Tag: Norwich City Council

Joe’s friend Roy Blower, former Lord Mayor of Norwich dies, aged 76

It was with great sadness today that I learnt the news of the death of Roy Blower, Lord Mayor of Norwich in 2007, “Superfan” and fundraiser for Norwich City Football Club, and one of Joe Stirling’s closest friends.  Roy suffered from progressive Parkinson’s Disease for many years, and died peacefully this week with his wife Beryl and family members by his side.  Roy gave me tremendous support when I was researching Joe’s political life for Escaping Hitler, sharing stories of his youth when ‘Mr Stirling’ helped him join the Young Labour Group when Roy was just sixteen.  Roy remained a loyal fan of Joe for the rest of his life.  Below you will find an excerpt from the book.  Roy was a fun man, always ready with a smile and a joke.  Everybody loved Roy and the City of Norwich will miss him.

‘By 1960 Joe’s political career was escalating. A firm supporter of democracy, he chaired a number of sub-committees at City Council, at the same time holding positions within the Norwich Labour Party. These included Chair of the Finance Committee, Political Education Officer and Youth Officer. It was through this latter post in 1958 that Joe first met Roy Blower, a fifteen-year-old schoolboy from Lakenham Secondary School. Roy was an energetic member of the Young Socialists, but not yet old enough to become a card-carrying member of the national Party. He approached Mr Stirling to ask whether the Party might permit him to join early, his sixteenth birthday seeming such a long way off.

Although this breach of the rules was clearly out of the question, Joe admired the boy’s enthusiasm, putting him to work delivering bundles of campaign leaflets as well as offering additional responsibilities during social evenings held at the Herbert Fraser Hall twice a week. Curious, Roy asked others about Mr Stirling’s long involvement with the Labour Movement. He was struck by the man’s genuine interest in him and the respect he commanded from all who met him. On 6 April 1959 Roy was finally sixteen. His membership card was already prepared. It was the start of a lifelong association with local politics; Chairman of the Young Socialists by twenty, two years later sitting on the

Regional Executive. This was just the start. The coming years would see Roy fulfilling many of his early political ambitions.’

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Joe’s friend Marian becomes Sheriff of Norwich May 2019

I am delighted to announce that Joe Stirling’s friend Dr Marian Prinsley became the new Sheriff of Norwich last Tuesday at a traditional ceremony in City Hall.  I was thrilled to be invited by Cllr Judith Lubbock, my chapter 15 in The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich, to attend the 2019 Mayor-Making ceremony at Norwich City Hall last Tuesday.

I met up with several of the former Lady Lord Mayors who feature in my second book and was delighted to discover an overlap with my first biography, Escaping Hitler, as Dr Marian Prinsley from the Jewish community in Norwich was made Sheriff. Marian is a good friend of Joe Stirling, the subject of this book, and I have met her on several occasions. Marian made an excellent speech which uncovered some close parallels with Joe’s experiences. Both were from Jewish families; Joe’s ancestors from Germany, and Marian’s from Russia. Both came to England escaping possible persecution when they were 14 years old, both marrying and settling in Norwich. The following day I visited Joe and told him all about the Mayor-making and he was delighted to hear that his friend Marian was now wearing his gown and hat, as worn by him in 1975-6. I wish both Vaughan and Marian an excellent year of civic service.

 

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The new Lord Mayor of Norwich, Vaughan Thomas, with his wife, Lady Mayoress, Vivien Thomas, and the new Sheriff of Norwich, Dr Marian Prinsley, with her husband, Peter Prinsley, on the City Hall steps. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY (EDP)

Norwich Civic Association St George’s Day Dinner with Joe Stirling in attendance.

As a former Sheriff of Norwich (1975-6) Joe Stirling, the star of Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future (Pen and Sword Books 2016), was naturally invited to the annual black-tie dinner of the Norwich Civic Association.  This year I was also invited as the after-dinner speaker, to speak about my new book The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich 1923-2017 (Pen and Sword Books, 2018).  It was an honour and a privilege to address this most knowledgable of audiences!  All seemed to go well and Joe enjoyed his evening immensely.  Victor and I are now taking a well earned break for a couple of weeks.  Back with more updates on Joe soon.

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Phyllida and Joe at Civic Association Dinner, 23rd April 2018

Incredible list of speaking engagements for Escaping Hitler 2016 & 2017

 

LT-Escaping Hitler Feb 17 (10)

 

Mindful that in early November Joe and I will be undertaking our final speaking engagement of 2017, to the good ladies of the Hopton-on-Sea Women’s Institute, I thought I would take a look through our visits since Escaping Hitler was published in January 2016.  I was amazed at the number of groups I/we have spoken to, resulting in nearly 300 signed books sold following the talks.  If you then add in sales directly from book exhibitions and individual readers approaching me online or via the telephone, total direct sales amount to 891 and counting!  Unbelievable.  I thought you might be interested in seeing the list of talks, the vast majority of which were in Norwich and surrounding area. (Photo taken at Norfolk Record Office on 8th February 2017) Thanks to all those who have invited us.  We  already have 11 dates in the diary for 2018!

