LOCAL LIVES Our occasional series in which we feature local representatives proud of their Irish roots
This week Councillor Tony Ansell, a successful local caterer proud of his Irish heritage, became Northampton’s 778th Mayor, fulfilling a life-long ambition he has held since he left school at the age of 15.
His late mother, Ann, was one of 17 children born in Glenswilly, near Letterkenny in County Donegal.
A councillor for the Abington ward since 2011, for the past few years he has opened the Speedy Cup in Northampton, an Irish event which raises thousands of pounds for charity, and this year he opened Northampton’s first Irish festival on St Patrick’s Day. He has owned the Park Café in Abington Park for the past 40 years. His consort for the year will be Jayne Crofts.
Born and raised in Northampton, to Ann and John, Tony attended Stimpson Avenue School, as did his father before him, and he went on to be a governor of the school. He has two older sisters, Mary and Angela, and a younger brother, Gregory.
Tony started his working life at the age of eight doing a paper round for a local newsagent and by the age of 13 had eight different jobs whilst still attending school. At 16 he became the youngest Assistant Manager for Berni Inns, at that time the largest restaurant chain in the UK. He bought his first hot dog van at the age of 17 and by the time he was 21 he had 20 outlets operating from four different football clubs, including Northampton Town Football Club. He went on to provide the catering at Northampton Saints Rugby Club and took over the Park Café in Abington Park when he was 21.
He also operates the All Saints Bistro. He lives and works in the Abington ward he represents, is a founding member of the Friends of Abington Park, the Abington Park Forum and is Chairman of the Abington Conservation Society and says he is very proud he has not missed a single full Council meeting since his election.
He serves on the council’s Scrutiny Panel, Licensing Committee and as the deputy Cabinet member for environment. He is a member of the Hope Centre’s Business Forum and is a long-time supporter of the Hope Centre charity which will be his nominated charity as Mayor for the next year.
“Homelessness seems to be far more of an issue these days and affects the most vulnerable of our town. Things have greatly improved since Michael Mulligan started up the Soup Kitchen at Bishop’s House in Marriot Street 43 years ago, and now the centre provides invaluable help and a stepping-stone to give hope and support for the homeless,” he says.
He helped arrange for six allotments to be allocated to the Hope Centre enabling them to grow fruit and vegetables to distribute from their Social Supermarket. Tony hosted the Big Sleep Out in January 2016 at The Park Café in Abington Park, which saw 150 people sleeping rough for the night to raise money for the Hope Centre. The café will host this event again during Tony’s Mayoral Year.
This year, the charity cycle Ride for Hope route will go from Ypres, Belgium to Northampton where Tony will host a Civic Reception for the riders at the Guildhall. In 2016 it went in the other direction and Tony laid a wreath at the Menin Gate Memorial on behalf of the Mayor and the people of Northampton.
A Mayoral and Charity Service will be held at All Saints Church, on Sunday, 1 July, at 10:30am and Tony will also be holding a number of fundraising events throughout his Mayoral year to support the Hope Centre.
More information about the Hope Centre is available at www.northamptonhopecentre.org.uk