Alex Murray prepares for a Mayoral haircut at Chatabox in Leamore (Pix: Walsall Council)
Walsall’s ubiquitous and always energetic Mayor, Councillor Gary Clarke, went into overdrive this week, spending two days flying across the borough from Bloxwich, Leamore, Blakenall and Coalpool to Aldridge and Walsall to work for businesses and schools while fundraising for charity.
The fun and frantic initiative, dubbed Mayor for Hire, was created by the Mayor in partnership with solicitors Addison O’Hare, with the aim of raising money for his Charity Appeal while giving him a taste of local life and work beyond the Council House.
Tuesday saw Cllr Clarke brushing up his customer service skills at Annette’s Pram Shop in Blakenall Lane, serving up lunch at Coalpool’s popular Edgar Stammers Primary School in Harden Road, washing hair, making tea – and chatting – at Chatabox Hair & Beauty in the Leamore Lane shopping precinct and meeting staff at Piquant Limited on the Willenhall Lane Industrial Estate in Bloxwich.
Kiran Patel and Jenny Turner await their food at Simply Sandwich, Bloxwich
On Wednesday, the Mayor tried his hand at sandwich making at Simply Sandwich Buffets at The Broadway, Walsall, became acting manager at Walsall Bus Station, served lunches at Cooper and Jordan Church of England Primary School and was interviewed by pupils at Castlefort JMI School in Walsall Wood.
All of the Mayor’s ‘employers’ have pledged donations to his Charity Appeal for Walsall Hospice and disadvantaged children, and Chatabox generously agreed to top theirs up by giving 20 per cent of the day’s takings as well.
The two days of fundraising and hard work, supplemented by a collection made by Walsall Hospice volunteers at the bus station, should net around £800 – a remarkable effort all round.
Cllr Clarke said: “I loved every minute of being put to work by everyone – it was an unforgettable two days. I started at the pram shop and owner Annette Owles-Bryan was an absolute joy. Her business is a real asset to the area and she really goes out of her way to look after her customers.
“Later that day I had the privilege of working at Chatabox hairdressers where I met the charming Doreen Chivers, aged 64, who allowed me to wash her hair and declared that I had a gentle touch! Owner Joanne Tidman has built up a gem of a business there and deserves to go from strength to strength.
No job too small: the Mayor makes tea at Chatabox
“I was also privileged to meet some of the hard working staff at Piquant Limited, another borough success story that we should all be proud of. Shan Nagendram has established a fine sauce manufacturing business.
“Paul Keeling of Simply Sandwich had me hard at work in no time at all on day two and told me off for not putting enough meat on the bread. He wasn’t going to let me upset his customers.
“Centro made sure I carried out various checks at the bus station and took the time to listen to passengers’ experiences.
“The business community I met was loyal and committed and showed me just a small example of the talent we have in the borough.”
The Mayor was also asked to serve up lunch at Edgar Stammers Primary School – and did so resplendent in his white unform and purple cap.
He said: “What smashing children, teaching and kitchen staff I met at Edgar Stammers. I was on Yorkshire pudding duty to start with and progressed to gravy, beans and custard as I got into my stride. I didn’t stop smiling all the time I was there – although I understand I made service a little slower than normal. That’s partly because I was stopping to answer so many questions about my chain of office!”
The Mayor serves Ellie Fishwick her lunch at Cooper and Jordan School “On day two I went to Cooper and Jordan School where I had to arrive as a fairy godmother, complete with a wand and sparkly headband. The children were fortunate that I’d had some school meal practice and I think I managed to hold my own, again with grateful thanks to the kitchen staff. Again, the children were fantastic. Some of them queued up at the end asking for my autograph which made me feel like a proper celebrity.”
At Castlefort School the Mayor was toured by Year 6 pupils who then joined in a question and answer session as part of work they have been doing on leaders.
“The school should be very proud of the polite, well-mannered and confident children it has at Castlefort,” said the Mayor. They gave me a guided tour and showed me all the classrooms and the work that is going on this term. They fired plenty of questions at me and kept me on my toes but I made sure I answered everything they asked.
“The two days were really enjoyable and I am delighted that I had the chance to meet some of the wonderful people who make this borough such a great place, ” Cllr Clarke concluded.
Anne Ward of Addison O’Hare Solicitors also agreed the two days had been a super success.
“We’d like to thank everyone who took the trouble to make pledges and hope they all enjoyed the experience as much as the Mayor clearly did. Mayor for Hire was always intended to be a memorable fundraising experience for everyone concerned while drawing the Mayor’s term to a fitting close.”
The Bloxidge Tallygraph would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Councillor Clarke. We have attended many of the events he has supported as Mayor in Bloxwich and beyond, we have always been welcomed and we can’t remember a more active, friendly, supportive and enthusiastic Mayor – and Mayoress!