Magid Magid, the magic new Mayor of Sheffield - and what alternative mayors can do
Mayors are a focal point for localism, in the UK and around the world. Some have really decisive powers - the Mayors of London, Seoul, Chicago, or the seven Mayors of Copenhagen - and many are essentially ceremonial.
But even the less powerful roles can trigger waves of change in a town or city. Probably the best example we know is Peter Macfadyen's inspiring tenure as Mayor of the parish council Frome in Somerset, which has triggered off the international Flatpack Democracy movement (with whom A/UK are fully aligned).
We're delighted to report on what looks like another potentially transformational mayor. Magid Magid was elected Lord Mayor of Sheffield (from being Deputy Lord Mayor) by his fellow council members in May this year. He has been a Green Party councillor, representing the Broomhill and Sharrow Vale ward since May 2016.
Yet it's his story, and his style, that's caught the national and international imagination (and in particular, his unofficial first photo as Mayor, leaping onto a staircase with his chains and Doc Martens in full display).
From the BBC's report:
Magid came to Sheffield aged five after six months in an Ethiopian refugee camp with his mother and five siblings who left Somalia "to find a better life".
"Just me being in the post brings an element of difference to the role," he said.
Mr Magid, who was a contestant on Channel 4's reality show Hunted, added: "I hope it will help engage those that have not previously engaged before."
He was sworn into his new role at the annual mayor-making ceremony, where the Imperial March from Star Wars was played followed by the Superman theme tune, as reported by the Sheffield Star.
Born in Burao in war-torn northern Somalia, Mr Magid said he did not remember much of his childhood and had never returned to his country of birth.
"I remember just being happy, playing around as you do as a kid, but in reality it was a completely different story," he said. His family set up home in Sheffield's Burngreave area.
He said life was difficult when he and his family arrived, trying to learn the language and adapt to a new way of life. His mother worked as a cleaner to look after her children, with Magid and his siblings acting as translators.
Magid became politicised at the University of Hull, where he studied aquatic zoology and became student president, aligning with the Greens (even though his family were solid Labour). As well as his political role, Magid works as a digital marketing consultant.
What can Magid do as a Mayor? Here's some of his intentions, from an interview published in the local paper, The Sheffield Star:
As lord mayor, Magid will be chairing sessions, and intends to shake things up in the chamber by bringing in a performer – a musician, say, or a magician or poet – to do a turn in a 30-minute interval. “Just to show the creativity Sheffield has got and to celebrate local talent.” [Update: this just happened, with a scientist-magician performing at a "tense local council meeting"]
Fizzing with enthusiasm, he also talks of appointing a Sheffield poet laureate, in the shape of rapper Otis Mensah.
“I feel the role of lord mayor is quite archaic. There are parts of me that do want to bring it into the 21st century; and not only that, if you look at the lord mayor’s calendar for the past four years, you tend to see patterns, because only a certain amount of people know what the role is, and how to access it. Minority ethnic groups are doing amazing things in this city.”
Magid is required to pick three charities to support. Mental health organisation Flourish, Sheffield Women’s Counselling & Therapy Services and the Unity Gym Project will benefit from his patronage this year, and he has set a target of raising £100,000, which would be a record for a Sheffield lord mayor. “I hope I don’t set myself up to fail.”
He possesses anti-establishment opinions, and has been wondering what he would do if, for example, the Queen visited Sheffield again as the monarch did in 2015.
“I believe we should have an elected head of state. I love the Queen, she’s hard-working and a lovely person – but the system is outdated. I wouldn’t even do a toast to the Queen. I can’t please everyone. I will stick to my own principles.”
We're watching with great interest.