John Knight column: Council leader looks at Ashfield identity

editorial image

If you are on holiday and someone asks you where you are from, how do you reply?

The further afield you are, the more likely you are to say Nottingham. In this country you will probably be more specific and give the name of your town - Kirkby or Sutton say. The one thing I can absolutely guarantee is that wherever you live, and wherever you are, you will never say Ashfield! And this gives me a problem. Because as Leader of our district’s council, I want its residents to have a sense of belonging and a feeling of pride about the area.

I have always had an issue with our local Authority’s name. For a start much of the District including Selston, Hucknall and Jacksdale does not use the suffix Ashfield at all, and even those two towns that do, don’t use it in everyday conversation.

Even the name itself depresses me. Though historically it is based on the Ash trees that were once prevalent here, it gives an overriding impression of the kind of place a consumptive heroine in a Thomas Hardy novel would live. I can see her now, forlornly cutting winter turnips for a meagre living, before throwing herself love lorn and penniless into a lead black river!

I want a name that not only do the one hundred and twenty thousand or so residents of the district identify with, but also a name that is aspirational, inspirational and forward looking. For me “Ashfield” just doesn’t conjure up any of that. The boundary commission will be arriving soon to look into the way we draw up our electoral boundaries. Perhaps it’s also time for a name change?

No excuse!

It’s hard to be fit as a fiddle if you look like a Double Bass! With winter almost here most of us will exercise by lying horizontally on the sofa, watching “I’m a Celebrity” and doing nothing more strenuous than prizing the lid off a tube of Pringles. But Ashfield has some of the best leisure centres in England, offering cheap and accessible swimming, gyms and exercise classes. We have put a lot of time, money and effort into our leisure provision which is the envy of cities much larger. So do yourself a favour, put the tube down and go swimming. I think it’s how Rebecca Addlington started out!

Never too young to learn

The most important thing you can give your children is an education. More specifically it’s a love of learning. Children are naturally inquisitive. Any mother of a six year old will tell you that they ask more question is one day than the United Nations do in a year! The Jesuits had a phrase “give me a child until seven and I will give you the man.” I am a great believer in this. Teach a youngster to love reading, to not fear asking questions, and most of all to be independent in thought, and you will give them a great grounding for the rest of their lives.

I have just finished a tour of all Kirkby’s primary schools helping to fund their after school clubs. Whether it is film, Photography, computers or just somewhere to learn in safety and comfort these clubs are a boon to our kids, but they need parents time not just money to help them run. The best gift for your children is your attitude to learning. Show them that education is their ticket to fulfilling their dreams and having a productive life. Ask your school what afterhours clubs they have. If they say none ask “why not?”