Councillor Jon Cousins, Green Mayor of Glastonbury, pays tribute to Denise Michell, Archdruidess, Elder Ovate and Bard, ‘Fairy Queen’, and twice Green Mayor of Glastonbury.
First published in ‘Green World’ magazine – Wednesday, 24th June 2020.
Denise Michell 11th August 1952 – 22nd June 2020
Denise Michell (née Price) was born on 11th August 1952, and spent her early years in Barkingside, Redbridge.
She came to live in Glastonbury in 1997 and was an Archdruidess of the Glastonbury Order of Druids from 1998 to 2007 – subsequently becoming a founding member, Elder Ovate and Bard of the Gorsedh Ynys Witrin, Glastonbury’s Bardic College.
In April 2007, Denise married the celebrated author John Michell (1933–2009) at a ceremony held in Glastonbury’s St Benedict’s Church. It was a long courtship – they had first met 34 years earlier, when she was 21 and he was 40.
Partly in response to the government’s proposal that Hinkley Point C in Somerset would be one of the eight newly commissioned Nuclear Power Stations, Denise joined Glastonbury’s Green Party branch in 2010, and became an active campaigner encouraging local people to register to vote.
As Archdruidess, her profile helped to build support, and the local branch experienced a ‘Green Surge’ in 2010/11, which resulted in four Greens being elected to Glastonbury Town Council in May 2011 – Denise being one of the ‘Green Four’.
During their first term, Glastonbury’s Green Councillors implemented a Glastonbury ‘Green’ Charter for the Environment, installed solar panels onto the roof of the Town Hall, declared Glastonbury a Frack Free Council, and resolved to oppose the building of Hinkley C Nuclear Power Station.
As Glastonbury’s Green surge continued, reflected by the national surge in membership from late 2014 onwards (turning Greens into the third largest party in England and Wales), Denise was re-elected in 2015 to become the 316th (and first ‘Green’) Worshipful Mayor of Glastonbury. Her first Mayoral resolution was to join the international anti-nuclear movement ‘Mayors For Peace’, a membership that all succeeding Mayors of Glastonbury have maintained.
As a councillor, Denise was a champion of Glastonbury’s ‘Beltane’ May Day festivities and the town’s annual Frost Fayre. Indeed, when she was first elected, she discovered that the 2011 Frost Fayre was in danger of being cancelled – and decided to take on the coordination of the event, helping to turn the Frost Fayre into a huge success, which has gone from strength to strength – so well attended and popular in 2019 that hundreds of would-be visitors were not even able to enter the town.
In their second term, Glastonbury Greens expanded to seven elected councillors, and took minority control of the town council. During this time, they banned the use of glyphosate on all public land – moving to a non-toxic weed control system, became the first council in Somerset to be ‘single-use plastic free’, and the first to declare a Climate Emergency – pledging to make council operations carbon-neutral by 2030.
In 2019, being returned as a town councillor for a third term (as part of nine Green town councillors – a majority!), Denise joined the small company of people who have been twice elected Mayor of Glastonbury.
During her second Mayoralty, she oversaw Glastonbury becoming the second ‘Earth Protector Town’ in the World – calling for an Amendment to The Rome Statute to include a Law against Ecocide.
When asked recently what it was like to be a councillor, Denise replied: “Working within the community I listen closely to what people would like to see happen in our town now and in the future, and – as a councillor – I can help bring change for the benefit of everyone in our community.”
Denise passed away in the early hours of Monday 22nd June 2020. News of her death was announced by her children Zig, Zoe, Rowan and Leah on social media: “It is with broken hearts that we must share with you that our mum has completed her journey here on Earth and is now on her way to join the ancestors in the stars. Thank you to each and every one of you who has been a part of our mum’s life adventures. We ask that you light a candle, say a prayer and send her on her way with love. Love and light. May there be peace in the sacred grove.”
Personally, I am devastated by the passing of my dear friend. Denny was an incredible person, who loved Glastonbury to the core of her being and did so much for our community. She will be greatly missed. On behalf of Glastonbury Council and the local Green Party, I send my deepest condolences to her family.
It is with great sadness that Glastonbury and Street Green Party announce the passing of Cllr. Denise Michell – Green Mayor of Glastonbury 2015/16/19/20.
The sad news of Denise’s death was posted this morning on Facebook by her children: Zig, Zoe, Rowan, Leah:
It is with broken hearts that we must share with you that our mum has completed her journey here on Earth and is now on her way to join the ancestors in the stars 🌟
Thank you to each and every one of you who has been a part of our mum’s life adventures ❤️
We ask that you light a candle, say a prayer and send her on her way with love ❤️
Love and light ❤️ May there be peace in the sacred grove ❤️
Glastonbury’s current Mayor, Cllr. Jon Cousins, said: “I am devastated by the passing of my dear friend and fellow councillor Denise Michell. Denny was an incredible person, who loved Glastonbury to the core of her being and did so much for our community. She will be greatly missed. On behalf of Glastonbury Council, I send my deepest condolences to her family.”
