John Atkinson, a much respected member of the Mayoral team made his goodbyes to us all at a lunchtime farewell on Wednesday October 31st in company with our Chief Executive, senior officers, colleagues, friends and elected members. It was a time to reflect on the years of loyal service he has given as he put the `bling’ (ceremonial chains) on me and then with a final duty of mace bearing completed, he rode off into the early evening just like `Shane’ a big screen super hero that John lists as one of the all time black and white movie classics, although the screen performances in “The Treasure of Santa Madre” would be a close second.
You see, John was not just the most reliable chauffeur-macebearer in the business but a well informed devotee of the big and small screen, with a lifetime of knowledge surrounding themes and storylines that unfolded through that creative imagination to be found in the cinemas of his childhood and early teens.
It was an indulgence of mystery and intrigue, daring and sentimentality, experienced alongside the security of the time, when order was a strict code of conduct and knowing who you were common to all; the product of a safe and measured childhood that willingly entertained a depth of screen characters ready made for audiences at home or in the one and nines at the local Odeon if your had a girl friend. These were audiences that John knew about and the screen heroes that they would queue to see, as we gradually moved from Wagon Train to Dallas, Brief Encounter to Dr Strangelove, fuelling analysis of Peter Sellers’ comedy and why Ealing Comedies can still charm us with the magic of “The Lady Killers” or how cinema will allow us to engage in deep conversation surrounding David Leans’ direction in the dangerously misguided leadership portrayed by Colonel Nicholson in “Bridge On the River Kwai”.
Perhaps these movies and their characterisations have given us something that was John Atkinson and if they did, thank you movie makers and actors all, because we have been the winners not at the box office but within the world of the Mayors’ Parlour for nearly a quarter of a century.