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Opinion: Bring back the lorries - but if you really won't, please don't let the Lord Mayor's Procession die out

PUBLISHED: 12:01 08 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:28 08 July 2019

The Lord Mayors Procession 2019. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

The Lord Mayors Procession 2019. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

In his fortnightly column, editor David Powles gives his verdict on the Lord Mayor's Procession and lorry ban in Norwich this weekend.

The Lord Mayors Procession 2019. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodThe Lord Mayors Procession 2019. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

The powers that be at Norwich City Council must have been kicking themselves when the rain arrived on Saturday morning.

Having made the somewhat controversial decision to ban lorries from the popular Lord Mayor's procession, they would have really hoped for a bright and sunny day to help ensure the crowds attended nonetheless.

Instead, the skies turned black and the crowds were much smaller than normal, giving many commenters on social media all the ammunition they needed for what they saw as evidence people have turned their back on the event.

I'm not so sure, however, because in the many years I've been enjoying this fantastic city tradition, both as a child and then with my children, attendance has always been largely affected by what the skies are doing on the day.

Nonetheless, it was clear from comments before and after that the decision to revert to a lorry-free parade has not been welcomed by all.

I've seen complaints ranging from 'a disgrace' to 'boring', 'too slow' and that it was hypocritical of the council when diesel chugging buses are able to freely travel down St Stephen's on any other day of the year. Many have asked what difference 12 lorries would make to the fight against pollution and climate change whether they were in the parade or not?

The council's PR line has been that they don't mind the criticism, as long as they have got people talking and made them think about the issue in hand. I think it's fair to say they certainly got people talking.

I'll admit to being surprised when I heard the decision had been made. It seemed to me a case of 'if it isn't broken, why fix it?' and I wondered if there were other ways to get the same points across.

That said, I'm not sure all of the comments I've read about the 'damage' it caused stand up to scrutiny. It's always been a pretty slow affair and I can't see how the inclusion of 12 lorries would have changed that.

In reality the lorries were only ever a dozen of the 70-plus floats on display, so was the procession actually that different? I think not.

It's also important to consider how fantastic the Lord Mayor's Celebrations are as a whole and that over the years it has become so much more than just a parade.

On this same weekend every year, the centre of Norwich comes alive from Friday through to Sunday afternoon, from Chapelfield Gardens down to The Lanes.

We had friends from out of town down at the weekend and every single one of them commented on how lively and friendly the city seemed.

I'm not sure that many places in the UK still maintain events like this and it remains a tradition we should still cherish and keep hold off for as long as we can.

So where do go from here for 2020?

If I were running Norwich City Council, I'd suggest a return to normal next year. Highlight the fact you made a statement, raised a vital issue, got people talking and therefore set out what you hoped to achieve.

But admit you realise it wasn't to everyone's tastes and therefore you want to safeguard this much cherished city tradition.

However, if there is no turning back and the lorries must remain away, there's still so much that both the parade and weekend as a whole offers for entertainment for young and old and I hope others will still see that.

My happy memories of watching the parade as a child remain fresh in my mind several decades on. I desperately want my children to have that opportunity as well.

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