I WAS hugely proud of our civic Bonfire Night event at Boundary Park on Monday.
We said this was coming ‘back with a bang’ – and I really think we delivered on that promise.
After an absence of more than ten years we were confident the public would support what we were trying to do, but you can never be certain.
To attract a crowd estimated at 14,000 was a staggering response and a clear endorsement of the decision to put this back on the civic calendar.
As a project it was also a great example of what a Co-operative Borough can do as we worked with a whole raft of partners to deliver mutual benefit for everyone.
We worked with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and Greater Manchester Police to put on a safe event that would reduce the strain on their services.
We also worked hard with local media to promote this and, of course, with Oldham Athletic who were perfect hosts.
With no prior experience of running this event we’re happy with how it all went and the public feedback has generally been inspiring.
We didn’t get everything right – the fire performers needed a higher stage, for example – but some of the niggles, like big food queues, were also down to the incredible numbers of people who turned up.
This event was also about so much more than just lighting a bonfire and letting off a few fireworks. It was about providing an occasion that should be a foundation stone for bringing communities together and making them stronger.
It was similar to funding the refurbishment work that has just completed at the Oldham Coliseum. In that case it was vital to keep a community institution open and thriving because its success is absolutely crucial to our own confidence as a Borough.
We need to deliver great family events like Bonfire Night because they can make a huge difference to community spirit. They offer unique opportunities for people to come together, celebrate and actually feel proud about the place where they live.
Bringing the event back also ties in closely with what I’ve previously blogged about in terms of Oldham being a Campaigning Council.
Our Energy Switching collective, which is now fast approaching 4,000 sign-ups, and our campaign for fairer bus fares are wider strategic campaigns to make a difference to residents’ bottom line.
But at the same time we must also deliver ‘feelgood’ activities that people value – and rightly expect – to see in our Borough.
There are serious everyday issues in Oldham and it’s crucial that people can tangibly see that Oldham Council and its partners are on your side. You need to see that we’re fighting to deliver things that you value as residents, families and neighbourhoods.
After all, we can only reasonably ask you to act as good ambassadors for the Borough if we are also ‘doing our bit’ by delivering on that agenda.
I’d like to thank everyone who played a part, no matter how big or small, in making Bonfire Night happen.
You can also take it as read that this will return again in November 2013. Having tested the water and proven the public appetite for it is firmly there, we’d be absolutely mad to stop it again.
I should make some mention today of Full Council this evening, where there are a couple of notable things to highlight.
Firstly, Richard Knowles will get the title of Honorary Alderman at this meeting in recognition of his service and dedication to the local community as a councillor for 36 years in total.
During that time Richard has served not only as Group Leader but Council Leader and, most recently, Mayor of Oldham for 2011-2. We may not share the same political allegiances, but he is a fine example of people who dedicate their lives to public service and this is a very fitting tribute for him.
Secondly, in an historic move, we will also become the first Local Authority in the country to receive a resolution from our Youth Council.
This is an important step that furthers the work we’re doing in other areas – like devolving services to districts and webcasting our meetings – to become a Council that is relevant to all whom we serve, and not just a few.
I now hold regular meetings with the Youth Council and look forward to them. Not only are they a credit to their peers, but they also always help to ground me with a real insight into what young people are concerned about.
Finally, I’ve just agreed to take on a new role for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) as part of changes to how we work regionally.
This is about us trying to deliver more practical leadership on key issues and I have been given the Skills and Employment portfolio.
This means I will get a much closer view on all the projects planned across the City Region – and also get a useful insight on potential new job and training opportunities for all our residents.
Thanks for listening,