A new civic year has begun at Lewes Town Council

Lewes Town Councillors elected a new Mayor and Deputy Mayor at the council’s annual meeting on 9 May 2024. 

Councillor Imogen Makepeace was elected by the Lewes Town Council as its Chair, and the Mayor of Lewes for the civic year of 2024 to 2025, and Councillor Emily Clarke was elected as Vice Chair of the council, and Deputy Mayor of Lewes, representing the first all-female Mayoral office for nearly a decade.

Councillor Makepeace made a short speech of thanks in which she said that she “see[s] this term of Mayoralty as being less about ‘the Mayor’ and more about ‘the Mayoral Team.’ I hope to find ways to open the role so that with plenty of support anyone could take it on.”

Thank you Councillor Bird

The council also expressed its thanks and appreciation to the outgoing Mayor, Councillor Matthew Bird. Councillor Bird has worked tirelessly in his role as Mayor during a difficult year for Lewes Town Council and has used every opportunity possible to fundraise for local foodbanks.

At the meeting Debbie Twitchen of Landport Foodbank accepted a cheque for the sum of £2927.17, representing the total amount raised for Lewes’ foodbanks – Landport, Malling and Fitzjohns – during Councillor Bird’s year as Mayor. She reminded the council that the three foodbanks are currently supporting 620 individuals in the town, and the importance of donations to be able to provide this help.

Inviting the community

The new Mayor hosted a Civic Reception in the Assembly Room at Lewes Town Hall, which was attended by councillors, staff, as well as representatives and leaders of local groups and projects, and members of the working community of Lewes including teachers, bus drivers, publicans and staff of Lewes FC.

At the reception, the all-female Mayoral office was celebrated with a group of first pioneers from Neville Junior Bonfire Society singing the suffragette anthem “March of the Women” and toasts were raised to the new Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Councillor Makepeace dedicated a toast to “those who make Lewes work.”

Coat of Hopes

As she addressed the packed and diverse crowd, the Mayor wore the ‘Coat of Hopes’ to underline the Town Council’s commitment to tackling the climate change and biodiversity emergencies.

The Coat of Hopes was worn on a walk from Newhaven to Glasgow during the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in 2021 and is the creation of local artist Barbara Keal.

Speaking after the event, Councillor Makepeace said: “One of the highlights of Mayor Making was putting on The Coat of Hopes.

“This is a unique garment instigated by artist Barbara Keal to carry the community’s hopes and fears, grief and prayers in the face of climate breakdown. Many local people contributed embroidered patches to make up the Coat.

“It is a tradition started by Councillor Bird that I am very happy to continue. Putting on the Coat of Hopes in front of guests in the Assembly Room while Barbara sang the Coat’s song was for me the most solemn and meaningful part of the day.”

“My particular focus will be on highlighting and promoting the work of local groups and organisations who help families of children and young people experiencing mental health difficulties.”

She has chosen the Community Interest Company Routes for Change as her Mayor’s Good Cause for the year.

Deputy Mayor gives thanks

Councillor Emily Clarke addressed the council at the meeting and thanked her colleagues for making adjustments that allowed her to take on the office of Deputy Mayor:

“I am very grateful that we have supportive and refreshingly modern colleagues sat within these historic walls. I’m hopeful that this will be a game changer in encouraging younger people with demanding jobs, caring responsibilities, health issues – realworld-juggling-acts to perform daily – to take part in our local democracy and consider our roles here achievable too.