A Digital Year in the Life of the Mayor
Like residents everywhere, the year has started and ended very differently for the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside.
The Mayor, Councillor Norman Dick and the Mayoress, Mrs Jean Williamson, began 2020 marking key events such as Holocaust Memorial Day, hosting fund-raising opportunities, meeting young carer leavers and members of the Youth Parliament as well as visiting local communities.
However, as they prepared to see their Year in Office come to an end in May, the country was suddenly brought to a standstill with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lockdown put everything on hold. This led to an extended period of civic duties for the Mayor and Mayoress, and while many key annual events had come full circle for them, things have been done very differently second time round.
The Mayor said: "For us in our mayoral duties, it has been an extraordinary year. April marking a new direction in the way we carried out our work, particularly having been identified as being among the 1.5m 'shielding' residents and urged to avoid any face-to-face contact with others.
"The pandemic meant that key events where communities would normally gather to celebrate or commemorate had to be cancelled, postponed or delivered in other ways, with the Mayoress and I performing our duties mostly from home.
"Although we haven't been able to come out and meet people as we would have liked, we have really enjoyed maintaining that connection with our communities and rallying support through our online channels."
Despite a very turbulent ten months, there have been many highlights. As an Army veteran himself, the Mayor was determined to find a way during this difficult year to pay the Borough's respects to the armed forces community.
This included new virtual takes on remembrance events such as Anzac Day, Workers' Memorial Day, VE Day and VJ Day as well as laying wreaths to mark Merchant Navy Day, Remembrance and Armistice.
The Mayor also launched the #Proud to Support campaign, showcasing the great work and community spirit of South Tyneside individuals and sent them a special 'thank you' for their incredible efforts though the pandemic.
Other key events over the summer included a socially distanced Armed Forces Day event, thanking the Borough's amazing NHS staff, carers, key workers and volunteers as well as celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the NHS and leading a special service for Srebrenica.
More recently, the Mayor and Mayoress starred in the Borough's very first Virtual Christmas Light Switch on event - a light-hearted fun-packed short film bringing Christmas cheer to local communities in partnership with The Customs House.
Enabling residents to share in key events and commemorations and support them to stay home, the films and video messages were screened online via the Council's YouTube channel, website and on social media.
Despite the challenges 2020 has brought, the Mayor and Mayoress have continued to support the Mayor's Charity, which is supporting South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and NAAFI Break South Tyneside.
The Mayor said: "The Mayoress and I would like to thank the whole of South Tyneside for their ongoing support during these extremely difficult times and throughout our time in office.
"It has been a real honour to continue representing and serving the Borough and showcasing the many wonderful, kind-hearted people who go the extra mile to make this area great. This is no more evident than through our #ProudtoSupport campaign where we heard such inspiring stories of the incredible roles that people played as part of the response effort.
"I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our residents health and happiness as we head in 2021. Stay safe everyone."