Colchester City Status Celebrations – A story from Jo Edwards

Colchester officially became a city on Wednesday, 23 November, when the letters patent – an official document written on parchment – was presented to the mayor during a special meeting of the Full Council.  As part of the media presentations of the event Jo Edwards agreed to be interviewed by BBC Essex on our behalf. Here is her account.


Note to self:

Never agree to be interviewed by BBC Essex in the presence of Colchester Pipes and Drums!


The new and very large cafe bar at the Mercury was packed when I arrived. The noise levels were such that I wondered how on earth the BBC crew were coping as they tried to interview a string of people for their live broadcast in the build up to the granting of City status to Colchester later in the evening. Shortly after I arrived, they spoke to Lt Col Ed Rankin, the Garrison Commander. A little later it was the turn of Sam Good from the BID. The crowd got bigger and the crush greater. The noise became worse as people started shouting to each other in order to be heard. I moved to the table in the corner, very close to the open doors. It was a little quieter there. Now it was the turn of Will Quince. He stood a couple of yards in front of me, with the BBC interviewer holding a large mic as close as possible to his face. He had been speaking for a couple of minutes when, all of a sudden, the Colchester Pipes and Drums, who, under the cover of darkness, had surreptitiously gathered JUST outside the open doors, started to play. There were a lot of them and the noise was extraordinary. I assumed that they would move but they didn’t. Poor Will, normally unfazed by ‘noises off’, looked a bit shaken. He paused and then manfully struggled on with what he had to say. When he had finished, the crew turned to me. Quickly introducing me, I think, the interviewer asked me a question. The rest of me is falling apart but my ears do work reasonably welI – or so I thought. I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. I resorted to lip reading. And that is how we continued. I couldn’t even hear my own voice! My concentration went straight out of the window – or should I say doors. I haven’t listened to the interview on BBC Sounds. I dread to think what I said. I didn’t finish what I had intended to say because the noise became even more intense. It was hopeless. Shortly afterwards, the band moved to join the procession which was getting ready to leave and the BBC crew interviewed their last person. Suddenly, everybody left. One minute the cafe was overflowing with people and the next it was almost empty – just me and the staff. The parade moved off and all was quiet. I should have watched them leave but I didn’t. I ordered a very strong black coffee instead!!


I love bagpipes. I always have and I always will. However …….!!


What did I try to say? Very much aware of the mixed views within our Civic Society membership, I said that I, like many other Civic Society members, would always think of Colchester as a beloved historic market town, However, I felt that the granting of City status was an incredible honour and we should all be extremely proud. I then went on to address the terrible negativity that has been so prevalent on social media. So many people have said that we are not worthy. Of course we are! I listed many of the reasons why. Our history, our museums, our University and superb schools, the Garrison, the theatres, Firstsite and the soon to reopen Minories, the Arts Centre, our countryside and coast, internationally important nature reserves, the Zoo, our sports facilities and even Colchester United! I asked people to stop thinking that the amorphous ‘They’ should do everything to make the City even more special and to start thinking ‘I’ or ‘We’ instead, as individuals or community groups can move mountains! I suggested joining their Residents’ Association and, if there wasn’t one in their area, start one. I suggested joining groups like Colchester in Bloom, Friends of Castle Park, Colchester Litter Pickers or even the Civic Society. I mentioned the Masterplan but didn’t quite finish what I was going to say. Never mind. Looking at social media this morning, I was saddened. However, if I made just one person think, it was worth the ringing ears!


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