What an amazing year it's been. I've met celebrities and royalty, travelled to Düsseldorf and gone to balls and dinners. I opened and named Christchurch bridge, one of my new favourite things and cut numerous ribbons. Ive been spotted in Lidl and at bus stops. I went to my first classical music concert as Deputy Mayor and bought my first original pieces of art. I nominated Jelly, The Rising Sun Arts centre, Progress Theatre and Reading Fringe for Queens Awards for Voluntary Service. I've experienced the huge relief of The Force Awakens being very good. I have also, literally, had a ball.
I've been to over 300 events and raised at least £15,000, with more to come, for my charities Babies in Buscot and Fibromyalgia UK.
All this has been wonderful but the greatest part of my year, and the thing I'll miss the most, is meeting you, the residents of Reading.
You've got me dancing, morris, Nepalese, clog, Bengali and good old fashioned disco bopping. I've heard your stories over a piece of cake, learned about your passions and how committed you are to the hundreds of groups, charities and projects we have in the town.
I've learned about Reading’s history, about our twinned towns of Düsseldorf, Speightstown, Clonmel and San Francisco Libre and their great groups in Reading. I've discovered what you want for the future and what you need right now.
Youve also supoorted me during my year. I need to thank, although not the full list:
University of Reading, especially Henley Business School and Dr Daniel Gozman who's students helped local Reading charities and also raised £230 for my charities.
The Broad Street Mall for letting us collect money and put up a stall selling my christmas cards.
Jelly and Suzanne Stallard who have supported my design a Christmas Decoration competition, and ball among many other things.
Matthew Foster, Richard Bentley and the Rising Sun Arts centre for putting on Float that raised £200 for my charities.
And of course I need to thank the representatives from my charities Babies in Buscot and Reading Fibromyalgia support group who've collected money in buckets, manned stalls and helped arrange events.
I owe huge thanks to the Reading Borough Council team who support the mayor. Kirsty who had organised my diary, meetings and events and made sure I knew where I was going, who I was seeing and what I was doing. Lucy, Sian and Debbie who planned and organised events and ensured they ran smoothly and Craig, Kit and Chris who helped me get to where I was going.
My greatest thanks have to go to my family. Without their support I wouldn't have been able to fulfil my duties. My husband Marcel has escorted me to balls and dinners and adjusted his life to help me this year. He's done more boys bedtimes than ever before. Isaac and Haiden have been well behaved, polite boys who, despite protesting about by being dragged away for their tablets, have enjoyed the events they've gone to.
My parents Chris and Dorothy have babysat, collected boys from school, dropped boys off from school fed them and looked after them when I've been busy. We've even had weekly diary sessions to ensure My engagements are covered. My sister Victoria has also given me a tremendous amount of support by helping me with the boys, babysitting, having the boys overnight all while working extremely hard as a teacher. I will always be grateful.
Finally I need to thank the people of Reading. Without them being Mayor would be a dull job. With them we have a town filled with people making it more beautiful, more interesting, more fair, more friendly, more equal and we have a town that's filled with music, dance, art, love, friendship, ambition and hope.
So what does the future hold? As you can imagine I won't be idle. I have a motion going to my union, Unite’s, July policy conference asking the a fibromyalgia information pack be created. We are getting to a very exciting phase of the Hidden Abbey Project and I am pleased to say I will still be very much involved. I'll remain chair of the Cultural Education Partnership helping to fill the gap as the arts are squeezed out of the curriculum and our children become exam machines. I'll remain chair of the Arts and Heritage forum and a strong voice for our arts community. I'll work to ensure our Year of Culture has a legacy to be proud of. I am delighted to announce that I am now going to be an official patron of the Year of Culture is recognition of the support I have given very the past year. I am really looking forward the the next 7 months.
Finally I am very pleased to announce that I have been made a patron of Reading Pride, a role I will fulfill with energy, enthusiasm and and, of course, pride. I may be biased but I believe Reading Pride is one of the best in the country, still free to attend, inclusive, family friendly and, more importantly, growing.
I thought I couldn't love this town more but I was wrong. My year as mayor has showed me what a great town we have and my love for it has deepened. I am confident our new Mayor will do the town proud. He is a kind, caring man and friend. Enjoy your year Mr Mayor.