Yesterday (27/07/2021), Redditch Borough Council voted unanimously to adopt a motion in respect of naming a park of the Arrow Valley Country Park in memory of Lizzie Tovey. Please do take a moment to read a bit more about Lizzie Tovey as I am sure you will agree she is a figure of great inspiration for our Borough and her story should be shared. The wording of the motion as passed was:

“That this council hereby recognises and declares the area within the Arrow Valley County Park that has hitherto been informally dedicated to the memory of Lizzie Tovey to be officially named and shall henceforth be known as ‘Tovey Corner’ in perpetuity.”

The speech I delivered as proposer of the motion is copied below for reference.

Thank you, Mr Mayor, and good evening to council on this our first full council meeting since many COVID-19 restrictions were eased earlier this month, thanks in part to the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme, but also due to the tremendous hard work of the British public and I pay tribute to all those involved with the effort and especially those in our communities here in Redditch. Mr Mayor, there will come another time for a more detailed motion or debate around COVID-19, but I didn’t want to let the moment pass without acknowledging the topic here tonight.

Moving on to the motion, and Members can see the wording in the papers, though I just need to adjust the motion to remove the apostrophe and the letter ‘S’ as the end. It should be ‘Tovey Corner’, not ‘Tovey’s Corner’ as I wrote originally. The purpose of the motion is to allow this council an opportunity to pay tribute to Lizzie Tovey who sadly passed away following a brave fight with cancer on Boxing Day of 2020 at the age of just 47. I was especially touched when I heard the news as my own father passed away from cancer just a year older at 48 though some years ago. So, I know just how devastating this terrible disease can be, and I know that probably all of us here tonight have been touched by cancer at some point in our lives, either directly or through our loved ones, our friends or even our colleagues. The pain and suffering it brings is very real, but tonight isn’t about cancer, truly awful though it is, tonight is about Lizzie and paying tribute to her and her life. I never knew Lizzie directly, and we will hear from those in the council closer to her in a moment, but I did want to share with you some of the achievements I have heard about.

To start with I believe Lizzie was a member of not one but four running clubs, which is an achievement in itself I can assure you and an example to us all. Through her running, Lizzie helped raised thousands of pounds for charities, which is remarkable when you learn Lizzie only took up running in around 2017/2018, starting on the ‘couch potato’ course. There’s the first inspiration – I for one need to get on to that myself, but it gets better: as in 2019 Lizzie managed to run the London Marathon, which is a phenomenal achievement in anyone’s book.

Even the pandemic didn’t hold Lizzie back, because she put on her running shoes and did yet another marathon, this time setting off from the Mailbox in Birmingham and finishing in Redditch whilst raising over £7,000 for Macmillan in the process, all whilst also battling with cancer and undergoing treatment.

Even during treatment, she ran marathons in between chemo cycles, raising money this time for the National Institute for the Blind, another charity close to her heart because I have to tell you that Lizzie did all of this whilst virtually blind in her right eye and with only limited vision in her left.

When you hear Lizzie’s story and her magnificent achievements set against such adversity you cannot help but be moved, and you cannot help but be inspired. I know I am.

Lizzie Tovey represents the very best of all of us, and she represents the very best of Redditch. Her spirit whilst facing life’s biggest challenges is something we can all look to for inspiration in our own lives, and I think it was best summed up by Mark who said in an email to me that “we miss her every day and this world has lost an amazing person that had an unmeasurable influence on so many lives”

The very least this council can do, Mr Mayor, is formally and officially declare the corner of the Arrow Valley Country Park where Lizzie often stood with Mark to cheer runners on as ‘Tovey Corner’ as a fitting way for the entire Borough to pay its respects to someone whose story will continue to inspire local residents for years to come, and I so proudly move this motion in my name.