Carrying the Olympic Torch in beautiful Bedale this morning was an amazing, inspirational, and unforgettable experience! Thank you Bedale for a fun, exciting and brilliant day! You gave me incredible and vocal support in the bright Yorkshire sunshine, and you gave the world a true taste of Yorkshire with the warmth of your welcome. It was great to see so many hundreds of people lining Market Place: school children with their teachers. Mums and dads. Pensioners and war heroes from the Bedale Royal British Legion. Local shopkeepers, farmers and business people. Everyone in Bedale was here it seemed, lining the streets six or seven deep, cheering, shouting, taking photos, soaking up the atmosphere. It was like the Jubilee all over again. The warmth, energy and passion of the Bedale welcome has been amazing!
Today started bright and early with a briefing at 8AM for all the Torchbearers covering Northallerton and Bedale at Northallerton College. I was then bussed back to Bedale to take my place on Market Place, dropping of the others on the way. It was great to meet the other Torchbearers at the briefing and learn about all the great things they had done for their communities. By way of background, the Torch came to Bedale today as part of the 70-day nationwide Torch Relay, and today it went through Northallerton and Aiskew before reaching Bedale at around 11AM. The previous day the Torch had been through York, Ripon and Harrogate, and after Bedale it now moves on to Richmond before heading up to Barnard Castle and Carlisle. But, today was proudly Bedale’s Day. As I ran up Market Place towards Bedale Golf Club as slowly as I could to savour every second, see every smile and wave as much as I could, all I could think of was how great it was to be in Bedale as well as the children we feed at Magic Breakfast and how much they would all have loved being in Bedale today too. Holding the Torch high above my head and waving to the crowd, my “Moment to Shine” (as the Olympics organisers like to call it) seemed to happen in ultra slow motion yet was over in a flash, but it is one of my best experiences in my life so far.
As I mentioned in my first BedaleOnline Olympic blog, I was chosen as a Torchbearer because of my work as President & Trustee of Magic Breakfast, the UK’s leading school breakfast club charity. We provide free, healthy breakfasts to 6,000 primary school children in 210 primary schools, including over 50 schools across Yorkshire. I suffered from child hunger myself, so I’ve worked hard to raise awareness of the issue with politicians, the media, businesses and the wider public. Judging from the massive turnout today, I think we made lots of new friends. As a proud Yorkshireman, I was truly honoured to be part of this once-in-lifetime event in the heart of Yorkshire, surrounded by so many people that I’d grown up with from local communities that I've known since I was young – from old school friends and teachers to long-lost neighbours – as well as Magic Breakfast staff and supporters.
I’ve visited Bedale a number of times before, but an added bonus of carrying the Torch here is that it encouraged me to find out more about one of Britain’s best market towns. Given Magic Breakfast’s food focus and the fact that I was carrying the Torch on Market Place, I’ve learnt that Bedale was first mentioned in the Domesday Book and was granted its market charter by Henry III in 1251, allowing a market to be held every Tuesday, and Bedale has been giving visitors a true taste of Yorkshire ever since with great local produce. Today reminded me again about some of Bedale’s best qualities: warm, welcoming and friendly people. A wonderful gateway to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and some of Yorkshire's finest scenery. Bustling local shops, homely pubs like the Green Dragon and charming buildings. A rich culinary tradition that spans real dairy ice cream from Dales herds and Yorkshire beers to pies and Wensleydale cheese. But above all, Bedale has a great sense of community, a strong Yorkshire identity, and a glowing warmth that attracts visitors from around the world.
I‘ve definitely experienced that warm welcome myself throughout my Bedale Torch experience. Arriving in Bedale on Tuesday afternoon to settle in at the Green Dragon, I met Councillor Mike Lowe, Deputy Mayor of Bedale and his colleagues from the Bedale Royal British Legion for a chat and a few photos in front of Bedale Hall. Apart from Magic Breakfast, I’ve also been a longstanding fundraiser for the Legion and the Poppy Appeal, and I founded the Legion’s UK-wide Young Professionals Branch, so it was great to meet some local Legion members and stalwarts like Mike. Later that night, I had a few beers in the Green Dragon with County Councillor John Weighell, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council (and councillor for Bedale itself) and Caroline Dickinson who used to work for local Conservative MP William Hague. They were as excited as I was, and in between seeing England beat Ukraine in the football, they told me how the Torch coming through Bedale has really brought the whole community together in excitement. I’ve also had a huge number of good luck e-mails and Twitter and Facebook messages, as well as extensive press and media coverage, including from national newspapers like the Guardian and the Times, local newspapers in Yorkshire and London where Magic Breakfast is based, as well as local and national radio such as BBC Radio York and the BBC World Service. I’ve been incredibly proud to talk about Bedale in all these interviews, and especially proud to have carried the Torch in my home county of Yorkshire.
So, as my time in Bedale with the Olympic Torch draws to a close, I’m spending this afternoon meeting and thanking as many of the people who’ve supported me a possible, from the editors of BedaleOnline itself and the staff and regulars at the Green Dragon to local school children, councillors and civic dignitaries. It will be great to get some photos with them and the Torch too. I’m also hopping on the Wensleydale Railway to take in the breathtaking Dales scenery before I leave too, and have a wander round Bedale. The Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I have been very proud to carrying the Torch in Bedale for Magic Breakfast. But more than anything else, it has been a great honour to share my Olympic Torch Relay experience with the people of Bedale. It belongs as much to you all as it does to me. Congratulations to everyone in Bedale for all you did to make today a great success and for sharing all that your beautiful market town has to offer with me and the rest of the world. Today you gave me, Magic Breakfast, the Olympic Torch Relay and the world a true Taste of all that is best about Yorkshire. Thank You.
9 ways you can carry on supporting Alan and Magic Breakfast
Share Alan Mak’s exclusive BedaleOnline blog with your friends, family, colleagues and network – spread the word about Alan’s Torch Relay and Bedale’s Olympic Torch moment!
Send Alan your pictures from today’s Olympic Torch Relay: firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be collated on an online gallery so the world can see the Torch in beautiful Bedale.
Follow Alan and his charity Magic Breakfast on Twitter: @AlanMakUK and @Magic_Breakfast to keep up-to-date with their work fighting child hunger and poverty in Yorkshire and across the UK
If you’re a journalist, please help Alan tell the Magic Breakfast story on beating UK child hunger and Alan’s Olympic Torch story. Contact Alan on email@example.com
Go to Alan’s Torchbearer story on the London2012/Facebook Torch Bearer page. Tweet about it. Blog about it. “Like” it using the Facebook button in bottom right hand corner. Spread the word.
Visit the Magic Breakfast’s website to find out more about their work fighting child hunger and poverty in Yorkshire and across the UK
Visit BedaleOnline in exactly 1 year’s time (on 20 June 2013) when Alan will be writing another exclusive blog updating us on the impact that his Bedale Olympic Torch Experience had on Magic Breakfast’s work.