Christmas message from Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams
I can't believe it is now December and we're getting into the festive spirit, once again, in what is the #SeasonForSharing.
As we approach Christmas, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone across Mid and East Antrim, a very happy Christmas and peaceful 2023.
I have been honoured to serve as Mayor and delighted to have the opportunity, as First Citizen of the Borough, to get out and about, and meet the wonderful communities and businesses that make this area such a fantastic place to live, work, visit and invest in.
It's that time of year when it is usual to reflect on the year’s activities and achievements. As I look back, I am reminded of so many fascinating stories and amazing successes of which I, as Mayor, am extremely proud.
Among these is Council’s continued effort to support citizens, communities and businesses across the Borough, through a wide range of initiatives - all aimed at driving our post Covid-19 recovery - and supporting those who need it the most during this cost of living crisis.
From business growth programmes and key investment in town centres, to community support for older people right across our area - Council has been committed to supporting our businesses and residents while continuing to deliver crucial frontline services to the people of Mid and East Antrim - in our towns, villages and rural communities, throughout this exceptionally challenging time.
We were delighted to open our new £1million recycling facility at Sullatober this year. Double the size of the old facility and designed to cater for 40,000 residents, The facility helps Council to divert over 1,000 tonnes of waste from landfill each year.
We once again ran the very successful School Uniform Scheme, which was delivered in partnership with Mid and East Antrim Community Advice Services (MEACAS) and supported by ‘Volunteer Now’. The scheme has been providing good quality, pre-worn, school uniforms since 2019. This has been a lifeline for many families, particularly during lockdown when charity shops were closed.
In November we hosted the renowned, ‘Science Summer School’ project, co-founded by Professor Brian Cox, for over 400 secondary school children, with an interest in steam subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths).
This was the first time this event was held in Northern Ireland and it aimed to inspire young people to become the next generation of scientists and engineers.
We have continued to work closely with Northern Regional College to implement the ‘Manufacturing Academy’. The Academy was established in Ballymena in 2021, in response to the demand from companies in the manufacturing sector, for employees with the appropriate skills.
This is just a snippet of all the excellent work being undertaken to support the people, places and businesses of the Borough.
I have been lucky to meet many local business owners and retailers, who are the life-blood of our communities. I know how important Christmas is for our local traders. Many have endured very challenging times over the past year, so it is essential that we all ‘shop local’ as much as we can.
Despite the challenges we’ve all faced, there are so many reasons to find hope and take inspiration. As Mayor, I have had the privilege of meeting with many local people who are working hard to keep our Borough moving.
Whether in the emergency services, business community, public services or the voluntary sector, there are so many unsung local heroes who do tremendous work and jobs.
One of the greatest things about Mid and East Antrim is its people. All that this thriving Borough has become is rooted in the talents of our people, their dedication, and hard work. I want to thank the people of Mid and East Antrim - who make it such a privilege to serve as Mayor of this Borough. I hope that I get to meet many more of you in person, experiencing first-hand the amazing impact you each have on this fantastic place that we all call home.
A special thanks also goes to all those that allowed me to be part of their events and celebrations throughout the year. It’s been great to see the return of our vibrant and much-loved events, which have been a highlight in the calendar for many years, together with a range of new events.
In the summer, Camp Dalfest welcomed over 16,000 people to Mid and East Antrim for a spectacular weekend of music and entertainment.
Some 3,000 residents and visitors also descended on Castle Green, in Carrickfergus, for one of the most colourful, historical events of the year – The annual re-enactment of Schomberg’s Siege.
Halloween and the lead up to Christmas was full of fun with free events for little ones taking place in Ballymena, Carrickfergus and Larne - bringing some much needed community fun to the Borough.
Throughout the year, I have been extremely humbled by the generosity of our people, businesses and community organisations in supporting my nominated Mayor’s charities - the Royal Air Forces Association and the school children’s mental health charity ‘Pure Mental’.
Both charities provide invaluable support to families and people in our society who, for various reasons, are vulnerable. I am deeply indebted to all those who have fundraised or provided support in kind for these tremendous causes.
And so, to conclude, I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas - and hope that 2023 will be a brighter, more positive and much healthier one for us all.
Please stay safe, help one another and enjoy some special moments with your friends and family this festive season.