Batonbearers who will run the last leg of the Queen's Baton Relay in Kent have finally been announced ahead of its arrival next week.
When it is paraded through Gravesend next Friday, the first athlete with Romany heritage to compete at the Paralympic Games, an Olympic heavyweight boxer and the chairman of the North Kent Caribbean Network will be some of those carrying the baton.
Since its inaugural appearance at the Cardiff 1958 event, the relay has been a tradition of the Commonwealth Games.
Councillor John Burden, leader of Gravesham Borough Council, said: "Since the announcement that the Queen’s Baton Relay is coming to Gravesend, we have been working hard with the organisers and our partners including the Port of London Authority, the Gurdwara, Cohesion Plus, Team Kaizen, LV21, and Town Pier Pontoon to ensure this is a great morning for the whole community.
"There will be entertainment reflecting Gravesham’s rich Commonwealth links along the route, and I hope as many people as possible turn out to support our local batonbearers and those from the eastern region as they play their part in this truly international spectacle." The baton will be welcomed in Gravesend on Friday, July 8 between 8am and 9am.
It will start with a moment of community reflection at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, before being carried through the streets to Town Pier, where it will be taken on board a boat and ferried across to Tilbury, from where it will start its tour of Eastern England. There will also be live entertainment along the route including a street dance group, a brass band, a steel band and Dhol and Djembe drumming.
The batonbearers for the Gravesend leg of the relay are:
· Michelle White from Hartley. Born with spina bifida she has spent 18 months trialling for the para bowls squad and in January found out that she had been selected to represent England at Birmingham 2022.
· John Boy Smith from West Kingsdown. A silver medallist in the T54 Marathon at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and a 2021 Paralympian. He is the first athlete with Romany heritage to compete at the Commonwealth Games and Paralympic Games.
· Lysa Whymark from Brentwood. In 2019, Lisa set up the Daily Bread, helping to put an end to hunger and stop excess waste going to landfill. The Daily Bread is now a six days a week food hub, collecting food from more than 100 supermarkets every week.
· Cheavon Clarke from Gravesend. Cheavon is a heavyweight boxer who competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games before turning pro at the start of 2022. He takes great pride in being a financial literacy advocate, helping young people from across the social spectrum to better prepare themselves for day-to-day life and to be responsible, positive and proactive with financial decisions as they arise. He is very active in the community with charitable work.
· Rosemary Head, 81, from Basildon. She is recognised for her services to her local community plus the wider national and international volunteer world, giving her time tirelessly although diagnosed with lung cancer. She is an Age Concern befriender, supports the homeless through her local church, has raised more than £1,200 for the Tumaini orphanage in Kenya, volunteers at a local nature reserve, runs a ladies lunch club, and volunteered at London 2012, Rio 2016, the World Paras, and the 2018 Winter Olympics.
· Michelle Bramble from Gravesend. Founder and chairman of North Kent Caribbean Network, Michelle works to ensure that the history of her community’s journey to Gravesham is not forgotten. Working with Cohesion Plus, the Network has also celebrated Commonwealth Day over the years, highlighting inspirational members of the community who hail from all parts of the Commonwealth and celebrating the work they have done for the borough.
Cllr Burden added: "Next Friday will be a special, not-to-be-missed day for the town and the borough and I am proud we have been chosen to host the Queen’s Baton Relay.
"As the baton passes through the town, there will be a short series of rolling road closures to ensure the safety of all those taking part. We will keep those closures as short as possible but I would urge people who travel through town at that time of the morning to allow a little extra time for their journey on the day."
Tonbridge, Dover, Deal, Folkestone, Canterbury and Gravesend have all been included in the route the baton is taking across the UK before it arrives in Birmingham for the Games' official opening ceremony. The baton will tour most of Kent on Thursday, before setting off again on Friday from Gravesend before heading over to Essex.