Norwich’s new mayor looking forward to taking up his new role

Norwich city councillor Ralph Gayton will be inaugurated as the city's new lord mayor in May. He spoke to reporter DAVID BALE about his plans for the job and his pride in our fine city.

Norwich's new mayor Ralph Gayton may be looking forward to taking up his new role - but his wife admits to being a bit scared of the prospect.

However, future Lady Mayoress Brenda Gayton is keen to share the spotlight with her husband Ralph, who will be inaugurated as Norwich's new Lord Mayor in May.

She joined a chat I was having over the dining table with her husband in their home in Aylsham Road, to introduce herself.

'One of the last times he was featured in the newspaper, there was no mention of me in the article, anywhere,' she said.

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While she may be keen to get her name in the article, she admitted that she found the idea of becoming Lady Mayoress 'a bit scary'.

'I suspect I am a bit apprehensive about my involvement, as the honour is Ralph's,' she said.

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Her husband agreed that it would be a challenge, but added: 'It's the highest accolade the city can give anyone, so it's daunting, in some respects, as it's a highly responsible job. I hope to do my best at it.'

Norwich-born and bred Mr Gayton said he would be proud to serve his home city. He was previously Sheriff of Norwich for the 1996/7 year and is currently a city councillor for Mile Cross.

He said: 'It's a great honour to be elected lord mayor. Norwich is my home city and where I have lived all my life, apart from a spell in Taverham when we were first married. I'm very proud of the city.

'It's a very historic city and has pioneered many things including being one of the first provincial cities to have a newspaper or a public library. More recently it pioneered pedestrianisation of shopping streets with London Street. We have got a lot to be proud of in Norwich. I want to make sure that pride continues.'

The office of mayor in Norwich dates back to the early 15th century and the position has been occupied by many famous names in the past, so Mr Gayton knows he will be stepping into some famous shoes.

He has always been a trade union member and was a member of Nalgo/Unison for 40 years, national president in 1992/3, and said he had always considered himself an internationalist.

He said: 'I visited more than 60 countries in that role.

'I met government figures and met Nelson Mandela in 1993. He was a really great man. There was no side to him at all, and treated me just as a friend. I also met Lech Walesa when he was involved in the Solidarity movement in Poland.

'What I have learned from my travels is that there is lot of oppression in the world.

'I have visited Palestinian refugee camps several times and seen apartheid in South Africa. For my new role as mayor it has given me a view of what ordinary people have to contend with, and how privileged we are in this country.'

As a city councillor he has been particularly involved in Norwich's twinning link with El Viejo in Nicaragua, and he is secretary of the Norfolk and Norwich El Viejo Friendship Link

He added: 'For the past 10 years we have ben running a scholarship for children from poor families over there. This has been for 240 scholarships a year for kids who would not otherwise go to school.'

He said his aims and goals as Lord Mayor were to act as an ambassador for the City and to promote its interests as much as possible.

'I want to see as much of the city as possible. As sheriff I got to see the city below the surface, the people who don't get a lot of publicity, but who do a lot of good work. I want to continue with that.'

He said the trade union movement was in flux.

'It's a time of change, not just in terms of the union movement but the whole political set-up. We are going through a difficult time, but there's still an important role for the union movement to play, as it represents the mass of working people in the country.'

He attended Bull Close Infants' School, George White Primary School and the City of Norwich School.

He started his career as

He started his career in the clerk of the council's department at Norfolk County Council, served in the RAF in Cyprus on his national service, and then returned to his old job at the county council.

He was then administration assistant in the planning department with the county council, then senior admin officer with Breckland District Council's planning department, chief admin officer with the city architects' department with Norwich City Council, trade union officer with the city council and special projects officer with the city council before he retired in 1995.

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