Bradley Wiggins

Notts Councillor in Proper Epic Trek

23 August 18 words: Gemma Fenyn

Here in Notts we don’t do things by half; Arif Qureshi’s taxi is trashed by yobs, you lot club together to buy him a new cab. Trump pops over the pond and Notts rocks up and performs a mass conga in protest. The city is reported to have one of the worst reading rates in the country and we enlist Dolly Parton. OK, that last part might be a slight exaggeration but, having said that, the head of Nottingham City Council is leading by example and embarking on a colossal challenge to give our kids access to free books.

This weekend Councillor Jon Collins will begin walking the Pennine Way to raise money for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a book-gifting scheme which provides a free book every month to children from birth to aged five. Only, there’s a twist; while it usually takes at least three weeks to complete the famous 267-mile trek from Edale, Derbyshire, to Kirk Yetholm, Scotland, he’s aiming to complete it in ten days. Just to put that in perspective for a sec, that’s the equivalent of more than a marathon every day!


The Imagination Library was launched in Nottingham in 2009 thanks to Teaching Assistant Cheryl Mitchell; soon after the council came on board and it’s currently supported by the Rotary Club of Nottingham, Small Steps Big Changes and Castle Cavendish. The scheme successfully runs in nine of the city’s 20 wards. Councillor Collins hopes that his efforts will go some way to extending the program to the remaining eleven, ‘If I can contribute to that, it will be great.’  

 

I caught up with him during his weekly surgery at the St Ann’s Joint Service Centre to see how he’s getting on preparing for his epic jaunt and we chat a little about the state of literacy in the city and the work the charity does. Councillor Collins is the first to admit that our kids are starting school with reading skills that are below the national average, but he’s encouraged to see that things have been improving; he credits programs such as the Imagination Library with emphasising the importance of early years reading.

He’s not the only council member to raise money either; over the years staff have dressed as Dolly, senior leaders have line danced to ‘Islands in the Stream’ and in January, Councillor David Mellen set himself the task of raising £2,018 by reading to 2,018 kids in a month.

 

 

I try to incite a bit of trash talk by asking who’s was the most daunting undertaking, but he’s ‘avin none of it, ‘I think it’s a question of patience versus endurance’ he says, ‘We’ve both set challenges specific to our skills and interests, it’s each to their own.’ That being said, I think I’d rather skydive than face either task; and this is the thing; the standard three week trek isn’t exactly easy, so attempting to complete it in under two is taking things to a whole new level.       

 

A keen cyclist who has participated in triathlons in the past, Councillor Collins tells me he’s always wanted to take on something long distance and felt strongly that his endeavour should be authentic, ‘it’s important that it’s a genuine challenge’. I’m pretty sure nobody will accuse him of lacking effort though, he’s already been training during the hottest summer in decades; at this point we check the weather report and they’ve forecast rain in Edale on day one, perhaps the worst case scenario, maybe things will change in the next forty-eight hours.

 

I ask how he has prepared for the challenge and he tells me that to make things easier he’ll be travelling light with a kit consisting of water proofs, hydration kit, food and energy gels; the itinerary is planned with the sort of precision you’d expect from somebody who has represented their ward for over three decades and he has socks, lots of socks, ‘I’ve got about thirty pairs, I’ve spent a fortune!’      

 

In our final moments I ask him how he feels about the support he’s received so far? ‘I am incredibly grateful to those who have supported me, it is very much appreciated’. As I sit down to my computer that evening, I too am blown away by the positive messages and generous donations on the Just Giving page, besides, reading is kind of our bread and butter, anything that boosts our future readership has gotta be a good thing right?

Find out more or bung Councillor Jon Collins some dosh here.

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