Ian Selby was adorned Mayor of Grantham on a wave of optimism, entertainment and emotion last night (Thursday).
In a ceremony steeped in tradition, the Labour councillor showed his year as the town’s ‘first citizen’ would be very different - but no less sincere - than that of the ruling Conservatives who allowed him the honour after serving 30 years on South Kesteven District Council.
Last year’s deputy mayor - who still had to be voted into the top job on the night - handed out birthday cards to invited guests and presents for children and brought on Grantham Sixties pop music hero Trevor Leeson to play his electric guitar for a resounding National Anthem finale at the packed Guildhall council chamber of around 200 invited people. Mr Leeson had reportedly returned early from an afteroon concert in Solihull.
Departing Tory mayor Councillor Frank Turner, after his second year of office, began the formalities by drily remarking he had never seen so many town trustees at a meeting for some time and then inviting applications for his sucessor.
The proposal came from Councllor Bruce Wells who said “his great friend” Coun Selby stood for four things: firstly, his friends and family, his philanphrophic interest in photography, his Sunday night show on community radio station Gravity FM and Grantham and its community. He was backed by Tory Councillor Mike Cook, who seconded the motion.
With no other nominations, a sobre-suited Coun Selby was taken, or “dragged”, by his two supporters to a private room, a Grantham tradtition which has existed since 1879.
The interlude gave Coun Turner the time to thank people for their support during his year and to announce he had raised more than £7,000 for three nominated charities, which included the Grantham Journal Children’s Fund.
He said he was proud at the way the town’s business community had grown during his time, how many unsung community volunteers it had revealed to him and how many entertainers he saw proved there was true talent in the town.
After a robed, ruddy-faced new mayor, complete with cane, returned to centre stage after 15 minutes, the longest period in living memory, Coun Cook was voted in as the deputy mayor for 2014-15.
Towards the end of the agenda and formalities - but without abandoning them, as chains of office and thanks and flowers and presents were exchanged - events took a different slant with the incoming mayor vowing to highlight many issues, including the plight of the Shire horse by riding one during the Grantham Carnival parade in a fortnight’s time.
He also announced he had asked former Grantham Methodist minister the Rev Tony Pick to give the blessing rather than a current locally-serving religious figure.
The Rev Pick, who memorably built a new church in Coun Selby’s Harrowby ward and was an instigator of Grantham Passage before retiring to Leicester four years ago, gave as his prayer part of Methodist founder John Wesley’s “give all for all you are able” speech to the Grantham leaders at the Market Cross during his nationwide travels in 1747.
He had followed the seven-generation blacksmith Selby family to Grantham from village parishes, most notably Skillington, where the new mayor was born.
Coun Selby will have his mother, Anita, as his Mayoress for the year.
A full text of his emotional address after becoming town mayor will appear on this website later today.
Part of it talks about why he will talk “politics” but not “political politics” during his time as mayor, citing the Queen as the country’s leading politician throughout her 54-year reign.
Another cites his father, John, has the “nicest man” he has ever met and why he tried to follow his example. John, aged 80, has two other sons, Andrew and Paul. He said after the ceremony: “I am equally proud and love all three. Absolutely. But this is a special night for Ian. He is absolutely straight and honest and gives everything.”
The new mayor’s speech lays out the five fundamental aims of his year in office and makes riveting reading, so please keep checking...and comment afterwards.