Ladies, gentlemen and honoured guests, welcome. I am delighted to stand before you as the new Mayor of Reading representing Reading and 30 something women across the town.
First I should give my thanks to the residents of Battle ward for electing me and giving me this opportunity to become Mayor. Without them I would not be here. I would also like to thank the outgoing mayor Cllr Tony Jones for suggesting I should put myself forward as Deputy Mayor in 2014.
Although not Reading born I am Reading bred and I am beyond proud to be elected as mayor this evening.
I started my life in Reading as a resident of Caversham when I was three moving into West Reading, and Battle Ward not long after. There I attended Wilson nursery and primary school, the school my son's now attend.
After many happy years at Wilson I moved on to Meadway Secondary in Tilehurst where I did my exams. I attended my local brownie group and 2nd Reading guides and I strongly believe my time with the guides instilled a sense of community responsibility which in part drove me to want to be a councillor.
I enjoyed dancing ballet for 22 years and while training to teach ballet, I joined the University of Reading and completed a degree in Rural Environmental Science in 2000. In December last year I was honoured to be made Alumna of the Year and the university have made me feel very welcome on my return. I know the university are very keen to strengthen the relationship they have with the town and I will support them in doing so in my year as mayor.
After graduation I worked for Waitrose and then the almost compulsory Prudential, where I met my husband. I am now at Capita where I was transferred in 2008 and I should take the time to thank them for their flexibility while I was deputy mayor and going forward as Mayor. Not one for having spare time I also work in social media for TotsBots, a proud British manufacturer of cloth nappies, have a allotment and have recently discovered the joys of minecraft which I play with with my boys.
I became a mother in 2007 and 2010 and it was the birth of my youngest son that inspired my first charity.
Babies in Buscot are a charity raising funds to support the Buscot special care baby unit at the Royal Berkshire hospital. Not long after I was elected as a councillor in 2010 my son arrived 9 1/2 weeks early. They gave him exceptional care and my husband and family wonderful support. He was in their care for 4 1/2 weeks before being kicked out for loud behaviour. This was one of the main drivers for me going for the mayoralty, it is my way to say a huge thank you.
My second charity was a hard decision to make. My year as Deputy Mayor has introduced me to many excellent local charities. I ummed and ah'd but one kept coming to the forefront of my mind.
In October last year I went to the Fibromyalgia support group at Prospect Park hospital. I heard about the challenging and debilitating condition. Although little understood, is thought to affect 1 in 25 people in the UK. The condition affects the muscle and connective tissues causing those with it considerable pain. It comes and goes. You can have it at a variety of levels, it can cause people difficulties with their everyday lives and it is something that can be controlled but not cured. I heard stories about how people had had to leave jobs, education, were in their works attendance disciplinary system and found employers, and even some GP'S did not know about Fibromyalgia.
I have to admit i thought it sounded terrible. I have seen a friend struggle with fibromyalgia so you can understand my shock when I was diagnosed with the condition in February after several months of unpredictable pain at the end of 2014.
I was worried that choosing this charity would be seen as selfish but then I remembered the people in that room in October. Supporting Fibromyalgia UK would benefit hundreds of people in Reading and, if I can raise awareness of the condition and raise some funds to help the support group and national research, all the better for it.
In past years the mayor has supported three charities. As I do not have a third charity I will spend my remaining time supporting the arts in Reading and promoting the year of Culture. As chair of the Arts and Heritage forum i have had the opportunity to meet many of the wonderfully talented people working hard to enrich the cultural life of Reading. Some people say there is no cultural life in Reading and how wrong they are. There is something on pretty much every week, far more excellent events than a single person could hope to attend. We are flourishing as a town and, with the year of Culture ahead of us, it's starting to really take off. We have visual and performing arts. Written word, music, world music and folk traditions.
I urge you all to try something new - an exhibition, music, go to a gallery, have a go at art, be creative and push your boundaries.
Finally, none of what I have just said would have been possible without the support of my parents and sister and my husband. I would like to thank them for the past year and say thank you in advance for the next.
I hope I do the position of mayor proud and make Reading proud. It is a wonderful town filled with great people. A couple of quotes to spell out my year as mayor 'I promise that I'll do my best' 'Do or do not. There is no try.'