John Weir announces his support for Medway’s UK City of Culture bid ahead of historic Justice Service in Medway.
John Weir, High Sheriff of Kent and Medway local, has announced his support for Medway’s ambition to bring the title of UK City of Culture to the south-east for the first time.
The competition which runs every four years in the UK, sees Medway competing to succeed the current UK City of Culture Coventry in 2025, following the submission of their expression of interest in July this year.
John Weir, whose name locals will know from his shopfronts across Medway, has spent his entire adult life in service of Medway communities. Having completed a seven-year apprenticeship in the funeral business, he took his police exam as a young man before returning to work as a funeral director. Today his business has branches across Medway in Gillingham, Chatham, Rainham and Parkwood and he served as a magistrate since 1992, as Court Chairman and Bench Chair before becoming High Sheriff in April this year.
A real sense of community
John said: “My career has given me a unique insight into Medway people and communities. There’s something special about people here, a real sense of community, belonging and spirit. People have found their way to Medway through military service, through skilled jobs at the Dockyard, from all corners of the globe. This spirit sustained us through our lowest ebb when the Dockyard shut in ’84 causing mass unemployment and powered our slow recovery to become the energetic, vibrant and diverse place we are today. To be City of Culture would be a recognition of the community spirit here, the history of those diverse working-class communities and the culture they have brought here and created here and the chance to bring real benefits to locals.”
John Weir who grew up in the small village community of Hempstead, attended Hempstead Village School and Upbury Manor, and has always said wouldn’t live anywhere other than Medway. His devotion to the place which shaped his outlook and service is seeing him break tradition to hold the annual Justice Service for Kent at Rochester Cathedral rather than at Canterbury Cathedral this week. The service organized by the High Sheriff sees the judiciary including judges, police and prison governors in attendance from across Kent.
John’s whose favourite memories from his Medway childhood include Navy Days at Chatham Dockyard wants Medway’s City of Culture to demonstrate Medway’s historic as well as contemporary significance which is sometimes lost on young people in Medway and wider Kent.
Hull's 2017 City of Culture year engaged 56,000 children, saw a 34 per cent improvement in the self-esteem of children and young people and saw the creation of 800 jobs, and Medway’s bid places children and young people at the centre of creating change locally. John, who admits that his former teachers would have been surprised by his current role, is invested in the future of young people in Medway and welcomes the central role they play in shaping Medway’s bid.
He added: “If I can do this, then anyone can! City of Culture is about inspiring young people here, providing opportunities for them and supporting their ambitions.”
The role of High Sheriff is an independent, county-wide, non-political Royal appointment which lasts for a year, with the origins of the title dating back to Saxon times. Following Kent County Council’s announcement of their support for Medway’s UK City of Culture bid in July, John urges wider Kent communities and businesses to join in supporting Medway’s campaign over the coming six months.
Boosting the local economy
John said: “The benefits to the whole county are considerable, from bringing in significant numbers of visitors, to boosting the local economy, to bringing this part of the world to national and international attention. There is so much to do in Medway for visitors from the rest of Kent, this is the moment for the county to be proud of Medway and what it brings to Kent in terms of culture, history and ambition.”
Deborah Turner, Trustee for Medway’s 2025 UK City of Culture bid, said: “John Weir is a name many people know across Medway and we are delighted he is championing Medway’s bid across Medway and Kent in his year as High Sheriff. Medway communities – especially young people here - are hungry for change and are the driving force behind our community-led bid to be City of Culture. We want to use our year to inspire all the young people growing up in Medway through a spectacular year of culture reflecting the people and history which makes Medway so unique in the UK. This is an opportunity for Kent and our wider region, as well as Medway. We urge people and businesses across Kent to join us in championing Medway’s bid at this critical moment in our campaign.”
Follow @Medway2025 on social media to get involved and have your say. Tweet or post your support using hashtag #Medway2025. Sign up to show your support as a business or submit an idea for how you would like to see Medway brought to life on the City of Culture website or at any Medway library.