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Wolverhampton mayor: Pride at representing city in difficult times

Wolverhampton | In-depth | Published:

Wolverhampton Mayor Claire Darke tells of the honour of representing the city amid the pandemic.

Mayor of Wolverhampton Claire Darke

When I first moved to Bilston in 1985, working and living in a sheltered housing scheme, the last thing I ever expected to be saying was: ‘Hello, I am the Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Claire Darke’!

Yet, here I am, saying it nearly every day.

My year of office should have ended in May this year, with a new Mayor inaugurated.

But Covid-19 has changed all that. I will now be Mayor for a second year until May 2021.

It is, and has been, an honour to be the Mayor and discover our diverse City and all the great work our citizens do.

Each year the Mayor raises money for The Mayoral Charitable Fund which supports charities for local people; my chosen charities are the Suicide Prevention Stakeholders Forum and the University of Wolverhampton Mayoral Scholarship Fund.

The Mayor of Wolverhampton is largely a ceremonial role.

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Mayor Claire Darke with husband Paul

To become Mayor of Wolverhampton you must to be an elected city councillor, which I have been for more than 12 years representing Park ward, and the Mayor changes at local election time every May.

The Mayor is selected by length of service. Many councillors have already served as Mayor and some councillors are unable to be Mayor due to the significant time commitment attached to the role, attending numerous events sometimes seven days a week.

I am the 161st Mayor of Wolverhampton but I am only the 10th women to hold the post and, due to Covid-19, I will be the longest continuously serving Mayor of Wolverhampton since 1929, and the longest continuously serving woman Mayor of Wolverhampton of all time. Something for the history books!

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Before lockdown my consort, my husband Dr Paul Darke, and I had a very busy Mayoral schedule attending more than 300 events across the city and at the Mayoral City Suite in 10 months.

Our goal has always been to celebrate and promote our great city, regionally, nationally and internationally.

The Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Claire Darke, gets stuck in on the drums during the recent Beatsabar Studios open day at Newhampton Arts Centre

Highlights include ‘The City Diversity Celebration’ event, which was so impressive on the big stage at Aldersley.

Equally, bestowing Freedom of the City to HMS Forward was a specular day and it is always good to celebrate our Armed Forces.

There have been many visits and events involving faith groups, community organisations and local businesses across the city and the diversity of the great work they do in the city is amazing.

We have hosted events at the Mayoral Suite to celebrate achievements of local people with local people: these are the events we will always cherish the most.

But the most memorable are the local children visiting the Mayoral Suite, asking all their searching questions that include ‘where is the Mayoral mansion?’ They were all very disappointed to hear I just live in a normal house.

Mayor of Wolverhampton Claire Darke and retail area manager Rob Evans at the Beacon Centre's furniture warehouse in Wolverhampton

Lockdown has brought great change for all of us in the city, including myself. Mayoral activities

have now become socially distanced: they include radio interviews, the Library Service Chatty

Café online, various virtual workshops and numerous video messages for social media.

Paul has become a great video director now! Sadly, our face-to-face events are few and far between at the moment, but we hope to get back to them as soon as it is safe to do so.

As for the future, we are planning an online Mayoral Quiz, which we hope you can join in with. We give our thanks to the support of the Express & Star for their support as they play a vital role in celebrating and promoting our city.

There are always surprise events and invites around the corner and I look forward to meeting, supporting and celebrating the people, the place and the achievements of Wolverhampton wherever they may be. In the meantime: stay kind, stay safe and wear a mask as I hope to meet you in the next few months at an event.

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