Last month Councillor Liz Brookes Hocking was elected Mayor of Crediton, replacing Frank Letch who had held the post for 13 years. Liz moved from London to Crediton in 1985 and joined the Town Council soon afterwards. In this interview with our editor Rosemary Stephenson, she talks about her new job and what she likes most about living in Crediton.
How did you become Mayor of Crediton?
Do you mean, why me? I joined the council around 1986 or so and served 10 years. I resigned when our children got to secondary school age and life got busy. I was co-opted back on in 2007. I’ve chaired the Town Strategy Committee for several years – and the Christmas in Crediton Committee. I have a bit more time now so I put my name forward for Mayor and the council supported me.
What does the job involve?
Chairing the full Town Council meetings, for a start. We have five other committees and three sub committees – a very busy council! The Mayor doesn’t have to chair any of them but usually takes on one or two. The Mayor is also the leader of the council, so behind the scenes there are discussions on new initiatives, like renovating Old Landscore School, and old problems, like keeping the public toilets open and in good order. Then there’s the role of representing the town around the district and representing the council in the town.
When did you move to Crediton and why?
We moved here in 1985. We’d been working in a community arts company in Hackney, East London for about 10 years. My mother, living near Tiverton, was recently widowed and we had a one-year old child. The urban environment was ever more challenging. Time to move. My husband, Rod, got a community arts post in Exeter and down we came. We ended up in Crediton because we felt it suited a young family – local shops, lovely park with swings and library – and everything in walking distance. We have never regretted the move. Our old house in Hackney was recently on the market for £1.1 million (it wasn’t very big!) but even if it had been worth double that, we still wouldn’t regret it.
What changes have you seen in the town since you arrived?
Retail and residential development at the east end of the town – a recent change; developments initiated and driven by the community – the swimming pool at the Leisure Centre and the Town Square; more trains on the Tarka Line; the shrinking of the High Street retail area (though you can still get a full range of goods and services); the establishing of the Farmers Market. Those are the main things. It’s always development that changes places, for good or bad. We’ve seen some significant development in the last decade or so and there’s more to come.
What do you like about living here?
Our community – the way people work together to improve things and get together for events and festivals – it seems a very long time since we had one of those! There are so many community groups doing all kinds of activities across the age range. And so many performances – bands, concerts, musicals, plays, choirs. This is a talented town to be proud of – and a friendly one.
What would you like to achieve as Mayor?
We’re in the middle of purchasing Old Landscore School as a community asset. It’s going to be a challenge to get it into shape for multiple uses by a range of groups. I’d like to see that well on the way to completion. The other thing is improving provision and services for young people, especially those not in organised activities like sports, guides or cadets. Mental health and wellbeing is a need for everyone now but particularly the young.
What's your favourite place or activity in or around Crediton?
Place and activity all in one – the Christmas Tree Festival in the parish church. So many groups and organisations decorate a tree – always imaginatively – and the decorations tell you something about the group. Twinkling lights, tinsel, glitter and crowds of visitors in the town’s grandest historic building – lovely. And with carols from the organ, the Town Band or a choir – even better. I really missed all the Christmas events in Crediton last year. I’m wishing very hard indeed for this one!