Simon Weston OBE – the nation’s favourite hero, was the star guest at a glittering business event at Rochdale Town Hall this week attended by over 300 guests comprising businesses, veterans, cadets and community representatives.
The Falklands veteran, author and charity supporter talked candidly about his life story – from the devastating injuries he sustained when his ship, Sir Galahad was attacked, to his subsequent life as a public figure and motivational speaker.
The event was held to encourage businesses in the borough to sign up to the Corporate Covenant - a voluntary pledge from organisations who wish to demonstrate their support for the armed forces community.
Alan McCarthy, Lead Member for the Armed Forces said:
“Simon’s story was inspirational and he is a perfect example of someone who has gone on to achieve amazing things even though there were significant obstacles in the way. He is such an enthusiastic and engaging speaker and he really inspired our guests. He is also a great role model for the young people who attended the event, as he is proof that anything is possible whatever life throws at you.”
Acting Chief Executive Linda Fisher said:
“We really want to encourage local businesses to sign up to the boroughs corporate covenant. It’s important we show businesses what a good opportunity this could be for them. Businesses can offer to pledge as little or as much as they wish, from supporting Armed Forces Day, to providing discounts for our Armed Forces and their families. Ex-Armed Forces personnel have transferrable skills and we would like businesses to pledge to support them into local employment. A key message we want to get across is that businesses in Rochdale can make a difference by supporting our Armed forces and equally the Armed forces can make a difference to the businesses in Rochdale as excellent employees. Having Simon Weston OBE support our work means so much.”
The audience was captivated by Simon’s incredible story and his resilience, spirit and determination to recover. Simon said he was impressed with Rochdale’s commitment to the Armed Forces:
“Ex Armed Forces personnel can make great employees and can really help your business. The work being done here in Rochdale to support them is commendable and something that other authorities are adopting as best practice. I am pleased to see so many business people here tonight and I urge them to sign up to Rochdale’s Corporate Covenant. Having previously visited Rochdale I was pleased to see all the regeneration taking place in the town, you can really see the positive difference it is making.”
Simon’s visit was during a week of events in the borough to mark the build up to national Armed Forces Day (Saturday 28 June).
On Monday, Armed Forces Day flags were raised in Littleborough, Heywood, Milnrow, Middleton and Rochdale. Crowds comprising local school children, veterans and civic dignitaries took part.
Saturday 28 June also sees the return of the hugely popular Heywood 1940s Day. Family attractions include re-enactments, vintage vehicles, an Armed Forces parade plus a full programme of live music.
This week schools across the borough will be celebrating Armed Forces Day by wearing camouflage gear to support the national Armed Forces charity – SAFFA, and have been busy planting poppies across the borough.
Brigadier Coles from the 42 Brigade, Preston Barracks opened the evening and said it was an opportunity to recognise the work Rochdale has done:
“There has been a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication backed up by practical improvements in support of our Armed Forces.”
Col Baz Heap MBE from Preston Barracks highlighted the benefits of employing ex-military personnel and Jason Tyler from local business Lockrite talked about his transition from the army into civilian life and business.
Other speakers during the evening included Lt Cdr Lee Paddock from the Ministry of Defence and Phil Ewbank from Commercial Contract Engineers Ltd.
At the end of the evening, Simon Weston OBE was presented with a gift by 5 year old Annabelle Griffin, daughter of Jared Griffin from RRG Toyota who supported the event.
Armed Forces Day helps raise public awareness of the contribution made by those who serve and have served in Her Majesty's Armed Forces and gives the nation an opportunity to show support for the men and women who make up the ex-services community.
The council signed the Armed Forces Community Covenant in 2012 – a statement of support between a civilian community and its Armed Forces community. But actions speak much louder, and Rochdale has been nationally recognised by the Ministry of Defence, Royal British Legion and others for introducing pioneering changes to better support armed forces personnel and their families back into civilian life.
Notice to editors
The Armed Forces Community Covenant
Since signing the covenant Rochdale Borough Council has:
- Appointed Councillor Alan McCarthy as Lead Member for the Armed Forces and Acting Chief Executive Linda Fisher have been driving forward the changes, lobbying central government and pushing for policy changes to address disadvantages Armed Forces families face.
- Introduced a ‘guaranteed interview scheme’ – where ex-armed forces men and women looking for work are guaranteed a job interview at the council providing they meet the person specification and job description and have been out of the Armed Forces for a minimum of six months.
- Launched dedicated web pages to help Armed Forces families access support and a toolkit to help other councils improve the Armed Forces presence on their websites.
- Rochdale offers serving armed forces personnel and veterans free use of Link4Life fitness facilities and swimming pools.
- Offered the families of fallen service personnel who have died in active duty the chance to have a street named after their loved one.
- Via Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, supported veterans in obtaining housing within the borough.
- Rochdale’s Acting Chief Executive is now the lead for Armed Forces Community Covenant work across Greater Manchester.
- Launched a ‘Books on Prescription’ scheme, providing self-help books for the Armed Forces and their families.
- Other examples are available on request.
Rochdale Borough Council - We are a council which builds success and prosperity with our citizens and partners, whilst protecting our vulnerable people.