ESCAPING HITLER 64 Speaking Engagements in Norfolk and beyond during 2016 and 2017

 

Norwich Ladies Luncheon Club
Old Catton Women’s Institute
Official Launch at Jarrolds Department Store, Norwich
Norwich Synagogue
Belton Women’s Institute
Norwich North Liberal Democrats
Norwich Chamber Music Club
Wymondham Heritage Society
The Norfolk Club
Norwich Community History Group
Out and about Club
Mercedes Benz Owners Club evening
Walsingham Historical Society
East Anglia Women Networking Group
Brooke Women’s Institute
Lions International Regional Conference, Colchester
Sunday Assembly, Norwich
Association of Jewish Refugees
Mid Norfolk Family History Society
Rotary Club of Norwich St Edmund
Attleborough Public Library
Koblenz Federal Archive, Rhineland
The village of Nickenich, Rhineland
Great Hospital Group
Townswomen Guild Central Norwich Group
Mulbarton Words Week
Townwomen’s Guild Eaton Group
East Anglia Festival of Culture, Lowestoft
Wymondham British Legion
Recycled Teenagers Group
Norwich Business Women’s Network
Norwich Inter-faith Group
Liberal Democrat Regional Conference
Time Travellers Meeting, Heritage Centre, Forum
Sprowston History Group
Norwich Lunchtime Women’s Institute
Bure School, Aylsham
Norwich Ladies Luncheon Club
UEA Retirement Group
Paston College, North Walsham
Norwich Labour Party History Group
The Norwich School
Norfolk Record Office
Aylsham Library
Vale Probus Club Ladies’ Lunch
Koblenz Norwich Friendship Society AGM
Unison Trade Union Retired Members Norfolk Branch
Wymondham Sixth Form College
Salvation Army Ladies’ Fellowship
Mid Norfolk Family History Society
Civil Service Retirement Fellowship
Easton Women’s Institute
Maddermarket Theatre for Performance of Kindertransport
Beccles Probus Club
Lakenham Townswomen’s Guild
Catton Townswomen’s Guild
Mileham W.I. Near King’s Lynn
Holt Women’s Institute
Thetford Society
Get Together Group Norwich Theatre Royal
Brooklands Care Home, Taverham
The Probus Club of Wymondham and District

Broadland Housing Association, Dereham

Cringleford W.I.

Joe’s story featured in Norwich play script

Yesterday, Saturday 8th July 2017, on a sunny lunchtime, I was in the audience for a performance of ‘Come Yew In: A Proud History of Strangers in Norwich’, a lively 90 minute review featuring music and dance.  This new production from theatre company The Common Lot was part of the annual Lord Mayor’s Celebration weekend.  Director Simon Floyd had approached Joe to ask if his story might be included in the drama.  It was wonderful to see his story, so familiar to me, being communicated via a different media, so sensitively capsulated in such a brief moment.  Here is the video footage I took so that you could share the moment.

 

 

Joe Stirling is guest of honour at Holocaust Memorial Service in Norwich Cathedral January 27th 2017

This morning I attended the annual Civic Holocaust Memorial Service, this year for the first time held in the majestic Norwich Cathedral.  Joe Stirling was the guest of honour and the Sheriff of Norwich, Richard Marks, made the opening welcome address.  I was taken by surprise when at the end of his speech he mentioned my book.  He kindly gave me permission to share his words with you.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the theme of this 2017 Holocaust Memorial Day is “How Can Life Go On?”

When we contemplate the millions of victims of the Nazi genocide in Europe in WWII, six million Jews, and millions more including Polish and Russian dissidents, the Roma and Gypsies, Jehovah’s witnesses, disabled people, gay people, freemasons and trades unionist, we might think that humankind would have learnt some lessons. But the history of the 20th and 21st Centuries suggests otherwise

And we indeed ask ourselves the question, after such loss, after such suffering, “How Can Life Go On?”But if human beings have an almost limitless capacity for destruction, they have an equally remarkable capacity for starting all over again. At least one member of our congregation today vividly demonstrates this – Joe Stirling has contributed to public life, primarily Norfolk public life for more than sixty years.

But his early life was spent in Germany and at first it was idyllic. But after Hitler came to power, Joe witnessed that country’s descent into barbarism and sadistic brutality was meted out to his friends and family. At the age of 14, Joe decided to walk to England but was returned to his village. He eventually left on the last kinder transport out of Germany, and never saw his beloved family again. He arrived in Britain in 1939, enlisted in the British Army in 1944 and he became High Sheriff of Norwich – this fine city – in 1975. If you want to know more about the fascinating intervening years, you will have to read his extraordinary biography!

Joe demonstrates that, even after personal tragedy, people can live happy and fulfilling lives and become huge contributors to the public good. He proves to us that, given great courage and the kindness of strangers, good will triumph over evil and that indeed life can go on.”

Alex Bennett, from the Norwich Hebrew Congregation chanted the Memorial Prayer and the Mourners’ Kaddish; always so wonderful to hear the unusual Hebrew sounds resonating in a spiritual space.  The Vicar of St Peter Mancroft, Revd Robert Avery read the moving piece by Pastor Martin Niemoller, now traditional at this service.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Throughout the service my thoughts returned again and again to Alfred and Ida Stern, Joe’s parents who were murdered by the Nazis in the Sobibor Death Camp in 1942.  May they rest in peace.

Photos show Alfred and Ida Stern in 1937, Norwich Cathedral, Sheriff Richard Marks, Joe Stirling and Alex Bennett.

 

Remembrance Sunday 2016

This morning I had the honour of being the guest of Joe Stirling at the Act of Remembrance hosted by Norwich City Council.  I stood with him on the famous balcony of Norwich City Hall, where the Queen and other members of royalty have stood on special occasions since the late 1930s.  The sun shone and the soldiers, both young and old, looked magnificent in their uniforms and medals. The clergy and the choir from St Peter de Mancroft Church turned out in their snow white surplices.   The Salvation Army provided the music and the Two Minute Silence followed by Reveille was moving as always. The Lord Mayor, Marion Maxwell looked splendid in her gown and hat as she laid a wreath alongside those from the service groups, including of course The Royal British Legion.  Another great Norwich Civic Event, witnessed by a good crowd of locals and shoppers.  Thanks to Joe for inviting me.

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.