OLDHAM Town Centre made for a fantastic sight last weekend.
The sun was shining(!), the streets were bright and clean and the flowers in the epic WOW bed on High Street were at their blooming best.
The town centre was also playing host again to the vintage and classic car show which has now become a popular fixture in our annual calendar of events.
This year’s line-up did not disappoint with plenty on show for visitors – including my own personal favourite, the Ford Cortina.
Alongside the car displays and flowers you could also see work entering the final phases on our new outdoor childrens’ play area, located just outside the Primark store, which opens this weekend.
We’re installing this as part of our recognition that retail and town centres are changing.
For Oldham to succeed and grow as a place we have to focus on providing new things like this that will offer a better experience for visitors, and especially families.
My main reason for being in the town centre this weekend, however, was a far more reflective one.
This year marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War One and a town centre parade had been organised at Oldham Parish Church.
Civic guests, ex-service personnel, cadets and voluntary organisations were all invited to walk from the Civic Centre through town for the occasion.
The place was bustling with visitors who had lined the High Street to watch the parade led by the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the Mayor of Oldham in all their splendour.
Standard bearers provided a Guard of Honour up the church steps and there was a lovely touch as the magnificent Memorial Drums, which are usually on display in the Civic, were used as an altar: harking back to their use on the battlefields of the time when a chaplain would use them while holding a memorial service.
Our new Mayor, Councillor Fida Hussain, spoke at the service and recounted our contribution to the war effort and how it made its mark on our borough.
His words proved a very stark reminder that – as well as those brave men who left town to go and fight for their country – we must also remember the human costs back at home which affected whole communities.
It is mindboggling and difficult to comprehend what the sheer horror and fear of individuals and family members at a time of such uncertainty must have been like – especially given how long it took for news to arrive back at these shores.
The contribution of local women to the war effort was also a reminder that life did simply have to carry on.
For Britain to succeed and defeat the German advance the work of these women was absolutely essential: ranging from nurses going to the frontline to help injured servicemen to the home effort and the need to keep producing equipment, supplies and – of course – holding communities together.
After the service we followed the Mayor outside to plant a tree to commemorate the First World War in the church gardens.
This Silver Birch has three branches to represent the army, navy and royal flying core, with its trunk representing Oldham.
This was kindly donated by the Life for a Life charity, along with a granite memorial stone, which was also unveiled in what proved to be a very humbling and moving afternoon.
The event was organised as part of our commitment to honouring the contribution that local people made to the war effort.
As part of this campaign we’ve also launched the new website at www.oldhamremembers.org.uk
I was very proud of the efforts made by all partners working co-operatively so that we could mark this important centenary in fitting style.
I do hope that future generations who take a seat on that bench or look up to that tree will be inspired to reflect.
One day our thoughts will turn to the centenary of the Second World War and then these arrangements will be in their hands.
I’m certain they won’t let us down.
Thanks for listening,