Mayor and Consort City of Wolverhampton 2019/20
Councillor Claire Darke
Councillor Claire Darke is the 161st Mayor of the City of Wolverhampton. She has been a councillor for the Park Ward since 2008.
Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, she moved to London with her family after her father got a new job. Claire grew up in Woking near Guildford, Surrey. She went to a local comprehensive school and emerged with little in the way of qualifications.
She did not get a job when she first left school – opting instead to stay at home to assist her mother in nursing an elderly grandmother. When she did find employment, she undertook a string of different jobs until eventually training and qualifying as a nurse.
Around this time she met and married Paul Darke. Being newly married and living in a small flat with her father-in-law was not ideal and with house prices in Surrey being so high, they looked further afield for somewhere to live – eventually moving to Bilston after Claire got a job as a live-in warden of a sheltered housing scheme for elderly people. She admits to finding the strong Black Country dialect a challenge to understand as she settled in to life in the region.
She then got in-house training at Bilston Community College. She was greatly supported and encouraged by the college, which enabled her to go on to do the Diploma in Higher Education (DiPHE) at the then Wolverhampton Polytechnic. This allowed her to progress onto a degree course as a mature student, during which time the polytechnic transformed into the University of Wolverhampton.
After undertaking further studies at the University of Wolverhampton, including Deaf Studies, this led to her undertaking a Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) at Warwick University. Claire then took a career break to start a family.
Some years later, when her local swimming pool was threatened with closure, Claire got involved in local politics alongside her son Walker and several others, to mount a campaign to save it. Although the swimming pool did eventually close, the campaign group made it a big local issue and it attracted national news coverage. Out of frustration, the campaign group decided to nominate Claire as a candidate in the upcoming local election.
The group designed, printed and delivered their single-issue leaflet to over 5,000 households. Although they did not win the seat, the group caused the sitting councillor to lose their seat. The next morning, the newly elected councillor approached Claire and invited her to join his party and be their candidate in the elections the following year, when she was elected and has represented the Park ward ever since.
During her time on the council, Councillor Darke has served on various panels, chairing the Equalities & Health Committees, the Child Mortality Review and most recently serving as Cabinet Member for Education for several years. She became Deputy Mayor in 2018 and went on to become Mayor of Wolverhampton on 15 May 2019.
Dr. Paul Darke
Dr Paul Darke was born in Frimley in Surrey in 1962. As he was born disabled, in an era of special schools, he was sent to boarding schools in Kent and Hampshire. His father, born in Aldershot and who served in the RAF in World War Two, was a master painter and cinema projectionist, who had five boys of which the other four attended local comprehensive schools. His mother was from London’s East End and was evacuated to Surrey in WW2.
Dr Darke left school with no formal qualifications of note, initially joining the civil service and working for the Royal Engineers in Blackwater. Upon leaving the civil service, he and Claire married and soon moved to Wolverhampton. Dr Darke went on a short course in computers as a mature student, which led to a Dip.H.E. at Wolverhampton Polytechnic - followed by a BA at the same institution. This was the beginning of a long higher-educational path that led to an MA in American literature (Keele), qualification as a social worker (Birmingham) and a PhD at the University of Warwick. Along the way Dr Darke also received a Wingate Scholarship and a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Churchill Fellowship.
Due to his innovative work on the subject of disability, Dr Darke has worked across Europe on the jury of a number of disability film and art festivals, lectured and exhibited and made a number of short films. He co-founded the organisation that originated the street sculpture project ‘Wolves in Wolves’, which he created and directed. The project appeared across Wolverhampton in the summer of 2017, raising thousands of pounds for local charities. To see more about the project, visit www.wolvesinwolves.co.uk