Razia Daniels - how the incoming Lord Mayor of Chester mixes politics with style
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:24 09 March 2017
Councillor Razia Daniels is poised to be Chester’s new Lord Mayor in May but there’s a whole lot more to discover about the woman behind the glittering chain, as Janet Reeder reveals.
Councillor Razia Daniel’s home has an enviable view over Chester’s River Dee but it’s more than just a fabulous location. Across the river is the ward she has represented since 2006.
As she poses for pictures on the balcony of the apartment that she shares with her husband, Stephen, she has a vista of the Handbridge skyline and is particularly proud of what she has achieved there.
The Conservative councillor for Handbridge Park was instrumental in getting a zebra crossing for Queens Park Road, after many years of others trying and failing and while to the uninitiated it sounds a pedestrian kind of triumph, as Razia explains it has made a great difference to many of the elderly people who live there.
‘An old lady came up to me and said “Razia, that zebra crossing you’ve put there is the best thing ever” and, that’s why I am a councillor. I love walking around the ward with everyone stopping me for a chat. It takes ages for me to get around because I talk to everyone but I absolutely love it. It’s such a pleasure to do good. ‘
Razia has lived in Chester since 1985 and before that Sandbach but she was born in Tanzania in a place called Dodoma. She was just 10 when her father died and she was taken under the wing of her uncle so she could continue her secondary education. Her uncle adopted her and brought her to Cheshire in 1977.
Two years later she was temping as a secretary in the photographic department of an engineering company when she met Stephen. She has been with him ever since and they recently celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary at Chester’s Opera Grill restaurant.
Stephen swapped his work in photography to a career in antiques and the pair share a love of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, which is not only reflected in the decor of their stylish home but in Razia’s choice of clothing and her jewellery.
‘I like Art Deco, so I look towards that era the 30s for inspiration, says Razia, who for the interview wears a black top and striking gold and black trousers which she bought in Miami.
‘I just wish I was a little bit thinner. I can’t get into those flapper dresses,’ she adds with a laugh.
The lion’s share of mayoral duties revolve around public appearances and this has brought its own set of problems for Razia, of the sartorial kind.
‘We have a dress allowance but it’s very, very small,’ she says.
‘I’ve obviously bought clothes but you don’t know if you’ve got enough because you’ve not been to those occasions. And I want to wear what is appropriate.’
One thing Razia does have a lot of is hats. We photograph her on the sofa surrounded by at least 15 of differing colours and styles and she picks one up and puts it one.
‘I love wearing hats. I always used to wear a beret in the 1980s,’ she recalls.
‘ I had a white, red and pink beret and this guy - we used to meet up at antique fairs and he’d say “are you French?” and when I said no, he said: “So why do you keep wearing berets?” But I have never really had occasions to wear hats until now.
‘When we first moved to Chester we used to go to the races, but I soon realised I never win because I always put bets on eight to one. It’s got to be eight to one.
‘So I am really looking forward to wearing hats and I am going to try to wear as many as I can. There are so many aspects to what you wear,’ she explains further.
‘You have got to have different kinds of shoes. I’ve been told you’ve got to buy wedges because if you’ve got a garden party you don’t want your heels to sink into the ground. ‘
Razia is far more comfortable choosing her jewellery, as her love of Art Deco led her to train as a gemologist enabling her to not only distinguish a topaz from a tourmaline but determine the quality of diamonds too.
‘It was because I became interested in jewellery and I wanted to know more about it,’ she explains.
‘Where I lived in Tanzania, we had a diamond mine and I remember going as a young girl never dreaming I would end up becoming a diamond specialist. It’s my hobby. I love to be able to identify things.‘
With a few weeks to go until she becomes Lord Mayor, Razia is already accepting engagements - especially those which will raise the profile of her chosen charities: Dial House, which supports disabled people, the Unity Centre and Handbridge Community Centre.
‘I looked at what’s close to my heart. I used to be the champion of equality and diversity for the authority. So I had a meeting with my officers and asked ‘Who’s struggling? Who really needs some help and they said Dial House and the Unity Centre, so that’s why I decided to choose them - the charities that get overlooked.’
One of the charities she supports, the Unity Centre has already invited her to a Bollywood evening at Eaton Hall and she’s excited about the prospect of wearing a sari for the occasion.
‘I’ve asked for blue’ she laughs, reminding me that it’s the colour of the Conservative party.
She acknowledges that the handful of invitations which she has already accepted prior to taking up her chain of office will only be the tip of the iceberg.
‘I think it will be full on,’ she admits.
‘But obviously I am only going to have one year of opportunities so I’m going to make the most of it. I won’t be asked again, so for me it is such a huge honour and a privilege and so far, everything that has been thrown at me I’ve said yes to.
‘I am really looking forward to it. I am also looking forward to doing my fundraising for the charities.
‘I have so many ideas. I just hope I am able to do all the things I am aiming to do in the short time that I have as Lord Mayor.’