Well, what a day …
Firstly, can I thank every one of you for your most valuable contribution to making 30 June 2012 a day to remember. It was so wonderful.
Of course, I had hoped the day would be enjoyable, that the streets would be lined with smiling faces, and that the rain would hold off. But never, even in my wildest dreams, did I imagine how wonderful it would actually turn out to be.
When I walked into Lichfield at 4.10am, the rain was pouring down and the last of the evening’s revellers were making their unsteady way home, and the streets were oh so quiet. But, then I noticed colleagues from Operational Services sweeping the streets and Cloud One installing the stage on Market Square – and I knew then that our plan was going to work.
It was also a time when you could see how much effort the traders had made in dressing their windows.
I was further heartened when at 4.30am we saw that there were only four cars parked on the roads along the route. Later all three cars on Upper St John Street were moved by their owners and we towed a Spanish registered car from Tamworth Street. The car was later reunited with its owner.
With the rain still falling, we were relieved to find that Stowe Field was still relatively firm – I hope everyone was able to park easily.
At 5am, I saw our team of street dressers and riggers for the first time – a glowing lime-green flurry in the drizzle. They did a fantastic job – and one of them even told Radio WM that the rain would clear from 8am and that it would be sunny that morning. How right you were!
Our car park marshals were there bright and early to welcome people, and colleagues at our leisure centres welcomed the Torchbearers and looked after the fire service.
And then our 247-strong Team Lichfield started to appear. In ones and twos at first, and then in larger and larger numbers. Our administrators worked super efficiently and cheerily and when I was told at 6.45am that we were good to go – I thought this is incredible – all had been registered and in such quick time.
At 7.10am our team was on its way – and in good time as well because people were starting to line the route despite the rain. And we also had a shire horse tethered at the side of Tamworth Road – we were worried that it was going to dampen the mood of the crowd because of its long face.
The Austin 7 procession was colourful and well received and I was fortunate to have a seat in the front police car driven by Insp White. When we drove through shortly after 8.30 it was so good to see our team looking resplendent, professional, approachable and visible in the green hoodies.
But what a turnout by the people of the district and beyond! The numbers lining the route all the way from Streethay to Cricket Lane and through Hopwas were amazing. We estimated that there were 3,000 in each of Streethay and in Hopwas and 25,000 in Lichfield but really we don’t know. And now having seen all the pictures and footage I think it might be even higher.
Our Ambassadors did great work in ensuring that we were able to give good information to our visitors about what to see and where to go. And they took loads of compelling photographs.
The numbers along the route in the run-up to the Flame arriving gave us some heart-stopping moments at locations like Tamworth Street, Dam Street and Bird Street but all our Route Marshals, Senior Route Marshals and Zone Managers, and our colleagues from the Police and Highways at the County Council worked wonderfully well. We were always in control.
You were all a credit to the district, and the atmosphere along the route was a testimony to the spirit and excitement that you conveyed. Everyone was brilliant, some were even superstars.
And then it was gone – but it felt as if the day was only just starting. We handed the Torch over to Tamworth at 10.10am – 4 minutes ahead of schedule and then we all knew that our first objective had been achieved.
We were straight into our events programme and our second objective to ensure that the day was memorable.
The National Memorial Arboretum estimated that they had 11,000 visitors to watch Cpl Johnson Beharry VC carry the Flame to stand in silent contemplation at the Memorial and they continued to celebrate Armed Forces Day throughout the day.
Streethay Fun Day was already in full swing when we passed at 8.30am.
The stage in Market Square was hugely popular – and what a gig by Alvin Stardust! I almost danced. Well done the Garrick team and those that supported all the acts.
The Cathedral Dash was the best ever. It was certainly the greatest attendance, with a big screen and Roger Black. And once again, the winner beat the chimes. Well done KP Events.
Praise also to the city council and Speakers’ Corner Committee for the Town Criers Competition and the Debates respectively.
Lichfield Arts and Fuse’s Circus Olympique looked always popular on Minster Pool Walk and South Staffordshire College’s art work in Minster Pool looked impressive.
