The new Mayor of Tunbridge Wells 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 fund raising 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.

The famous BBC Radio Four 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.

“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. 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 they do.

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.

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 10 years she now runs the family farm at Ashurst and is actively involved in the local community.  A member of Speldhurst Parish Council and Chairman of its Air Traffic Committee, and Trustee and Bookings Secretary for the 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, National Gallery.

Qualifications: B.Sc (Hons) in Geology from Exeter University and was awarded scholarships to attend Post-graduate courses in the U.S.A.