SURELY THIS HAS TO BE A MOCK-UP?
When I started out on my rollercoaster ride of a radio career, the one piece of advice I was given over and over from the veterans in my profession was “Keep moving so they can’t shoot you”. The art of survival was to host a show for a couple of years then scarper to another station before they found you out.
I took this pearl of wisdom literally, hence when I turned up on the doorstep of BBC Radio Gloucestershire begging for a contract I’d already worked at nine stations! Then a strange thing happened. An internal voice kept telling me this was a very special place and maybe I should hang around for a while. My epiphany happened in a smoke-filled room in a pub on Barton Street in Gloucester when I was handed a scroll that I still have on my wall to this day. The scroll was presented to me by the Mayor of Barton inviting me into his ‘Court Leet’ to take on the role of ‘Merlin the Magician to The Court Leet of Barton St Mary’.
It was at this moment I realised I’d been invited into a special world full of kind, eccentric, loving people and Gloucestershire was the only place I wanted to stay. Subsequently we bought a house, had kids and threw ourselves into every aspect of life offered to us and not a day goes by when I’m not grateful for finding a place to call home. The history of the role of the Mayor of Barton and its reinvention 30 years ago epitomises the uniqueness and humour of where we live. It all started when Charles II was returned to the throne in 1660. He didn’t like Gloucester very much, because its inhabitants had sided with Cromwell during the Civil War, and indeed had successfully withstood a famous siege, refusing entry to a force commanded by the new king’s father.
Once the monarchy was restored, Charles took his revenge in various ways, knocking down the city walls, and severely reducing the city boundaries. This left the Barton area outside the city. The residents didn’t like that very much, and decided that, if they couldn’t defer to the Mayor of Gloucester, then they’d invent their own, simply to poke fun at Gloucester’s official powersthat-be.
Originally, the man who made the biggest fool of himself during the preceding year was appointed Mayor of Barton. The office fell into disuse in mid-victorian times but it was revived at the end of the 20th century by the Barton Residents’ Association wishing to improve the quality of life in a badly run down area of the city. Since then we’ve had the first Muslim to be first Lady Mayor along with an eccentric and eclectic mix of characters all representing the spirit of rebellion, micky-taking and altruism. Having done some amateur prestidigitation in my time, the Court Leet decided these conjuring skills should be put to good use and the rest is history. So the house we bought way back then is the house we still live in, the children we had are now leaving home, I’m loving every moment of hosting the Breakfast Show in my adopted county and The Court Leet of Barton St Mary still keep calling me.
I was summoned back to that pub on Barton Street recently to meet the boss as we prepare to elect the new Mayor on Gloucester day on Saturday, September 2. Imagine my shock when it was revealed that the new Mayor is to be me! Having seen me in action as stand-in for the current Mayor, Carol Francis, during Gloucester Carnival they decided I’d passed my secret audition. My first duty was to buy everyone a pint in One Eyed Jacks. This feels like the honour I received 20 years ago and I intend to serve with all my heart, and keep the spirit of rebellion and mischief-making going for every second of the next 12 months.
Mark Cummings the Mayor of Barton