Guest Writer

The Mayor of Lancaster from May 2015 has been Jon Barry who completed a PhD in Statistics at Lancaster in 1996.

Jon arrived as a research worker in the Centre for Applied Statistics in 1987 and went on to lecture in the department, finishing his PhD in 1996 and leaving in 1998. He was elected as a Green Party Councillor in Castle Ward in 1999, one of a batch of five who were the first Greens elected to the Council. The numbers have fluctuated since then, but there are now 10 City Councillors and 1 County Councillor. Jon has been a member of the Council’s ruling cabinet for 12 years in a variety of rainbow coalitions.  He allocates two days a week to Council work (and lots of evenings!) and three days to his ‘proper’ job when he works as a statistician for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) which is a Government agency of Defra. He works from home for three weeks and then spends the fourth at the laboratory in Lowestoft (which is a long train ride from Lancaster but easier than a bike ride!).

Jon and his colleague advises 200 scientists on numerous different areas including setting up Marine Conservation Zones, surveys on the amount of litter and plastics on the sea bottom, how bad dredging is for the environment, numbers of eels and jellyfish, why are salmon numbers declining, how to analyse underwater video surveys etc.

Life is never dull and always busy. His dual roles mean that at one moment he is trying to sort out some tricky algebra and the next trying to sort out why Mrs Smith’s bin hasn’t been collected.

Having met Jon on about three occasions I find that he is a breath of fresh air, very approachable, unorthodox and a down to earth man who readily accepted my invitation to contribute to the website as a guest writer.

Mayoral sport at the grassroots by Jon Barry

I’m 52 and counting, and yet I’ve been involved in grass-roots sporting activity for as long as I can remember. My earliest recollection is playing second base in my school’s rounders team - coached by my gran who practised catching with me at the bus stop every morning. I then remember featuring in my cubs’ football team. I was a full back, with instructions never to move out of my own half and to play one-touch football (if the ball comes near you, boot it as far as you can). Back then, the 1970s, like lots of other similar boys my career ambitions were simple: play professional football in the winter and professional cricket in the summer (preferably for England). Sadly, neither came to pass though I’ve still not quite given up hope.

As I got older, I played cricket and rugby  for school teams, spent four years in the Maidstone and District table tennis league and got briefly distracted by a spot of match angling (not sure if this counts as a sport). Perhaps the only thing I was really any good at was athletics. But, sadly, two knee operations put the kybosh on that ambition. Before this happened, perhaps my proudest day was when Lowestoft Athletics Club came within a whisker of winning a southern league division five match with six athletes. I remember doing the 800m, 1500m 3,000m steeplechase, 100m and 400m relays - as well as the pole vault!

I spent my thirties and early forties playing cricket for the Gregson and Torrisholme. But I’ve now moved off my two feet and onto two wheels. On a Sunday I’m often out on a 60 miler with ‘The Lune’ and I also race in time trials organised by Lancaster Cycling Club. By the way, if you think there is a strong rivalry between Lancaster and Morecambe at football, this is as nothing compared to that between Lune CRC and Lancaster CC (I try to keep the peace by being a member of both).

What I like about Terry’s book on the William Smith festival is that it captures some of the numerous stories and legends of grass-roots sport. Every club and every sport has them. Tales of derring-do from matches past that live only in the minds of those who were there or who can still remember the stories. So, Terry shows a picture of the victorious St Peter’s School junior football team at Giant Axe in 1940. Most of the kids in that photo are probably dead now or, if not, I wonder what memories they recall of that tournament and that final?

As mayor of Lancaster District I am privileged to see a lot of the sporting and non-sporting activities in the district. What I usually find is that many clubs and teams are kept together by a small group of people (sometimes of size one) who have made it their life’s work to keep that sport and club going. It is clear to me that, by doing so, they enrich the lives of the many people who use that club. Combine all that social capital from all the numerous clubs and we get a fuller and better-functioning society.

Arguably the fittest Mayor in Lancaster’s history
Photo was taken during "Le Terrier" 2011

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