At the end of her tenure as Mayor of Newbury, we caught up with Margo Payne to find out about her year in office.
Margo Payne Biography
Outgoing Newbury Mayor Margo Payne was born in Manchester but when she was seven years old her family moved to Compton, where they lived until they moved to Newbury when she was 15 years old. She went to the girls grammar school and then went on to train as a nurse in Basingstoke. Due to kidney failure in 1977, however, she was advised that that a nursing career would be too physically demanding so she ended up working for British Telecom. When her two children started school she volunteered for years at John Rankin Junior School and went on to enjoy teaching there.
Once retired, Margo became a voluntary activist for Richard Benyon who encouraged her to stand as a Town Councillor. She was elected in 2015 as a Conservative councillor for Clay Hill and soon discovered how a small group of people work hard behind the scenes to make Newbury the place it is. Margo became chair of the Civic Arts Committee and was responsible for Newbury’s celebrations for the Queen’s 90th Birthday in 2016. Inspired by the Clean for the Queen campaign, she instigated the annual Newbury Community Clean where each ward now chooses an area to litter pick every March.
Margo was voted Deputy Mayor in 2017 – 18 and that year in office gave her a taster of what life is like being visible and recognisable in town so she was prepared for life when she was elected Mayor in May 2018. When you become Mayor there is certain paraphernalia to get used to like wearing the robes and hat (unless of course there is any danger of them getting wet). Lady Mayors have to wear a hat whenever they wear a robe – whereas a male Mayor takes his hat off when indoors.
The Mayor is the apolitical, civic head of the Town Council who attends on average one event a day during their twelve month tenure. One highlight of the year is the Michelmas Fair in mid-October which dates back to the Elizabeth I charter as a fair for workers to find new employment. The event is still traditionally opened by the Mayor and children who follow the Mayor around get free rides. As well as events in Newbury, Margo also represented the town at events such as the Mock Trials at Reading Crown Court, supporting Trinity and Park House Schools, and at ceremonial events at RAF Croughton and RAF Welford.
Interview with Margo Payne
“As Mayor you can get under the skin of organisations in the town and can shine a light on good causes. I chose The Rosemary Appeal and Daisy’s Dream as my two mayoral charities to support. I was also very moved to discover the good work that is done at Loose Ends for local rough sleepers.
“The Town Council has a long-standing relationship with the 211 Squadron Air Training Corp who provide support for big annual events such as Remembrance Day Service and the Mayor Making Ceremony.
“The Mayor’s Cup is awarded to the most civic-minded young ATC member and, inspired by the Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet, I took this relationship one step further and introduced the role of Mayor’s cadet.
I awarded this position to Joshua Lane from Park House school.
“Wearing the Mayor’s Cadet arm band with his ATC uniform, Joshua has attended the Mayor at several official events, and helped me lay the wreath on Remembrance Day.
Joshua has really enjoyed his year”.
Looking back on your year, what have been the memorable moments? What do you feel proud of?
It was an honour to lead the town in the centenary commerations of WWI with over 6,000 people in the marketplace. It was a moving and humbling tribute to the 339 people who lost their lives from Newbury. One lady was in tears, so grateful simply to hear her relatives’ name read aloud in public.
The most exciting moment without a doubt was firing a canon at Wash Common at reenactment of the 375th anniversary of the First Battle of Newbury English Civil War Society. I was already sweltering hot in the costume they provided for me and on the second day they asked me if I’d like to fire a canon! There was strict safety advice when you fire the canon to tip your head down and open your mouth slightly to prevent concusion. A clod of earth substituted for the canon ball but the explosion and recoil was very real. I was left with ‘gunners grin’ from the exhilaration.
“I am amazingly proud of this town and the community spirit within it. All the organisations and individuals who do so much without making a fuss or asking for credit or recognition or thanks – across all ages and walks of life from toddlers and youth organisations to those looking after the vulnerable and elderly.
“As Mayor you get invited to AGMs and gain an appreciation of the effort involved in keeping these organisations going year in year out. The Mayor’s presence at an event will attract press attention for the organisation. I also used the hashtag #newburymayor in my own social media about local groups to help raise their profile.
“I highly recommend the role of Mayor – it’s hard work and big commitment for 12 months but so very rewarding as your role is to spotlight Newbury, personify Newbury and to thank the residents of Newbury.
“I love giving back after all the years that the town has given me a good life. I have lived in Newbury since I was 15 years old, married the boy next door, raised a family and enjoyed a career.