Advent marks the traditional start to the Christmas season, so I am delighted to send greetings on behalf of myself, the Mayoress and all the councillors and officers of Solihull Council.
Last year our celebrations were subject to many restrictions due to Covid but the remarkable development of vaccines and massive roll-out of the immunisation programme hopefully means that this year we are free to properly celebrate with our families and friends – something for which we are all thankful.
We know of course that there are still emerging threats from this dreadful pandemic and we still need to take sensible precautions to keep ourselves and others safe – and that includes making sure each one of us is fully vaccinated and takes up a booster jab as soon as we are eligible.
2021 has been a really difficult year and so many familiar events have had to be cancelled or scaled back, including those that help raise funds for voluntary organisations who despite the challenges, have continued to provide outstanding service to support local need. Some weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the West Midlands ceremony for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service at which Solihull Talking Newspaper for the Blind received its award - and previously I was at the award of British Empire Medals to 10 Solihull people, most in recognition of their voluntary work.
Without the fantastic network of our voluntary organisations life would be so much poorer in Solihull and they all deserve our support for their work in the community.
Whilst my first few months as Mayor were spent sitting at home or attending virtual meetings by video call, it has been great to now start getting out to meet people again in person and in particular to attend ceremonies around the borough as things begin to open up. At Citizenship Ceremonies it has been a pleasure to welcome those from around the world who have chosen Solihull as their new home and Remembrance events have been an opportunity to pay our respect and thanks for the sacrifice of those men and women who died in the cause of justice and freedom.
Just recently I have had the opportunity to join with our local Hindu community in switching on of lights to mark the festival of Diwali; our Jewish citizens for lighting of the Menorah for Chanukah and also Peace and Remembrance Candles in Churches. The common theme has been the significance of light overcoming darkness - and that is something we all need at a time when the world has been in a dark place with the devastation of a deadly virus, the increased tension between countries and the threats of climate change.
Christmas is also about bringing light into darkness and as we follow the star and listen to the message of peace and goodwill, let us all join in the spirit of sharing, caring and togetherness, whilst remembering those whose lives have been affected by loss of loved ones, by loneliness or disability and illness – and let us all look forward with hope to a brighter and safer 2022.