The local elections are over, the posters are down and the work of council has gone back to normal – or at least some form of normal. In the week that followed, Wakefield has marked two significant milestones in our city’s story; one which celebrates its past and one which looks to the future. Despite the relative quietness in the political scene after the elections, this week has been anything but routine.
The week of milestones began with celebrations in @WakeCathedral on Sunday 5th May to mark the 130 th anniversary of becoming a city. The ceremony was a fantastic tribute to our city’s history and heritage. The Cathedral was such a fitting venue given that it was the redesignation of the former All Saints’ Church into the Cathedral of the Diocese of Wakefield that first brought city status on the town.
It was such an honour to be able to participate in the momentous anniversary and to speak to so many people involved in the #WFD130 celebrations about the long history of our city from its medieval roots to today. More personally, it was also a great opportunity to reflect on the contributions of generations of people to overcoming numerous challenges over the centuries and to making Wakefield what it is today.
With our city’s past firmly established, another milestone was reached on Thursday which I hope will come to be seen as the start of yet another new chapter in Wakefield’s long history. The day saw the Mayor of Nanning China, Mr Zhou Hongbo pay an official visit to Wakefield to sign a new friendly cities agreement and to meet some of our most impressive leaders in business, education and culture. With Nanning’s high economic profile, and a population of more than Yorkshire and Humberside combined, this visit was not only a huge moment for Wakefield, but it was also a moment of great pride for me as it came at the end of a long process of discussions which began with my visit to Nanning in November.
The agreement now paves the way for new educational partnerships, stronger investment in the local area, and overseas opportunities for businesses in Wakefield and I am immensely grateful for all the hard work and support put in by many officials at the council, in the Chinese Embassy and in the municipal government of Nanning in preparation for the day. My thanks also go to the teams at the Town Hall, the Hepworth, OE Electrics, and Dane Royd School for all of their contributions to the day itself and to making such a great first impression of Wakefield for our new partners.
Just as Wakefield’s recognition as a city 130 years ago opened up its horizons to develop into an industrial centre for the whole of Britain, so too I hope that this new recognition as a valuable friend and partner for a major city in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies can help to spur on the new industries of the 21st century to grow and develop with opportunities all around the world.