The new Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, Mrs Julia Sokye, has chosen to support a domestic abuse charity during her year in office after listening to The Archers radio programme.

She was elected by members of the council and formally took over the role from Cllr David Neve at a ceremony in the Town Hall last week.

Representing Speldhurst and Bidborough for the last seven years, Cllr Sokye has recently held the post of Deputy Mayor and been head of the planning committee. She also boasts a 100 per cent attendance record since last November.

As is custom, the new Mayor announced the good cause she would be supporting throughout her term through various functions, events and fundraising initiatives, which this year will be the Tunbridge Wells-based Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Service (DAVSS).

Stating her intention to choose a charity ‘that had never been supported before’, she said her decision to back DAVSS came from the extreme discomfort she felt while listening to The Archers’ storyline centred on Helen and Rob Titchener.

“On average, a victim will experience 34 instances of domestic abuse before disclosing it to anyone”

The famous BBC Radio 4 serial grabbed media attention last year for its vivid depiction of domestic abuse.

“I found I had to switch it off. It may sound silly, but I have since met several people who also found the storyline too painful to listen to,” she said.

“One of the council’s officers then suggested I chose DAVSS, but I had never heard of it. So I met the CEO and they suggested I sat in on the next volunteer training session, which took place in the Town Hall.

“I found it so interesting I ended up attending the entire 14-day course.”

The course opened her eyes to many ‘incredible and painful facts’, Mayor Soyke said, before listing some of the most poignant. These included the statistic that 43 per cent of all murders of women are committed by partners or ex-partners.

For men the figure is eight per cent.

“A woman is murdered by her partner or former partner on average every three days in the UK,” she continued. “On average, a victim will experience 34 instances of domestic abuse before disclosing it to anyone. The average time to stay in an abusive relationship is between seven and 12 years.

“Nationally, the police attend an instance of domestic abuse every 60 seconds every single day, and they account for one quarter of all police call-outs in Kent.”

She lamented the impact these cases have on children and praised her chosen charity for the work they do towards ‘breaking the cycle’, and urged people to learn more about what DAVSS does.

Mayor Soyke proceeded to appoint her husband of 50 years, Peter Soyke, to the role of Mayor Escort and thanked, to much applause, Cllr Neve for the work he did while holding the office for the past year.

The Mayor thanked her colleagues for their support, and praised the council’s officers for their ‘huge commitment’ to keeping the authority running during a period of tight budgets.

“I will do the very best I can and have always enjoyed a challenge,” she added.


Who is Julia Soyke?

Interests: After living in Germany for ten years, she now runs the family farm at Ashurst and is actively involved in the local community as a member of its parish council, Chair of its Air Traffic Committee and Trustee and Bookings Secretary for Ashurst McDermott Village Hall. She enjoys the countryside, animals and gardening.

Bodies affiliated with: Elected Member of Speldhurst Parish Council, Member of the NFU, National Trust, Royal Academy of Arts, English Heritage and National Gallery.

Qualifications: B.Sc (Hons) in Geology from Exeter University; awarded scholarships to attend post-graduate courses in the USA.


What is the role of Mayor?

The high standing of the Mayor is one of honour rather than actual legal powers.

The Mayor is expected to attend many formal and informal functions, including: Royal and state visits, civic ceremonies and functions, charity events, fetes, banquets and dances.

A mayor must remain politically neutral, as the office of Mayor is mainly a ceremonial position.

They also chair Full Council meetings and act as an ambassador to promote the council’s name at home and elsewhere.