Archive for August, 2012

Paralympics Fever Rises

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

With the Paralympics Opening ceremony tonight and the Games tomorrow I was delighted that Staffordshire hosted two of the four Flame celebration events over the weekend.

Flame Ambassador: Dan Hopwood – an ex-Paratrooper paralysed below the waist following a motorcycle accident, paddled the Paralympic Flame down Trentham Lake to kick start The Trentham Estate celebration.  Dan is now a world champion paracanoeist.

Dan was joined on the day by Flame Ambassador: John Court from Stafford.  John who helped to organize the Trentham event is a former Olympic slalom canoeist.  He is now a leading champion, coach and fund raiser for canoeing, particularly for the disabled, and helped establish the Trentham Watersports Association. Over 100 young people with disabilities turned out to take part in a range of sports over the day. We should all give thanks to John for all his hard work.

Olivia Wilson, aged 14 also did the honours for us as the Flame Ambassador at the Cannock event. Olivia, a student at Cannock Chase High School is a blind show jumper who has been tipped as a future Paralympian. She took up horse-riding when she was 10 and two years ago won the ‘totally visually impaired’ section of the RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) national championships, her very first competition. Well done to Olivia, and I am sure we will be watching out for her in future Paralympics. Thanks are also due to our highways crews who helped to manage a few road closures during the procession of the Flame to Cannock Park.

Finally on the Paralympics, I am sure you will join me in wishing good luck to all our local athletes taking part in the Games over the next few weeks.

Equestrian rider Lee Pearson CBE, 38 is from Cheddleton in Staffordshire and has won an impressive 9 gold medals in the last three Paralympic Games, 3 in Sydney in 2000, 3 in Athens in 2004 and 3 at Beijing in 2008 Pearson completed his hat-trick of three gold medals in successive Games, triumphing once more in the Mixed, Mixed Freestyle and Mixed Team events.

Jessica Luke, who is visually impaired lives in Stafford and has been playing Goalball since the age of 11, now aged 24, I wish her and the rest of the team the best of luck in their first match against China.

Richard Dobell, 45 was born in Biddulph in Staffordshire and was hugely successful playing standing volleyball before his impairment, he now plays in the sitting volleyball and I hope his success continues.

We were honoured to host representatives from Bremen in Germany for the 50th anniversary of our joint friendship over the last few weeks.  The young people who came to clean the Cannock war graves took part in some moving tributes to the fallen on both sides in the true spirit of reconciliation.

Also some sad news over the weekend with the death of Neil Armstrong, first man to set foot on the Moon, and a very moving statement from his family.  A true legend in my eyes.

Inspiring a generation

Monday, August 20th, 2012

What a fantastic 16 days, if we can’t all be Olympians at least we can embrace the Olympic spirit and be the best we can be. Let’s hope it will ‘Inspire a Generation’…

But it’s not all over; we still have the Paralympics to look forward to. Cannock and Trentham are both hosting Paralympics Flame Events on Saturday 25 August as part of the torch relay.

Four flames will be lit inLondon, Belfast, Edinburghand Cardiff and from this, Flame ambassadors will take part of the Flame back to local community celebration events.

A total of 34 communities around the country will be hosting Flame Celebrations over the bank holiday weekend and I am delighted that Staffordshire will be hosting two of them.

Both events are sure to be a great way of getting into the spirit of the games and I wouldencourage those eligible groups to attend.

And if that’s not enough, I want to encourage everyone to ‘Join In’ at your local sports club, Cannock hosted celebrations over the weekend with Team GB Olympians and loads of ways to get involved in sports.

Harvesting time

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Oilseed Rape harvestingIt’s been a nice couple of days on the farm; the harvest has started at last with the Oilseed Rape, which turned out a better crop than expected after the recent monsoon weather.

Early last week I was at Lancaster House for the British Business Embassy listening to Steve Cram and Sally Gunnell at the Global Summit on Education.  Great Britain is home to an impressive four of the top 10 universities. Life skills and aspiration are essential for success as a nation we were reminded with taking the driving test as a good example of what we can do when motivated!

Wing commander Andy Green was talking about Project Bloodhound, Michelle Selinger CISCO about STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and UTC’s (University Technical Colleges) for high level and practical education for 14-19 year olds.

There aren’t enough PHDs in Physics, and STEM subjects need Ambassadors to inspire children to be the scientists and inventors to build our future.

I had a very early start on Thursday morning at Indulgence in Uttoxeter, with the Uttoxeter Business Network, keeping them up to date with the word of our SnS LEP and SCC.

In Olympics news, it’s well done Team GB who are doing great and have been storming up the medals table.  Unfortunately its commiserations for the Pakistan Hockey Team after Team GB beat them 4:1 last Friday.  We were delighted to welcome their return to Cannock Hockey Club for some last minute training. But Cannock’s own James Fair and the rest of the team went to the Semi Finals to meet the Netherlands last night.  Unfortunately we lost the match, but we will be competing for a Bronze medal on Saturday against Australia so Good Luck for then …

Olympic fever has hit

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

It’s not every day I get the chance to drive the Landrover Experience +170mph on a test track! But last week I did just that, having conversations with Jaguar Landrover about the potential for engineering in Staffordshire and West Midlands and drove some of their vehicles, Jaguar Landrover certainly make great vehicles. It was an unforgettable experience.

I also got the chance to visit W2R to see construction on time and budget at the waste to energy plant at Four Ashes. It’s the largest project of its kind in the West Midland.

Dairy Farmers from Uttoxeter held a march last week through town for a living or empty supermarket shelves for all in the future. Next time you are offered Fair Trade coffee make sure you ask for “Fair Trade” milk to be put in it and support British Dairy Farmers – look for the little red tractor!

That way you can help support dairy farmers with their struggle for just that – a fair trade.

It’s great to see the Pakistan Olympic Hockey Team doing so well, although Staffordshire has been cheering them on our loyalties will be tested this afternoon when they take on Team GB in the preliminary round.

The Pakistani team’s decision to base themselves in Staffordshire was a real boost to everyone at the club and the local community as the excitement built.  We are all very proud that we are able to attract a top-ten nation to use the excellent sporting facilities at Cannock Hockey Club. Today they are up against Team GB and James Fair who also trained at Cannock Hockey Club, so either way will be a win for Staffordshire.

We extended a warm welcome to the Pakistani team during a previous visit in 2009, and the combination of our hospitality and excellent facilities encouraged them to return. I wish both teams all the best.

A huge Staffordshire congratulations to our very own Anna Watkins from Leek in the double sculls rowing final.  Anna and rowing partner Katherine Granger beat the best in the world to win the gold medal.  I am truly delighted with the girls’ performance, and I am sure people across the county would join me in wishing her well. Very well done Anna, the whole of Staffordshire is very proud of you.