Talented young people shine at civic service

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Last Sunday saw one of the big set piece events of the town calendar when St James’s Church played host to Wetherby’s annual civic service.

It’s a relatively new feature which first was introduced by my predecessor and fellow Wetherby News columnist Cindy Bentley two years ago.

I think it was a great idea and a tradition which I am determined to continue.

This year, to tie in with the main theme of my time in office, I chose to celebrate the contribution young people make to our town.

The weather stayed fine and we had a great turnout.

It was a particular pleasure to welcome the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Tim Hare, The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Ann Castle as well as the Mayors of Tadcaster, Morley and Otley along with the Deputy Mayor of Harrogate.

I was very keen that young people themselves would play a pivotal role in the service and, as is often my experience, they really stepped up to the mark and quite rightly stole the show.

We had great support from Wetherby High School and in particular from music teacher, Gemma Casey who did a magnificent job in organising the performances of a large contingent of pupils as well as organising young people who baked some delicious cakes for afterwards.

Deighton Gates were also hugely supportive and I must thank their fabulous headteacher, Claire Harrison for the fantastic job she and her children did on the day.

We were also well supported by Crossley Street and their wonderful headteacher, Sandra Clynes.

Ben Parrett, a young man from Wetherby High School, kicked off proceedings with a beautiful piano recital as the civic party entered the church and this was followed by a quite incredibly haunting a cappella version of Ave Maria sung by Olivia Bedford, another Wetherby High School Pupil.

She must have been so nervous on the inside but she controlled her emotions and her voice to stunning effect with the natural acoustics of the church only adding to the occasion.

It’s not generally the done thing at such gatherings but the congregation could do nothing other than burst into the most fitting and spontaneous round of enthusiastic applause.

Reverend Brendan Giblin welcomed us all to the church before introducing the first hymn followed by the opening prayers which were delivered jointly by Rev Steve Barlow of Wetherby Methodist Church and a representative of The Salvation Army.

Vocalists from Wetherby High School then performed a fantastic version of Something Inside so Strong before a young girl from Deighton Gates read a lovely prayer that the children of the school had written themselves.

We moved on to a reading from Micah by the Lord Mayor of Leeds followed by a performance of an original song called Nothing Else Will Do by its writer Phenicia Williams accompanied by Olivia Bedford.

I have to tell you that these are some seriously talented girls that I’m sure you’ll be hearing much more of in the future.

Two more young people from Deighton Gates School read the tale of the good Samaritan before Reverend Giblin gave his address.

Following another hymn, we were shown a short video entitled “what Wetherby means to me” which was produced by young people from Wetherby High School.

I was feeling pretty nervous at this point as I prepared myself to give a short address straight after the video.

On this occasion, I’d decided not to write down what I wanted to say as I felt it was important that it came straight from the heart.

I’m not a huge fan of reading a scripted speech at any time but as I walked to the lectern and stood to face such a packed congregation without so much as a scribbled note to prompt me, I have to confess to saying a little prayer to help me remember what I wanted to say!

I talked about the things I’ve tried to do with my time as Mayor to promote young people such as establishing the Jubilee award and setting up the youth council.

I also talked about my visit last autumn to Wetherby Secure College of Learning which had a profound effect on me and I suppose if I had a message is was a reminder to us all that it’s the actions of adults which has the biggest impact on the outcomes of children.

We had a collection for Martin House Children’s Hospice as we sang the final Hymn, Jerusalem which I chose as it’s probably my favourite!

We then moved through to the church rooms where a wonderful buffet had been prepared by some of the women at the church with help from pupils of Wetherby High School.

It was a fantastically uplifting celebration of our young people and the wonderful contribution they make to our town.

As I said in the service notes, young people are the guardians of the future and on this evidence, the future is in very safe hands.