Cars in the Park was a big draw on both days whilst the parade of flags in the Museum Gardens looked great. And to think that parts of the Museum Gardens were under a foot of flood water on Thursday.
I know that many people took time to watch the Outdoor Education Centre’s sailing regatta on Stowe Pool. Those boats against the backdrop of the Cathedral is always so photogenic.
The Community Games and Mambo Fun Day were enjoyed by loads of children and young people in Beacon Park.
And Hopwas was an absolute picture.
We always said we would start the day with one Flame and finish it with thousands. I hope that many of will have seen the culmination of the work of the Parks team as they floated the 5000 origami boats on Minster Pool from 5pm. At nightfall, the scene of 5000 twinkling tealights was truly magical. Despite a 15 hour day, the team were back at 10am on Sunday to remove 5000 origami boats.
Thank you to all our events managers and their teams. The events were superb.
So big shout to Lyn Barkas (NMA), Clive Bennett (Streethay), Adrian Jackson and Matt Mulligan (Garrick), Peter Young (Town Criers), Dave Simcox and Tim Perks (Lichfield Arts), Kevin Wilson and Paul Griffiths (Dash), Ian Hodgson (Cars in the Park), Alan Billington (Austin-7s), Sarah Sleigh, Jenni Williams and Wendy Sweatman (Community Games and Mambo Fun Day), Lyn Hammant and Celia Houghton (Flag Parade), Keith Stevens (Hopwas), Jon Danks and Gareth Lloyd (regatta), and John Smith and the parks team (Minster Pool Aflame).
You made sure that we made it safe and memorable.
A big thanks to staff at the Garrick, St Mary’s, Minster Hall and the council house for letting us use their facilities from silly o’clock.
And I would like to convey special thanks to the team that have worked so hard on preparing for the Relay for the last 18 months.
To Inspector White and his team for making sure that the day was safe.
To Becky Fuller and Richard Rayson of the County Council for ensuring that the roads were closed.
To John Roobottom and Gary Brownridge for ensuring that the car parks were well managed and our villages and city were so presentable.
To Richard Lewis of the Chamber of Trade for standing with us when we were seeking the support of the businesses.
To Rachel Clive of the city council in relocating the market so that we could make best use of the city centre.
To Pete Wilcox and Chris Gray for ensuring that the Cathedral was so supportive – and making sure the barrier was opened and that the Relay went along the route that LOCOG wanted to take.
To Cllr Mike Wilcox and [Neil Turner] Cllr Val Richards, and Nina Dawes for ensuring that support for the Relay was from the very highest echelons of the Council.
To Jennie Crosby and Tracey Potts for managing Minster Hall operations so well.
To our Zone Managers; Phil Kelly, Tim Matthews, Stuart Hoddinott, Spencer Duval, Lesley Bovington, Dean Travers, John Brown and Emma Slater.
To Adrian Jackson and his team for pulling together the events on the Market Square.
To Lizzie Thatcher for persuading me that bidding for the Torch Relay was the right thing to do – and ensuring that our submission looked brilliant and was sufficiently persuasive. And to Lizzie Thatcher, Esther Epstein and Rhiannon Purkis for making sure that our communications were just so right and encouraged so many people to visit us on torch relay day.
To Jenny Golding and Sarah Sprason for all the admin work, diligence dedication and commitment – and for keeping track on how much we spent.
And to Steve Langston, our Health and Safety Manager, who was professionalism and calmness personified both during the run-up to the day and the day itself.
And finally, to Paul Watson, the Event Manager who has worked tirelessly and imaginatively since I asked him to lead on this late last summer. Paul this was your success more than anyone’s, but I know that you take particular pride in remembering the two types of sauce for the breakfast on Saturday morning. Top top job, Paul.
Your reward is that you can re-introduce yourself to Mrs Watson, and you can talk to her about something else now.
And that’s it – we’ll do this again next time Britain hosts the Olympics but in the meantime we’ll be putting photographs, videos etc on our website but I’d love to hear your stories about the day, and I’ll see if we can get them collated into a permanent keepsake and memory.
Thanks all – that was our Moment to Shine.
And how we shone.
Director of Leisure, Parks & Play
Lichfield District Council