We Are Chesterfield: Councillor urges community to respect each other's cultures and lifestyles
Community champion Shirley Niblock has put her heart into serving Chesterfield and flying the flag around the world.
Shirley has been a prime mover in many events, from bringing an annual Day of Dance to the town centre to launching a food market at St Thomas Church, from helping out at Chatsworth Road Festival to introducing Hady Primary School pupils to the Easter tradition of egg-rolling.
The councillor is secretary of Chesterfield in Bloom, Friends of the Inkerman and Friends of Tsumeb Association.
Tireless worker Shirley, 68, continues to throw herself into helping the town wherever she can. She has been elected three times to represent West ward on Chesterfield Borough Council over the past decade. She said: "I prefer the community aspect of politics as I was elected by the people of this area to do the best for them.”
Shirley is working in tandem with her husband Paul, who is a county councillor, and Howard Borrell - all three are West ward representatives on the borough council - to improve their patch through intitiatives such as litter picks and speed checks.
"The residents have been complaining about speeding traffic,” said Shirley. “We applied for funding and got our own speed gun and signs for a community speed trap area. We've seen people who have realised with horror that they are going too fast and literally screech to a halt!”
Chesterfield’s ongoing reinvention is a subject which divides opinion among its townsfolk. Shirley said: "You have to move with the times. I know people hate the multi-storey car park that looks like Meccano on Saltergate, but I don't mind it.
"Waterside is going to be life-changing when the big cafes are there and you can sit by the canal at night.
"It's a shame that we've got Ravenside competing with the town centre and that we've lost clothes shops. We need to bring more fresh food shops into Chesterfield and it would be nice if we had some more independent shops."
Her wish is for a harmonious town where everyone is taken into consideration: "I'd like to make sure that Chesterfield does not have racial tensions and that everyone respects each other's culture and lifestyles."
Shirley has lived in Chesterfield since she was seven years old and was educated at William Rhodes primary and Manor secondary schools,
Her father, who was a police officer, was transferred from Quarndon and the family moved to a house in Foljambe Avenue. Shirley said: "We were so impressed with an indoor bathroom and an extra toilet. Our old house had no heating and no indoor bathroom."
Shirley’s dad later bought a house on Whitecotes Lane and it was from there that she left to marry Paul at the Crooked Spire Church 40 years ago: "We first met through Morris dancing,” said Shirley. “Paul was with Chesterfield Morris Men so our paths literally did cross. I asked him out and that was it."
In the Seventies Shirley teamed up with her friend Clare Bryant (now Corbett) to start the women's Morris dance team Holywell Cross. Two decades later, the dance troupe amalgamated with Chesterfield Morris Men to become Cock and Magpie Morris which danced in Chesterfield's four twin towns - Troyes in France, Darmstadt in Germany, Yangquan in China and Tsumeb in Namibia.
Cock and Magpie Morris also danced in Winster's twin town Monterubbiano in Italy, Tansley's twin town Babadog in Romania, Derbyshire County Council's twin town Ascoli Piceno in Italy and Darmstadt's twin town Alkmaar in the Netherlands as well as the Seattle Folk Festival and Portland Oregon in the United States of America and Odense in Denmark.
The dancing days came to an end for the Cock and Magpie Morris troupe two years ago due to members experiencing health issues with their knees and shoulders.
For many families in north Derbyshire Shirley will always be known as the teacher who educated their children. Her first job after qualifying at Eaton College in Retford was at Whitwell Infants School where she was employed for ten years.
Shirley relocated to Hady Primary School where she worked for 25 years, becoming deputy head and then acting headteacher several times before she retired. "I have so many memories of those days," she said. "We sang for Her Majesty the Queen at Derby Football Club when she came to Derbyshire for her golden jubilee. They wanted a school from each area of Derbyshire and I was the only school from Chesterfield that volunteered to do it."The Derbyshire Times ran a competition to celebrate the golden jubilee, offering community groups the opportunity to win £1,000. Hady Primary School won the prize and enjoyed a 1950s day in which the children were taught how to jive by the dinner ladies and had a concert. The school also planted a jubilee garden with red, orange and yellow plants.
Shirley said: "I'm keen on green. We were the first primary school in Derbyshire to get eco status. We planted bulbs, recycled materials in school, did litter picking.”
One of her past pupils at Hady was Helen Mort, who later became Derbyshire’s Poet Laureate and an award-winning author. Shirley said: “Helen was brilliant, she could write a story on a piece of A4 when she was in year one (about five or six years old).”
Shirley and Paul have a son James, who is a commercial bank manager in Canada, a daughter-in-law Rachael and two grandsons, Callum and Jude.
In her spare time Shirley enjoys gardening and looking for treasures among the flea markets and charity shops of Chesterfield.