Since last May it has been my privilege to serve as the Mayor of Crawley and I feel particularly honoured to have been given this opportunity in the year of our New Town's Platinum Anniversary.
Much has, and no doubt will, be said of Crawley's history over recent months. A history of growth, both Nineteenth Century, following the arrival of the railway, and, Post-War, through the efforts of the Labour Government to make decent affordable housing accessible to all. Even our town's motto is 'I grow and I rejoice.'
This history of growth is a part of the success of the New Towns, places where almost every family has come from somewhere else and yet a strong sense of community and identity has developed alongside the population.
As Crawley's first Hindu Mayor it is a lesson I have taken to heart in my mayoral year, that for all our varied traits and traditions we are one community and we can all draw strength from our diversity.
For all the recent talk of Crawley gaining city-status, Crawley gained borough-status in 1974 and with it the role of Mayor came about. In Crawley we have a Civic Mayor which, unlike the Twenty-First Century creation of Elected Mayors in the UK, has a non-political role. The Mayor acts as first citizen for the borough, working to support the local community and taking a lead around ceremonial events.
It is in this way that over my mayoral year I have been working to bring all the strands which make up the community of our town together, to help encourage better understanding between groups. The response has been positive and I am very grateful for all those who have got involved.
While a small minority have in some places mistaken the referendum result as giving public acceptability to their fascism, a belief a generation of our countrymen went to war to oppose, Crawley doesn’t appear to have seen the same level of hate crime which has affected other towns. In Crawley we are one community and in our seventh decade we continue to grow together.
Raj Sharma, Councillor for Southgate