Press reporter Zoe Shackleton sat down with outgoing Kirklees Mayor Gwen Lowe to look back at her year in office and the reality of living her childhood dream...
“I didn’t want to give it up, I really didn’t.” Those were the words of Batley West councillor Gwen Lowe as she spoke of handing over her Mayoral robe and chain.
She has now passed the baton to Dewsbury West councillor Mumtaz Hussain, whom she worked closely with as her deputy.
When asked about the highlights, Coun Lowe, who has been a councillor in Batley for 13 years, said: “I cannot pick anything out and say they are my three favourite things, because from every event that we’ve been to we’ve always brought away something special.”
And Coun Lowe, who grew up in Batley and went to Manorfield Infant School then Staincliffe Junior and Batley Girls’ Grammar, says she’s had an “amazing year” fulfilling what was once a childhood dream.
She said: “It’s been about sharing my story about being a little girl, Batley born and bred, whose dream it was to be the mayor of Batley.
“To suddenly find myself being the Mayor of Kirklees was a bigger dream than I ever anticipated.
“It’s been important to share this with young people and to say that ‘you can do this’. It’s that little girl seeing the Mayor in Batley outside the town hall and thinking ‘I want to do that’. It wasn’t about the red robe and the gold chain, it was that I could extol all the virtues of Batley, my home town, and how wonderful it is.”
Throughout the year, Coun Lowe and her consort, husband Ken, attended over 400 events – from school visits to sponsored walks and visiting community groups.
Some days, the pair would leave the house at 8am and not get home until midnight, and the most events they went to in one day was seven.
Coupled with her work as a councillor in Batley West, Coun Lowe admitted: “The year has been so busy that we’ve missed out on a lot of family and friends events, even right down to when my daughter wanted to have my grandson Christened last year she had to contact the civic office to ask them if I’d got a free Sunday!
“But I wanted to do as much as I possibly could, it was full on and that’s what I wanted. I could have done with another few years to do everything I wanted to do!”
Though a final total hasn’t been announced, she has also raised lots of money for her chosen charities Kirkwood Hospice and the RSPCA.
It could all have been very different though, as Coun Lowe was up for re-election just before she was about to step up and become mayor.
She said: “It was so near my grasp, and you never know elections can be funny things. I like to believe I do work hard as a councillor, I like to be out there in the community rolling my sleeves up and getting my hands dirty. But I was a pain during the election! I just thought, please don’t take this away from me.”
As it was she was re-elected comfortably, and she said: “As the Mayor of Kirklees you’re classed as the first citizen and you are promoting everything about Kirklees.
“I think that’s been really good because we’ve visited people and gone to events that we would not have had the opportunity to do so if we hadn’t been the mayor and consort. We’ve just met the most amazing people.
“We’ve seen so much, we’ve heard so much and we’ve learnt so much that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to have done so.”
Husband Ken added: “It’s tiring, there’s no doubt about it. You’re out all the time and smiling all the time. There’s all those jobs that you can’t get done at home because you’re always out, but it is very enjoyable and rewarding.
“Gwen won’t say it but she’s got a heck of a lot of love out of (the year), admiration, respect and it’s just been tremendous.”