I’M PREPARING to deliver my Annual Report to Full Council as I write this week’s blog.
One of the themes running through my speech tonight is about supporting and developing thriving communities across our borough. So, what does that mean?
Essentially, it’s about Oldham being a place where being a part of society – and societal action – really means something.
We want people and communities to be coming together to share local agendas, tackle problems, and make the most out of their opportunities and assets as a place.
We also want them to have civic pride about where they live – and one part of that is having great free family events, which is something I believe we do well in Oldham.
The Big Bang Bonfire last week, as an example, was attended by a record crowd and – six years after we brought it back and changed its focus and venue – it’s been a huge success.
Despite our ongoing budget challenge we’ve added further free events to the annual calendar this year including OldhamLIVE, Illuminate and this year’s YourOldham festival.
These complement the range of other great family occasions already on offer.
Our Christmas shopping events began with last week’s Reindeer Parade (now in its 20th year) and there’s also the likes of the live@thelibrary and Bookmark Festivals, which have all been attended by big numbers in 2017.
But one thing I am particularly proud of that we do well in Oldham – working alongside a range of partners, including the local branches of the Royal British Legion – is our annual Remembrance Sunday events and related activities.
This Sunday at 11am thousands of people will fall silent at district services across the borough to remember the fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, peace and security. You can find all the details of these local events here.
Residents, uniformed services and representatives of all organisations are invited and encouraged to attend these events and I’d also ask people to again support the RBL’s annual campaign and wear a poppy with pride.
We are now into the third year of commemorative events to mark the centenary years of World War I (1914-18) and there has been a huge effort undertaken to mark this locally. This has been led on our side by Councillor Cath Ball, who is our Deputy Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Cooperatives with special responsibility for WWI and Remembrance, and has done an enormous amount of work behind the scenes on this.
The Oldham Council website has an on-line roll honour here which contains many names of borough residents who have lost their lives serving their country from WWI onwards.
There is also going to be a very special event taking place on Monday, December 11 at Oldham Parish Church at 11am.
The borough will be honouring Victoria Cross recipient Walter Mills (PICTURED RIGHT) with a service to mark 100 years since his death at Red Dragon Crater, near Givenchy in France.
The 23-year-old – one of three Oldham recipients of the highest military honour awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy” – was on duty when a strong gas attack saw the trenches overwhelmed.
Despite being badly gassed, he stayed at his post and fought the attackers single-handedly, throwing grenades until reinforcements arrived
Whilst being carried away from the scene he sadly died from gas poisoning on 11 December 1917, but it was solely thanks to his efforts that the enemy was defeated and the line remained intact. He was awarded the VC posthumously.
It is stories like these that really bring alive the incredible human costs and heroicism shown in the service of our country.
That’s why it’s so vital that we continue to archive and preserve memories like this so that future generations can learn about them.
This is being regularly updated with the stories of soldiers who fought in conflicts, plus images from our past. Please pay it a visit at www.oldhamremembers.org.uk
It may seem a long way off, but in 22 years we will be commemorating the start of the Second World War. The problem is that there will be literally nobody around left to tell their own tales by then, which is why we want to gather them now.
If you have information, stories or tales you wish to submit to this community effort then please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lest we forget.