In a momentous announcement following the council’s annual general meeting, Councillor Al Garthwaite has been named the new Lord Mayor of Leeds for the upcoming year. Taking over the esteemed position from Councillor Robert W Gettings MBE JP, Councillor Garthwaite is set to become the 129th Lord Mayor of Leeds.

Councillor Garthwaite’s journey to this prestigious role began within a military family that frequently relocated. Pursuing her education at Durham University, she engaged in international and local campaigns advocating for human rights and social justice. Subsequently, Councillor Garthwaite settled in Leeds, her mother’s hometown, in 1973, after spending time in Oxford as a working holiday organiser and author.

Recognised for her immense contribution to social and community activism in Leeds, Councillor Garthwaite swiftly immersed herself in various endeavours. She qualified as a teacher and displayed an unwavering enthusiasm for lifelong learning, teaching in prisons and spearheading women’s health courses in inner-city community centres. Councillor Garthwaite also played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Women’s Advice and Referral Service, alongside several other thriving social enterprises.

Drawing from her experiences as a researcher for a Channel 4 documentary on lesbian mothers, Councillor Garthwaite founded Vera Media, a film production company. This remarkable initiative has empowered women and marginalised groups in Leeds by imparting multimedia skills, with over 5,000 individuals subsequently finding employment or pursuing further education. In recognition of her efforts, the University of Leeds bestowed upon Councillor Garthwaite an Honorary Degree in 2007.

Eager to utilise her diverse skills and experiences for the betterment of the city, Councillor Garthwaite secured a seat on the city council representing Headingley in 2016 (now Headingley and Hyde Park). Her passions encompass a wide range of issues, including the environment, climate change, arts and culture, community safety, planning, licensing, and the eradication of violence against women and girls.

In keeping with the longstanding tradition, Councillor Garthwaite has chosen the Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service as the charity she will represent throughout her term as Lord Mayor. The Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service (WCTS) offers free, professional long-term psychological support to women in Leeds, providing them with crucial assistance when needed.

During her tenure as Lord Mayor, Alderwoman Angela Gabriel will serve as Councillor Garthwaite’s consort. Additionally, a diverse group of students from Leeds Beckett University will be given the opportunity to act as consort for the Lord Mayor, enhancing their understanding of Leeds and its residents while gaining unique experiences. Bishop Arun Arora, the Bishop of Kirkstall, has graciously agreed to serve as the Lord Mayor’s chaplain throughout her year of office.

Expressing her gratitude and dedication, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite, stated, “The people of Leeds have been at the heart of my work for 50 years, and it will be an honour and a privilege to represent them as their Lord Mayor for the coming year. I eagerly anticipate engaging with our communities, meeting as many individuals as possible, and raising funds to support the invaluable work of the Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service.”