A proud member of Sheffield mayors’ chain gang

A day in the life of the Lord Mayor of Sheffield Cllr Peter Rippon. As the Lord Mayor is accustomed to cutting the ribbons at numerous engagement he even has his own pair of scissors which were made for such occasions
A day in the life of the Lord Mayor of Sheffield Cllr Peter Rippon. As the Lord Mayor is accustomed to cutting the ribbons at numerous engagement he even has his own pair of scissors which were made for such occasions
0
Have your say

It’s a seven-days-a-week job that can involve everything from opening fetes to walking on fire.

But the cake is plentiful, even if you do have to carry a pair of scissors everywhere.

Welcome to the historic job of The Lord Mayor of Sheffield.

Sheffield has had a first citizen since 1897 and this year Coun Peter Rippon has the honour of representing his home city.

He allowed The Star to shadow him for an afternoon to see what the figurehead role, steeped in tradition and ceremony, really involves.

Coun Rippon had just had a late-night return from Lille, France, where he attended the funeral service of 15 soldiers whose bodies were discovered almost 100 years after they died during World War One.

“The engagements we do are all so different but yesterday was probably the most emotional”, he said.

“You meet some fantastic people wherever you go and I was representing the city in France.

“It is a great honour to do something like that.”

Grandad Coun Rippon, who left school at 15 before working in engineering and social services, said: “Last week we had the freedom of the city ceremony and you go to schools a lot.

“The funny thing about schools is that because you’ve got a chain on the kids think you are majorly rich.

“I was at Mansell Primary and told the kids I lived in a little semi just down the road.

“I do have to pinch myself sometimes.”

The Lord Mayor’s first job of the day, after donning his heavy chain, is opening the offices of XLN, a business that expanded to Sheffield earlier this year.

Dad-of-four Coun Rippon is taken by his chauffered car to the modern building on The Wicker, where he is given a tour, a buffet and meets business leaders for small talk – a massive part of the job.

They say his presence is a boost for staff, who applaud as he cuts a ribbon using the scissors stashed in the Jaguar’s boot.

Aside from engagements the Lord Mayor – who is non-political during his term – must chair monthly council meetings and plays a role in overseeing councillor conduct as he can refer complaints to the standards board.

ceremonial

The job can start at 8am and finish as late as 10pm for Coun Rippon and his mayoress, wife Susan, who began the role in May due to the local elections.

Today the job is more ceremonial and about being an ambassador, rather than making major decisions in the running of the city.

He said: “It doesn’t seem two minutes since I was trembling in the council chambers waiting to be made mayor.

“We are fortunate in that we are both retired as it does take over your lives a bit, we won’t get any holidays but that’s more than made up for by the fact you are Lord Mayor and Mayoress.

“I didn’t realise until I started how mentally tiring it is, but it is that sort of tiring where you are happy. I’ve always been able to get on with people and I think that is half the battle.

“They always say that on the last day of being the Lord Mayor you are chauffered in to the town hall and then you go home on the bus!”

Susan added: “It does take over your life but every sacrifice is worth it, as long as we get an early night occasionally!”

Next stop for the couple was the 100th birthday of Amy Roper. They joined in the mardi gras-themed party at her Nether Edge care home, chatting to guests, eating yet more cake and presenting her with a small gift of biscuits. Amy’s son Martin said: “I think it gives the event a bit more of a sense of occasion if you have the Lord Mayor. She was ever so pleased to have him at her party and get a card from the Queen.”

Part-time chauffeur Bob Western, who has done the job for five years, added: “I do think it makes people’s day to have the Lord Mayor there for a special occasion.”

Another more unusual mayoral event recently was when Coun Rippon walked over hot coals to raise money for blind and partially-sighted people. Charity is a large part of any Lord Mayor’s year in office.

This year beneficiaries include Sheffield Carers’ Centre, homeless charity Roundabout and the Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team, while he has also vowed to raise the profile of volunteers.

amazing

Coun Rippon said: “I’ve always lived in Sheffield and you think you know every part of it, it’s not until you become Lord Mayor that you realise that you don’t. What’s also amazing is the number of people you meet on a voluntary basis – there are so many people across the whole of Sheffield working for their communities that don’t get any recognition. I’ve not come across a negative point of the job really, it is all brilliant.

“A few weeks ago we went up to Talbot school for a presentation which was fantastic, my wife used to manage a project for kids with learning disabilities and I worked with them for 25 years.

“To see how happy they were to get a certificate from the mayor made me choke up.”