Yesterday we had easily our most successful Citizenship Ceremony in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall. We were celebrating 19 Darlington residents joining the British family as full citizens.
The Chamber was awash with golds and azure blues and greens and reds as some people had come in the dress of their countries of birth. There were babies and children there too, some gorgeous tots in their Sunday best. Residents becoming British citizens swore or pledged an oath to the Sovereign - I (name) do solemnly and sincerely affirm that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.
Then the Citizenship Oath - I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen. Then everyone received a certificate from the Mayor, (and a nice new touch this) a book on historic Darlington. Finally, we all stood for the National Anthem.
As I may have remarked before, people who sneer at these ceremonies as being somehow empty gestures should come along and see one for themselves. The Chamber was packed with the families and friends of the new citizens, and lots of photos were taken of citizens with the Mayor Cllr. Marian Swift in her chains of office, or County Durham's new High Sheriff Paul Townley, in his full regalia (breeches, frock coat, sword and all). The High Sheriff gave a very informative little speech during the ceremony, and I chipped in too with some observations about British values.
The new citizens hailed from all over the globe, from India, Bangladesh, Iraq and the Philippines to name but a few. Chatting to some of them afterwards, they had an eclectic mix of professions, including an engineer, a chef and a nurse.
A recent survey of people who had gone through the Citizenship Ceremony in Darlington produced an incredible 100% satisfaction rate (the feedback for the other services provided by the Registery Office were extremely good too). It's another Council service which is going from strength to strength.