By The Editor
THE ‘great and the good’ of Gosport piled into the town’s Thorngate Halls on Wednesday for a civic spectacular – the annual Mayor-making ceremony.
And, for the second year running, the borough’s first citizen is a decorated military veteran, former Army major Martin Pepper taking over from his Liberal Democrat council colleague, ex-Royal Navy officer Jamie Hutchinson.
Amidst the the traditional pomp and cross-party back-slapping were some surprisingly unorthodox musical interludes courtesy of the excellent Gosport Solent Brass, with a wide-ranging repertoire that included Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines and The Flight of the Bumble Bee.
But it was a triumphal march through the ballroom to the stage that set the scene for an hour-long extravaganza that included honorary freemen and aldermen, council officers, councillors, clergy, constabulary and mace bearer.
It was a time for the outgoing Mayor to reflect on everything he had officiated at over the past year, following kind words from Gosport Borough Council Leader Peter Chegwyn.
Thanking Councillor Hutchinson and his outgoing Mayoress Karen for their efforts, Councillor Chegwyn desribed the Falklands conflict hero as, “the people’s Mayor” because of the welcome extended for all visitors to his open-door parlour.
It had been an eventful period in office, marking not only the 40th anniversary of the South Atlantic campaign but also the borough’s centenary celebrations.
His successor, supported by wife Suzanne as Mayoress, expects to attend an equal number of high profile engagements, saying that he particularly looks forward to the transformation of a disused cinema and bingo hall at Crossways into a community, arts and musical entertainment hub.
This being a day for optimism and civic pride, there was no question of what effect the lack of car-parking might have on that business plan.
Councillor Pepper is a man used to thinking on his toes, who likes to depart from the script and knows how to tell a well-timed joke.
All of that went down well with the packed, invited audience – not least the large group of enthusiastic young people representing volunteer activists Community Spirit, one of his chosen charities. The other is the First Light Trust, which caters for local veterans. However the new Mayor promises to do what he can to support other good causes.
Then, formalities completed, it was time to traipse into the adjoining theatre for tea and biscuits, more glad-handing and a succession of mobile phone photographs with smiling well-wishers.
Normal business was to resume that evening, with the first full meeting of the new council in the Town Hall.
PICTURED: Chief Photographer Holly Mason captures the proceedings in Thorngate Halls at Wednesday’s Mayor-making ceremony. More images can be seen via: https://www.hollymphoto.co.uk/