A FORMER Mayor of Stroud could be making waves on the French political scene in the years to come.
Andy Read, one of Stroud’s longest-serving councillors, stepped down from his role on Stroud District Council earlier this year and headed across the Channel last week where he plans to work on developing a new community-based project.
A former Stroud News & Journal reporter, Mr Read, who was the only Independent councillor serving on the council, served for a period of 13 years on Stroud Town Council, four of those as Mayor and Deputy Mayor. He initially served four years as a Labour district councillor for Cainscross before successfully standing as an Independent for Stroud Central in 2011.
Mr Read played a prominent role in planning and the protection of Stroud’s green spaces, and helped secure the future of numerous sites of importance within the area.
He also established and ran Stroud Walking and Stroud Food and Drink festivals and led a successful campaign to save Uplands Post Office. He also helped establish the charity which has recently completed the £150,000 restoration of The Lake at the Lawn off Cainscross.
But he may now be facing his biggest challenge to-date as he begins a new chapter of his life in a small, mainly farming hamlet of ten people – including himself and his wife.
Explaining his reasons behind the move, Mr Read said: “We have been 22 years in Stroud and it’s time for a change. I remember going into Stroud News & Journal for work experience and they took me on as a reporter. Stroud has been my home for more than two decades but my wife and I discussed it and we felt it was time for a new challenge.
“We could have had a very comfortable life in Stroud for the rest of our lives, but we always wanted to find out what was out there and we felt it was the right time to experience somewhere else,” he added.
“We had been looking for somewhere in the UK for a number of years and then the opportunity arose to do something that we wanted to do in France. We will be working with a French organisation that works with farmers and communities to develop community-based agriculture and land management via local community farms.”
The couple sold their property in Stroud at the end of January and have been moving things across to France slowly, bit by bit, for the past few months.
“I finished work last week and we headed to France shortly afterwards and now we are officially French residents,” said Mr Read. “It’s a very challenging time for us. We have come from a place like Stroud where we know lots of people and know the way of life to a place where no-one knows us and we do not know how things work.
“I speak a little French, but my wife is fairly fluent as a former languages teacher, so we are getting by. The priority now is for us to get the house weather-tight. It’s a 100-year-old farm workers’ cottage located in a small hamlet of ten people situated between Limoges and Poitiers.
“The French have made us very, very welcome but it’s so very different , having come from being the Mayor of Stroud with 16,000 people!”
Mr Read won’t be totally abandoning Stroud, and plans to come back regularly to check on his charity and to visit friends and family.
“We have many friends in Stroud. Having been around for so long we have made a lot of good friends and we have plenty of reason to come back. There’s also the Community Land Trust charity work to keep an eye on,” he said.
Mr Read celebrated his 45th birthday in England last week prior to moving to France where he voted in his first French election.
So perhaps a French political career may be on the cards?
“French politics is certainly something I may look at in the future. At the recent elections there was an 80 per cent turnout, and we have only 247 people in the local parish.
“It may be a tempting prospect for the future because it’s something I have been doing so long, but it’s a very different system over here,” he said.
“I’m sure there will be plenty of challenges ahead, but if you don’t step out of your comfort zone then you do not challenge yourself to do new things."