Cotswold Life - - CUMMINGS’ GOINGS -

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

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