General Election: Back to pounding the pavements…

PollingStationI’D ONLY just started writing this blog on Tuesday when I was informed that the Prime Minister was about to make an announcement.

There’s nothing unusual in that, but it’s not often that the PM addresses the country from the steps of Downing Street and predictions that this was going to be a significant development proved to be spot on.

As you will probably know, Parliament has now voted today to approve that a General Election will be held on Thursday, June 8.

This means that we will very quickly enter into a period known traditionally as ‘Purdah’ which enforces strict rules about publicity that must – rightly – be adhered to until after election day.

The timing of this all kicking in remains uncertain, but it means you will hear less formally from me in my role as Oldham Council Leader and this could be the last blog from me until after the votes have all been counted.

Although the timing of Theresa May’s announcement was somewhat unexpected, there had been speculation that it was in the offing for some time.

For political activists it all means full steam ahead for another round of pounding pavements, heavy wear on the shoe leather and lengthy day and night time door knocking.

My work as Council Leader will continue daily during this time but I will also genuinely enjoy the face to face engagement and the chance to discuss residents’ views about the issues affecting their lives in Oldham.

Until that General Election timetable is confirmed it’s very much business as usual, so I wanted to highlight that until April 30 we are taking part in and promoting national Adoption Fortnight.

Each year this campaign has a different focus and this time it is all about encouraging Oldham parents to come forward and create a “forever family” by adopting children from harder to place backgrounds.

These are older children, sibling groups, those from mixed heritage backgrounds and children with additional needs who typically wait much longer for adoption.

It is a huge decision to take to adopt but it can make such a massive and positive impact, not just to the child concerned, but also to the benefit of you and your family.

There are still a lot of myths and misconceptions about adoption – and particularly around who is eligible to do it – so it’s always best to get in touch with experts and people who have been through the process to learn all about the pros and cons.

You can find out more about adopting in Oldham on our website here and you can also get information about Adoption Fortnight events in the region at www.adoptnorthwest.co.uk

BOOMKARKSFinally, as mentioned last week, I just wanted to give you a quick reminder that our amazing Bookmark Festival starts on Friday.  You can have a look at all the events on offer – and book tickets – by visiting http://www.oldham.gov.uk/bookmark

And if it turns out that you don’t hear from me now until after the General Election then all I would ask is that you please take the time to get out and use your vote on June 8 – and in the GM Mayoral Election on May 4 . It’s the only way to ensure that your voice is heard.

Jean

Books Glorious Books

BOOMKARKSEASTER IS upon us and it’s always a very busy time with our annual events calendar getting into full swing.

One of my favourites is the Oldham Bookmark Festival which we’re holding for a fourth time later this month. In a short space of time it has already become a mainstay of our programme and has proved hugely popular with families.

Given the countless volumes of council reports I work through each week it still amazes me that I never seem to lose any of my love for books. That’s probably because reading isn’t just something I have to do or a chore, it is a real hobby and passion for me like it is for so many others.

BOOKPILEI’ve also always believed that a child with an appetite for reading is one that is likely to have an appetite for learning – and that can give them a great start in life.

Growing up on Alt Estate, I can still clearly remember how captivated I was by reading JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit for the first time. I went on to read his Lord of the Rings trilogy too – and enjoyed it – but it was The Hobbit and the escapades of Bilbo Baggins that I found myself going back to time and time again.

In more recent times I became a late adopter of a Kindle e-book, so now the only books I buy in hardback are cook books – and far too many of them, according to my husband!

I know some miss the feeling of the book in their hands and the joy of storing their collection on the shelves, but for me – especially when packing for holiday – the way I can simply download a whole range of books is a modern joy.

I read across a wide range of literature, although fiction and autobiographies tend to be my favourites. One of the best books I read recently was ‘I am Pilgrim’, the debut novel by Terry Hayes. I also like Barbara Vine – a pseudonym of Ruth Rendell, well known for Inspector Wexford – and her darker, psychological thrillers. And I’ve also recently revisited John O’Farrell’s ‘Things can Only Get Better’.

Everyone has their own taste and favourite genres, of course, so the beauty of the Oldham Bookmark Festival – which runs from April 21-29 – is the sheer variety of speakers, authors, workshops and performances on offer.

AlastairThis year’s festival kicks off with a visit from Alastair Campbell who will be discussing his most recent book ‘Winners and How They Succeed’ which examines what it takes to be successful in politics, business and sport. He is, of course, better known as Tony Blair’s ex-spokesperson but since then has written six volumes of diaries, three novels and a personal memoir about depression and mental health issues.

If that’s not your cup of tea – and I realise it may not be for some(!) – then there’s a whole range of other highlights to enjoy like visits to Oldham by Guardian columnist Erwin James and blogger Emily Morris.

There’s also the opportunity to spend an evening with some of the best crime writers around, including Elizabeth Haynes and Rachel Abbott, talking about what it is like to write for a living.

Highly Suspect are also returning and taking their new murder mystery evening to Molino Lounge at the Old Town Hall with a special Harry Potter themed event.

If you’re more into classic literature then you might enjoy a special workshop exploring the writing techniques of Anthony Burgess, or the talk by Helena Kelly explaining what she believes to be the ‘secret radical’ side of Jane Austen that might just send you scurrying back to re-read her works all over again.

Bookmark Kids events Facebook 2017There’s also plenty going on to bring out the bookworm in the kids.

Popular author and illustrator Nick Sharratt – best-known for Shark in the Park and Ketchup on your Cornflakes – will be at Oldham Library, as will CBBC book club presenter Katie Thistleton who will be playing some intriguing games with her audience and talking about her new children’s book.

You can find out more about all the events – and how to book tickets – by visiting http://www.oldham.gov.uk/bookmark

Books are brilliant for so many reasons. They can give you escapism, insights into other cultures and lifestyles or places, and – best of all – expand your horizons.

We’re blessed with a brilliant library service in Oldham which isn’t just about books: they host live theatre, author visits, storytelling sessions and all manner of useful events all year round.

To keep in touch with what they’re up, follow them on twitter @oldhamlibraries and like them on facebook.com/oldhamlibrary service

Happy reading!

Jean

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