Richard Greening: Mayor of Islington 2015-16

30 Mar

Since 2002 Richard Green, has been one of three councillors representing Highbury West ward. For much of that time he’s also been working in local government. And now he’s also Islington’s Mayor – what’s motivating him? Interview by Nicola Baird

Richard Greening, Islington Mayor 2015-16

Richard Greening, Islington Mayor 2015-16 – back at work in late January after a fall in December forced him to take a month off. “People want to take selfies with me when I’m wearing my Mayoral robes – it’s the role of a minor celeb!” (c) Islington Council

Richard Greening may not play an instrument but music has had a profound impact on his life – from where he was born right up to his choice for the Mayor’s charity. Although he was brought up in Lichfield, Staffordshire, his first years of life were in a tied-cottage in the grounds of Windsor Castle. “My father was the assistant organist at St George’s chapel,” explains Richard who may be Islington’s Mayor but seems like a modest person despite his grand babyhood.

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“We moved when I was two, so I only have fragments of memories from then,” admits Richard, 58, in the kitchen of the Riversdale Road house where he lives with his wife, Patsy Bradbury – who moved here back in 1969.

Patsy Bradbury and Richard Greening with one of their cats, Roxy. Patsy was Mayor of Islington in the 1970s, while Richard is the current Mayor of Islington. “I’m unusual in having been both Mayor and Mayoress of Islington,” says Patsy.

Patsy Bradbury and Richard Greening with one of their cats, Roxy. Patsy was Mayor of Islington in the 1970s, while Richard is the current Mayor of Islington. “I’m unusual in having been both Mayor and Mayoress of Islington,” says Patsy.

The pair met in Islington in 1982 – and got married at the Town Hall in 2012.

Patsy Bradbury: “This was the builders’ house. The garden was the builders’ yard and Number 2 Wyatt Road was the office/stables.

Patsy Bradbury: “This was the builders’ house. The garden was the builders’ yard and Number 2 Wyatt Road was the office/stables.

They are an unusual power couple in that Patsy has also been Mayor of Islington (from 1972-73).

Where does Richard Greening like going in Islington?
As Councillor Richard Greening, Richard got to know Highbury West extremely well, but as Mayor he is enjoying getting to know many more people all over the borough.

  • Richard: Emirates Stadium is an amazing building and has atmosphere. Arsenal’s community work is good – they do a lot and say not a lot about it. Of course there’s a big campaign with the local Labour party and Citizens UK to get Arsenal to pay the living wage. They are paying their directly employed staff the London Living Wage and the main outstanding issue is with their contractors.
  • Richard: In Gillespie Park you could be almost anywhere – it’s surprisingly quiet and within that small area there is such a variety of nature. It’s a fantastic resource for Islington, and so is the Ecology Centre.
  • Richard & Patsy: We eat out sometimes at Au Lac, 13 Highbury Park
  • Richard: I like Round Square on Seven Sisters Road, opposite where the Red Rose used to be. It’s a really nice Chinese restaurant. They do a nice prawn dish and there are vegetable options. It’s also got a proper disabled loo. So few places have.
  • Mayor Richard Greening and his partner Patsy Bradbury are serious cat fans. They currently have two cats

    Mayor Richard Greening and his partner Patsy Bradbury are serious cat fans. They currently have two cats

    Richard: “We shop locally and use Highbury Butchers on Blackstock Road. There were three butchers when I first moved here. The couple who used to run Highbury Butchers had a hatch where the butcher’s wife took the money and they had the biggest cat…”

  • Patsy: ‘I’ve got MS and use a chair so I haven’t been on the tube for years because there are so few lifts. But I like the 19 bus. You can go on it all the way to Harrods, Cadogan Hall and The Royal Court Theatre (both in Sloane Square). I also use it to go to China Town. The 141 is a good route too which takes you to the Wesley Chapel, 49 City Road and Bunhill Fields, 38 City Road. I can’t always get on the first bus that comes if people with buggies won’t let me.
  • Richard & Patsy: “We’re looking forward to TfL’s step free access at Finsbury Park by 2018. But we may still not use the tube – you need a critical mass of tube stations you can access before most wheelchair users will want to go on the tube.”
Caption/ Despite the Mayor’s busy schedule, councillors continue representing their constituents. The weekend we meet Richard is due to run a ward surgery, and visit a newly established neighbourhood watch group. And that’s all before the Mayor’s Christmas rush.

Despite the Mayor’s busy schedule, councillors continue representing their constituents. The weekend Islington Faces met Richard (Nov 2016) he was due to run a ward surgery, and visit a newly established neighbourhood watch group. And that’s all before the Mayor’s Christmas rush. Unfortunately a fall saw him out of action for most of December/January. But he was back at work by late January, see this newspaper report.

“I never learnt an instrument as my father thought that music was a high risk career!” he says laughing. “That is partly why I chose Music First as my charity while I’m Mayor.”

According to his Islington Mayoral biography, Richard says: “Music First helps children in many ways and not just with music – it influences the other aspects of their lives. Last summer I attended a concert at the Hackney Empire organised by Music First. Children from many Islington schools were involved and both the children and the audience enjoyed the event immensely. I’ve also visited the music hub at Highbury Grove School. The energy and engagement in the rooms was palpable and I want to help many more Islington children enjoy music-making and the benefits that it brings them. So I have chosen Music First as my charity.”

Richard is good with figures – he studied Maths at Durham University. This led to IT, which he started working in back in 1977 before becoming a Highbury West councillor in 2002 while juggling with his work for the Improvement & Development Agency for local government until 2010. “At the IDeA I worked on the beacon council scheme helping councils to innovate and share good practice. I worked with a lot of rural councils and found that inner city Islington with small sites and rural areas had the same problem – unaffordable housing. The excellent work of rural councils in extracting affordable housing contributions from very small sites convinced me that the policy in Islington which at that time ignored sites of less than 10 units needed to change and could change.”

Last year he was Deputy Mayor, working with fellow Highbury West councillor Theresa Debono, who is also Labour. Now as Mayor, Richard hopes to raise £30,000 for the charity, so he’s running a dinner at Round Square on Seven Sisters Road on 11 February 2016. Anyone from Highbury Community Association/Islington Faces is welcome (see below for how to book tickets).

“Mayors have no power, but you do get to meet people who have power,” he says. Welcoming Arsenal FA cup winning team at the town hall steps and hosting the Duchess of Cambridge when she came to visit Chance UK were highlights for Richard. However it’s clear that he’s slightly bemused to find that: “People want to take selfies with me when I’m wearing my Mayoral robes – it’s the role of a minor celeb!”

  • Music First is the Mayor’s charity for 2015/16 – around £2,000 was raised at his fundraiser at the Round Square Café, 132 Seven Sisters Road (delicious Chinese meal, tickets £35pp) celebrating Chinese New Year. Find more info about the Mayor’s charity here.
  • In Islington a new Mayor is chosen annually (a councillor picked by the other councillors). For a full list of our borough’s mayors since 1980-81 see info here, provided by Islington.  Or see this longer list here dating back to 1900 (which includes George Samuel Elliott who was Mayor for a record-breaking 13 terms, nowadays it’s a one year office).
  • See the interview on Islington Faces with previous mayors including Barry Edwards (2013-14). Also on this Islington Faces post you can find a clip when Cllr Theresa Debono was Mayor (2014-15) and spoke at Islington Faces King’s Head event to celebrate the 100th interview.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

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