After a busy month at the council - and having spent the last week with my children on Easter holidays - I’m reflecting on everything that makes Brighton and Hove unique, writes council leader Bella Sankey.

Good Friday began with the opening of the Volk’s railway for the spring/summer season. I have so many fond memories of riding the world’s oldest electric railway as a child, sitting next the driver and ringing the bell. With the support of the council and so many dedicated volunteers our Volk’s – a pioneer of sustainable transport – is going from strength to strength. I love seeing my children’s faces light up, riding the train and waving to everyone we pass. Former news presenter Nicholas Owen came to officiate the launch and to unveil our new plaque – the Volk’s was named Railway of the Year 2024 at the Heritage Railway Associations annual awards.

Hot on the heels of the accolade our newly refurbished Victoria Fountain has also received a prestigious award from the Institution of Structural Engineers South Eastern awards. The good news comes as the fountain has been switched on for the spring and summer seasons, along with the nearby Mazda Fountain so that residents and visitors can enjoy the cascading water and stunning lighting effects all summer long. For anyone who hasn’t taken in this sight I’d urge you to visit the fountains, it’s easy to while away time down there and is a lovely way to pass the time.

We remain committed to preserving and restoring Brighton and Hove’s precious heritage so that future generations can continue to enjoy our city’s fascinating and rich history. This starts with the basics – dealing with graffiti tagging for example of our beautiful tram shelters on the Old Steine which were freshly painted last week - to our investment in Madeira Terrace and the redevelopment of Black Rock.

We went scooting along the new beach prom connecting the marina to Black Rock, it’s a good spot for dog walkers with our dog friendly beach, and the views across the shoreline and up to the Regency architecture of Kemp Town are stunning.

Walking along this part of the coast, the disrepair of Madeira Terrace is so stark. So I’m proud that despite our difficult budget situation, the council is prioritising this restoration. We issued an invitation to tender for the first 28 arches last December and have spent the last year preparing the most easterly arches for their restoration.

On the subject of our cultural heritage last Wednesday the planning application for the full restoration of the Hippodrome was approved by our planning committee. This restoration has been a long time coming – my only memory of the Hippodrome is as a bingo hall. Bringing this stunning building back to life through loving restoration and by preserving its identity as a performance space will be seismic. We have a celebrated tradition of performance and live music in Brighton but we badly need to preserve and invest in our venues and spaces in order to nurture talent.

And of course nurture talent we did 50 years ago exactly when Abba stormed to success in the Eurovision at Brighton Dome with Waterloo – another moment to celebrate last week with the unveiling of a blue plaque by our mayor Jacqui O’Quinn.

Last weekend saw the Brighton Marathon return. Having only ever managed a half-marathon myself I am in awe of those that take on the challenge and persevere. To see so many running and raising money for good causes is humbling and I loved seeing so many young people take part in the mini-mile in Preston Park.

My week ended breaking bread at the Dialogue Society Iftar at the Grand Hotel on Sunday night. Ramadan is a time of worship, fasting and reflection and it was an honour to join our Muslim communities and other dignitaries for this interfaith iftar which reflected on the themes of peace and unity.

Brighton and Hove has a longstanding and treasured Muslim community and I’m proud to lead the most diverse group of Labour councillors our city has ever had, including Muslim councillors. This month our culture committee will consider a report for an annual day of remembrance at India Gate to commemorate the contribution of soldiers from modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal to both World Wars, many of whom were nursed at our Royal Pavilion.

What’s special about our city is our ability to preserve our history, celebrate our creativity and the many communities that call this place home, while always looking to the future and being ambitious for progress. And your Labour council is hungry for more of this progress.

Bella Sankey is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council