in Bloom entry. To be the recipient of three awards should silence it for good”.

  2. Frankenstein

    Jim likes to play the blame game I see. So when some of the policies that he is trying to implement fail will he say anyone can make a mistake or will he accept his fate?

    As for the identity of Chadderton and the other places, are there really that many people bothered. Why are we trying to create a split borough? I always thought it was Many Players One Team

    Bloom and grow – is the funding for that not being cut or at the very least being reduced by this administration?

  3. Frankenstein: “”As for the identity of Chadderton and other places, are there really that many people bothered”. A casual perusal of the letters page of the Oldham Chronicle and Advertiser over the last couple of years, should answer this question (rhetorical or otherwise) for you. If there’s one thing guaranteed to inflame passions, then it’s any perceived attempt to dilute/erase local identity.

  4. Frankenstein

    So on the basis of one or two letters you make the assumption that everyone is bothered.

    The charter has been signed so lets see in the 3 to 5 years Jim says it will take before anyone will know if they have worked. Amazing that the minimum is 3 years for the cost but who am I to question. I just a tax payer.

    Over ten years ago there was a riot in Oldham and it was stated that the reason was the separation of the diverse communities and here we are now creating separate areas all over. Lets see the integration when one area gets more money than the other.

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