Message from GSGP Coordinator, Denise Michell:
“A video featuring Deputy Leader Amelia Womack explaining to members and activists why it is so important to get out canvassing in the run up to local elections. We here in Glastonbury and Street do not have any elections coming up at this time, but I believe this is a useful piece of kit to have in our tool box!”
On Tuesday, 9th May 2017, Cllr. Emma George became the 318th – and third successive Green – Mayor of Glastonbury!
Out-going Mayor, Cllr. Jon Cousins, proposed his Deputy for the position as the final motion of his Mayoralty, telling the assembled Councillors and members of the public: “It is with great pleasure that I propose Cllr Emma George for election to the role of Mayor of Glastonbury. I feel that the election of the current Deputy Mayor to the highest office is something that is both seemly and worthy.”
“Seemly because as Deputy Emma has been a great support to me in my year of office. Joining me on many Civic Occasions, and representing Glaston admirably and capably when I could not.”
“Worthy because time and again she has show real leadership and professionalism with regard to the Council’s business.”
“May I remind Councillors of how she negotiated favourably with Weedingtech; has worked diligently on helping to develop the Youth Council; has worked closely with the Police and One Team to help address anti-social behaviour in the town; has chaired with great skill the Town Centre Working Group, and supported the various projects and campaigns that have evolved from this forum.”
“Her contribution to the Council’s Staffing Committee and as Chair of the Communications Committee reflecting the expertise and experience in these related industries.”
“Finally, I would like to say that the role of Mayor demands that we rise above the petty divisions of politics to represent the whole community; to truly encapsulate the role of First Citizen.”
“This is something that Emma has fully achieved in her capacity as Deputy Mayor. And so, without further ado – I recommend that this Council elects Cllr Emma George as the 318th Mayor of Glastonbury.”
Emma’s nomination was seconded by Conservative Councillor Steve Henderson. There were no other nominations, and Emma was elected Mayor by a unanimous vote.
In her acceptance speech, she said: “I will make sure to do my best to represent you all. Jon is a hard act to follow. He has been an absolute pleasure to work with.”
“I know I am heading into this year with great people around me.”
A first for Glastonbury!
Emma’s first act as Mayor was to preside over the election of Liberal Democrats Councillor Denise Abbot as Deputy Mayor; a first for Glastonbury - as the positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor have never been held by two women during one Mayoralty before!
As the third Green Mayor of Glastonbury, Emma follows Cllrs. Jon Cousins (2016-17) and Denise Michell (2015-16); a major achievement for the Green Party’s members and supporters in the South West.
When first elected in 2011, Glastonbury’s ‘Green Four’ championed the creation of a new Town Council advisory committee dedicated to developing an integrated tourism and pilgrimage strategy to promote Glastonbury as cultural and spiritual centre of worldwide significance importance in the 21st Century.
As a result, ‘Promoting Glastonbury’ was convened as a forum for dialogue between councillors and the various stakeholders including our visitor attractions, independent shops and high street traders, tour guides, and the Tourist Information and Pilgrim Reception Centres.
A key development from Promoting Glastonbury was the town’s involvement with the EU’s Enterprise and Industry Directorate General’s new pan-European spiritual and cultural tourism route based on the legend of the Holy Grail: The Grail Project.
Following the election in 2015, a stronger Green representation on the council reinvigorated the Promoting Glastonbury into a fully-fledged committee of Glastonbury Town Council, and reviewed its aims, objectives, and terms of reference.
As part of this review, a non-councillor member of the committee – Paul Lund – was appointed to the role of Deputy Chair; an unheard of departure from convention; demonstrating the Green’s commitment to their election manifesto to “foster strong participatory democracy”, within the council.
Wishing to increase non-councillor involvement, Cllr Jon Cousins researched the potential for unelected members of a committee to vote; discovering that – by virtue of the obscure Article 3 of the Parish and Community Councils (Committees) Regulations 1990* – non-councillor members of committees do have voting rights in respect of any function under s.144 of the 1972 Act relating to “the promotion of tourism”!
On Monday 23rd May 2016, history was made in Glastonbury’s Council Chamber when the first non-councillor Chair of a committee – Morgana West – was elected! Non-councillor Paul Lund was duly re-elected as Deputy Chair... This was followed by the first ever non-councillor proposal of a resolution; seconded by another non-councillor, and voted on by all the members of the Promoting Glastonbury Committee – elected and non-councillor members together!
* Section 102(3) of the Local Government Act 1972 provides that a local council can appoint persons who are not its members to committees and sub-committees (including joint committees and sub-committees). By virtue of s.13 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, non-councillor members of committees and sub committees do not have voting rights except in respect of certain council functions. By virtue of Article 3 of the Parish and Community Councils (Committees) Regulations 1990 (SI 1990/2476), non-councillor members of committees have voting rights in respect of any function under s.144 of the 1972 Act relating to the promotion of tourism.
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