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WALSALL: Dismay over Remembrance parade change

WALSALL: Dismay over Remembrance parade change

Photo: Google Street View.

A 100-year-old tradition for Walsall’s Remembrance Sunday parade will be broken this year amid fears the mayor won’t be seen.

Councillor Rose Burley and her mayoral party will not lead the procession from Walsall Council House to the Cenotaph this Sunday (November 14) as her predecessors have done for a century.

Shocked former mayors said they had been told there were concerns visitors attending the service would not see the civic leader in her bright red robe and gold chains as she would be lost in the parade.

Instead, a ‘civic party’ consisting of councillors, MPs, freeman of the borough, veterans, faith groups and former mayors, will be received by Councillor Burley at the cenotaph.

Walsall Council said safety of visitors was a high priority and also said the new arrangement would ensure she would be visible to everyone attending.

Councillor Burley, who will be in her full ceremonial regalia of bright red robe and gold mayoral chains, was unable to comment on the decision.

This year marks 100 years since Walsall Cenotaph was unveiled in the town centre and, apart from last year’s Covid-restricted service, has upheld a tradition of the sitting mayor leading the parade.

Norman Matthews, Walsall’s mayor in 1997/98, said he was “utterly at odds in understanding any justifiable reason for it”.

He said records suggested the procession has been the same for 100 years.

The Executive Secretary of Walsall Guild of Former Mayors said: “The origins of this proposed change lie with the council’s chief executive (Dr Helen Paterson) and her other advisors, who viewed the need to separate the so called Mayoral Party from the rest of the traditional corporate procession.

“In particular, the chief executive has laid claim to the view that those referred to as members of the ‘Mayoral Party’ had become, in the past ‘absorbed’ into the rest of the parade as to have been not properly identified.

“Another dimension to this whole matter about which I have already taken serious issue with the chief executive about, concerns the fact that as an official body recognised by the council, the Walsall Guild of Former Mayors was not consulted about any changes likely to occur.

“On a personal note as someone who has led this ‘Corporate Procession’ on
Remembrance Sunday the 9th November 1997, at no time did I ever encounter any difficulty with people not recognising me or other members of the procession for who we were.

“We subsequently received a warm and generous round of applause from all spectators for turning out in this way every year.”

Councillor Pete Smith, who led the parade in his mayoral year in 2014/15, said he also challenged Dr Paterson on the notion the mayor would not be seen by visitors.
He said: “Given this significant and inexplicable change with 100 years of tradition, I think the hundreds of people who line the route of the procession, need to be forewarned of this change, most of whom, like me, will be asking the question: why?”

A council spokesperson said: “Sadly we were unable to hold our annual Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in Walsall last year because of Covid regulations.

“The event is organised by the mayor’s office and as we have done in previous years, in consultation with the mayor, we have made a small number of changes to the event to ensure it runs smoothly.

“Our priority is the safety of those who are taking part and those who are attending this popular event.

“Whilst the mayor has lead the procession in previous years, this year she will instead be at the Cenotaph to receive the procession, making sure that the mayor is in full view of the majority of people who will be attending.”

Words: Gurdip Thandi, Local Democracy Reporter

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