My year as Lord Mayor

Lord Mayor Cllr Carl Rice

Lord Mayor Cllr Carl Rice 2016-17

The following blog by Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Carl Rice is an extract from his annual report marking the end of his year as Lord Mayor, and presented to council on 23 May …

Having been a member of Birmingham City Council for thirty years I will be honest and say that I have not always appreciated the importance and value of the office of Lord Mayor.  However being the first citizen of Birmingham has been a truly wonderful experience and I and the Lady Mayoress now recognise the pivotal ceremonial role the post holds both within and outside the city.

Birmingham is a major international city because it was the birthplace of manufacturing, the result of the inventiveness of James Watt and the ingenuity of Matthew Boulton that saw the world’s first manufactory as it was then termed open in Handsworth.  A medium-sized market town in the medieval period, Birmingham grew to international prominence in the 18th century at the heart of the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution.  And Birmingham could not have grown as fast as it did without immigration – initially from neighbouring counties, then from the rest of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland.  More recently from the New Commonwealth and even more recently from the European Union and other parts of the world.

It is easy to forget that the wealth of Birmingham was created in large part by immigration which provided a source of entrepreneurship, skills and labour.  Celebrating that history has been an important part of our Mayoral duties.  We have attended numerous events organised by the many communities that make Birmingham such a diverse and vibrant city.  Highlights include the 50th anniversary of the independence of Barbados –the birthplace of one of my boyhood heroes Sir Garfield Sobers, the Mega Mela in Cannon Hill Park – a fantastic cultural event, Vaisakhi – the largest outside India, Chinese New Year, St Patrick’s Day Parade – the third biggest in the world, St David’s Day – small but very significant and of course England’s own St George’s Day.

There have been many more equally important events, some involving Flag raising ceremonies in Victoria Square, others involving food and musical performances, yet more like Birmingham Pride that simply celebrate diversity and the ubiquitous Birmingham Jazz Festival – whose festival director I have recognised this year with  a Lord Mayor’s Award.

A highlight was the commonwealth Cultural Extravaganza in the Town Hall to commemorate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s 90th Birthday.  This brought many communities together in one showcase production that proved beyond doubt that Birmingham is indeed a harmonious and settled city.

Our year as Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress has gone so quickly.  I used to think I was good at coping with being busy, having combined my councillor duties with full-time employment for thirty years.  But nothing prepares you for the role of being Lord Mayor which is quite simply like being on an unstoppable roller-coaster – exciting, exhilarating with one or two scary moments but over all too quickly!  What sustains you in your duties are the fantastic people who make our city so special –

  • The thousands of school children we have met who are full of hope and optimism and who left us in no doubt that the city’s future is safe in their hands.
  • The many businessmen and women we have met and the local companies we have visited, whose success is so critical to Birmingham’s future.
  • The volunteers who are perhaps the least recognised but most vital group of people who do so much to fill the gaps left by the public and private sectors and who make such a  difference to the lives of the people they touch.
  • The sportsmen and women who help put Birmingham on the map.
  • Our five world class centres of higher education.

During the year the city was visited by members of the Royal Family and we had the opportunity to travel and promote Birmingham abroad on several occasions too.  I’ve also been able to show our support for the Armed Forces community and to attend many events organised by the Birmingham Council of Faiths.  The Love Your Neighbour initiative was a fitting response to the many vigils I attended in memory of Jo Cox MP, the victims of the Orlando shootings, those killed in Nice as well as the most recent atrocity on Westminster Bridge.  And I was moved beyond words to represent the city on holocaust Memorial Day and at the 21st Srebenica Memorial Event.

I thank the City Council and its elected embers for granting Deed and myself the privilege to represent Birmingham as its first citizens.  I also extend an even bigger thank you to the thousands of people we have met who have made our mayoral year so memorable with their warmth, friendship and kindness.

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