Councillors at Bristol’s Annual Full Council this Tuesday (21 May) celebrated the hard work and positivity of Green Lord Mayor Cleo Lake during the ceremony that saw her step down as Lord Mayor to be replaced by Cllr Jos Clark. Councillor Lake will continue to serve Bristol as Deputy Lord Mayor for the following year.
Leading the vote of thanks, Councillor Eleanor Combley, leader of the Green Group said:
“You have had some difficult meetings to manage, but where there was confusion, you brought clarity, where there was petulance, you brought dignity, where there was discord, you brought calm. And where there was discord that even you could not calm, you brought some fierce gavel work.
“But what I have appreciated most in these meetings is the warmth and respect with which you welcomed members of the public to this gallery. None of us should forget that we derive any power we have as councillors from the people who have given us their vote, and you have shown your recognition of that fact in the way you have welcomed people who wish to attend, to speak, even to protest at these meetings.
Your role in council is only a small part of the work of Lord Mayor, although it is an important one. You have also attended hundreds of engagements across the city, and across all our many different communities, and I know that you have done so with your customary grace and generosity with your time and energy. It has been a joy to watch you, throughout the year, inhabit this role, managing at the same time to be both entirely The Lord Mayor and entirely Cleo Lake.”
Cllr Combley’s sentiments were echoed by members from other party groups. Labour councillor Ruth Pickersgill said:
“It was so refreshing this time last year to see the public gallery filled with elders from our local community and activists who’ve been working to challenge discrimination for years, and for them to start to feel that this chamber is somewhere relevant for them and that they can play a part in it.”
“Every time you go out and represent us you’re giving a clear message about diversity and equality and I’ve watched your commitment and your incredibly busy schedule and been amazed at how many events you’ve fitted into each day, and how easily you communicate with people from all backgrounds and make them feel included.”
“Your principled stand on anti-racism and your commitment not to collude with historical oppression and to challenge the shameful aspects of our city’s history has been a positive example to everyone”
In her time as Lord Mayor Cleo Lake has brought issues like these to the fore, making headlines early on in her term by removing a portrait of slave trader Edward Colston from her office (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/19/slave-traders-portrait-removed-from-bristol-lord-mayors-office). She also took part in charity events, running a 10K and raising over £20,000 at the annual Lord Mayors charity appeal. As part of the annual Lord Mayor’s Medals ceremony Councillor Lake honoured civil rights campaigners, volunteers, charity workers and teachers, including Roy Hackett, one of the activists behind the Bristol Bus Boycott and the 1967 Race Relations Act. (https://news.bristol.gov.uk/news/lord-mayors-medals-celebrate-bristols-local-heroes). On May 18 Cleo herself received the Dr Paul Stephenson special recognition award at the Bristol Diversity Awards (https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/2019-bristol-diversity-awards-winners-2886073).
In her stepping down speech Cleo highlighted the wide range of events she had taken part in. She said:
“South Bristol was one of my focal points for the year and I am proud to say that I made it my duty to visit as many schools as I could, primarily in south Bristol but right across the city too.
“I was honoured to initiate a visit to 3 South Bristol schools with record breaking balloonist Brian Jones. I’ve listened to readers on the reading recovery programme, I’ve read stories to classes, I’ve given out certificates and attended aspiration days and have wondered how many year 3’s have gone home and said to their parents or carers ‘when I grow up I want to be a Lord Mayor’ – or ‘when I grow up I want to have rainbow coloured hair!’
“On top of set engagements and civic duties like fortnightly citizenship ceremonies and the like, with the support of the Lady Mayoress we have also tried to push ourselves to do more. A good example was taking the opportunity to stage a ‘Windrush to Carnival’ variety show at the Hippodrome, with a raft of acts across generations, many of whom might never have played the hippodrome. And likewise much of the audience might never have attended the venue. The event raised over £2.5k for Sickle Cell.”
The Green councillor closed the speech reflecting on Bristol’s nature as a multicultural city. She said:
“I have seen and believe that Bristol is a two-tone city. It is black and white and everything in between. It is ancient and modern, new and old. It is able bodied and disabled. It is gay and straight and everything in between. It is male and female and everything in between. It is vegan and locally sourced hand reared meat eating and everything in between. It is all of these things and more – our diversity is our strength.
“This city was, is and can continue to be a leading city, whether that’s engineering, creativity, sustainability, tech, race relations or equalities. Innovation is our blueprint.”