Krystal’s Gems: Interview with the Lord Mayor of York

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Krystal’s Gems

The World According to…

By Columnist

Krystal Starkey

This gal got herself an interview with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of York. What did I learn? First of all to stop underestimating how long it takes to get to interviews, second of all, just how these guys manage to get around nearly 600 events in a year without losing their cool.

The 801st Lord Mayor of York, Cllr Keith Orrell is waiting patiently when I stumble into the ticket office five minutes late and in a bit of a flap. Lucky for me Cllr Orrell seems unfazed by my tardiness and the weak explanation of traffic.

I guess patience is a fairly important trait to have when you’re constantly travelling around the city attending opening events, ceremonies, church services, fun runs, fundraisers and much more.

For those of us who fancy inviting the Lord Mayor to our next big knees up, it might be handy to know that: “Theoretically they could! Our general principal is if people invite us, we’ll go. The only caveat is that we’re already booked up for that time.” the Lord Mayor explains.

It’s easy to picture our first citizens swanning effortlessly through the city, a blur of chains and hats. But behind the scenes, there’s a lot of work to make sure it’s a smooth operation. Take Lady Mayoress, Judith Orrell for example. On her days off, you’ll catch her in the kitchen prepping food for busier days, and there’s versatile outfits to plan: “We try and plan it so that it works for the day, I keep another pair of shoes in the car and Janet one of the drivers has got a box now in the boot that’s got tissues, sun cream, a needle and cotton in a box in the boot of the car. Knowing that’s there is quite useful.”

The Lady Mayoress also keeps a cereal bar in her handbag for the days they get caught short on the food front. Lord mayor however, is a little less organised: “Sometimes they say there’s food gunna be there and there isn’t – that’s the worst. You never believe it until it happens.” It’s said in good humour by Cllr Keith Orrell, but personally, I’d be pretty miffed if I turned up to a party and there was no snacks, I’d be making email complaints, Sonja Crisp style.

Jokes aside, the Lord and Lady Mayoress seem to be pretty good at what they do, perhaps because they knew what they were getting themselves into, having served in the civic party 15 years ago: “You know when you take it on, it’s going to be very hectic and you accept that you’re going to use a year of your life to do the things. But you wouldn’t have it any other way.”

So hectic in fact, that The Lady Mayoress keeps a record: “I keep a diary and I write in it, quite thoroughly. Keith was Sheriff 15 years ago and I’ve still got the diary that I had then – so I sometimes look back and its interesting to see the changes, and in fact some of the events are almost identical. I also write on there what I wore to each thing, because you might be going back to see the same people.”

It sounds like it’s a worthwhile job though: “There’s always something that you can learn and the people that you meet are from all walks of life, but I think until you do this job, you don’t realise quite the variety of organisations and amazing people that there are in York.” 

York Mansion House

Liberal Democrat, Cllr Keith Orrell didn’t get to put aside his councillor duties either – he still serves Huntington and New Earswick, with his fellow councillors taking on a heavier share of the work. It’s all change for the ward too, of course there’s now the Vanguard shopping centre and the new stadium which should be ready in about a year.

We’ve talked about work, but I know what you guys want to know really, yep, do they watch Love Island? “Lady Mayoress decided she had to watch it, because everybody was talking about it. So we watched one episode and said ‘That’s enough’,” 10/10 for honesty from the Lord Mayor there. 

and more importantly do they read Your Local Link?

K: “The Lady Mayoress is a reader. I confess that I don’t”

J: “But I tell you if I think there’s anything you should know about. I think it’s a very useful magazine. And we have used people who advertise.”

The Lord Mayor’s chosen charities this year are: The York Blind and Partially Sighted Society, The Island and the Music Hub.

To raise money for these great charities there will be the annual Lord Mayor’s Ball at the NRM on 16th February. Anyone can book tickets for the event which will have a nine piece band with interactive and explorative themes to keep guests entertained. Tickets can be purchased from


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