G7 Speakers' Summit: Chorley's moment in the spotlight has arrived

It was just before nine o'clock on an otherwise unremarkable Saturday morning when, amidst a procession of police outriders and prestigious cars, Chorley strode confidently onto the global stage.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 11:43 am
Updated Sunday, 19th September 2021, 9:12 am

Astley Park and Hall provided the perfect backdrop for a moment which must rank as one of the most significant in the borough's history, with some of the world's most senior politicians gathering for the G7 Speakers' Summit.

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The delegates - the Speakers and Presiding Officers of their respective legislatures - arrived in convoy at what will be their base for a day of discussions on balancing open democracy with parliamentary security.

Chorley mayor Steve Holgate, just before he welcomed the VIPs.

But before they got down to business, a warm and traditional Lancashire welcome awaited them as they swept into the grounds of the hall.

As each of the dignitaries decamped from their vehicles, they were heralded by a town crier before being greeted by the event's host - Chorley MP and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle - and borough mayor Steve Holgate.

First up was Richard Ferrand, President of the French National Assembly, followed by the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Fico. Two of Sir Lindsay's own deputies in the House of Commons - Eleanor Laing and Rosie Winterton - were next and then, after a brief break in the cavalcade, the most high profile of Chorley's VIP visitors this weekend : US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The 81-year-old was the only one of the dignitaries to draw a cheer from the small crowd - including children astride the shoulders of adults - who had gathered at the security perimeter.

Food is set to play a big part in the effort to give the globetrotting guests a flavour of the county during their three-day stay. Lancashire-themed canapes were laid on last night - including butter pie and hotpot - with a banquet cooked up by chef Paul Heathcote to come this evening.

As Sir Lindsay walked with Ms. Pelosi to the conference room, he asked her: "Are you alright after that big breakfast?" to which she replied "Oh my."

However, a day of deliberations lies ahead to help the Speakers work up an appetite.

A panel session on maintaining access to parliamentary buildings while keeping those who work in them safe is first on the agenda - with Nancy Pelosi, who's office was occupied during the attack on the Capitol building in Washington back in January, being the keynote speaker.

The session will also be addressed via video link by former British Prime Minister Theresa May, who was leading the country at the time of the Westminster Bridge terror attack in 2017 when five people were killed - including PC Keith Palmer, who was guarding the parliamentary buildings at Westminster.

But it's not all work - the delegates will each plant a tree in the grounds of Astley Hall and be treated to a Red Arrows flypast and entertainment from local schoolchildren.

Mayor Steve Holgate said that reaction on social media suggested that the G7 event had been "hugely welcomed" by the people of the borough.

"Chorley is showing its friendly face - and it's a privilege as l first citizen to welcome these distinguished guests," he added.