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A busy September

I visited 3 of the Districts and Boroughs in September and a highlight was the Love Herts Day, visiting 7 charities around the county with HCF (Hertfordshire Community Foundation).

I was pleased to be asked to be on the judging panel for the BBC 3CR People Awards. We had pre-scored nearly 200 entries in different categories and had one panel meeting before the Awards Night at the end of the month – a wonderful evening of inspiring stories of those who give so much to others in Beds, Herts and Bucks. Our Lord-Lieutenant presented an award to the eventual overall winner, and here I am with fellow judges Nighat and Mick.

I went to a helpful presentation by the Cabinet Office to de-mystify the Honours nomination process, organised by the Lord-Lieutenant. Anyone can make a nomination if they feel that a candidate is deserving.

I had interesting meetings on 2 possible projects in Watford and Stevenage. The first was with Cllr Rabi Martins and Enoch Kanagaraj of One Vision to talk about making the Watford One Vision project into a pilot that could be copied in other parts of Herts. The second was with Aamani Rehman, Stevenage Inclusion Officer, and Getrude Achaempong founder of Black Women in Business awards, to talk about setting up a group to represent the BAME community in Stevenage.

Charles and Virginia Cecil hosted a lovely lunch for Emmaus, of which they are Patrons. Deputy Chairman of Hertfordshire County Council Susie Gordon told me about the new Taking the Lead project sponsored by HCC. I was pleased to present the awards at the Cruse ABM, including to my friend Frazer with whom I trained as a volunteer supporter.

Future Living in Hertford unveiled the new sculptures in the garden, made at the Parndon Mill Connect to Disconnect project, at their AGM. We heard a brave and powerful speech from Ryan Hart about being a victim of domestic abuse and how his father eventually killed his mother and sister.

I dropped in for coffee and chat at Redbourn Care and heard about their work with the elderly in the community. They have a very smart new minibus with wheelchair ramp for taking people to the shops, on outings and to community events and of course wonderful volunteers make it all happen.

On a chilly Friday night I went out with the amazing Ware and Hertford Street Pastors. We met at 10pm for prayers, and then set off on foot for an hour around Ware, before moving on to Hertford. They carry walkie talkies linked to those operating the CCTV in Hertford, and bags of provisions including flip flops for girls who cannot walk in high heeled shoes, foil blankets, food and drink and a mini dustpan and brush for clearing broken glass. We met some homeless people, some lonely people and many drunken revellers. I think it is incredible that the Street Pastors give up their time to work late into the night to offer help and support and the reaction to them was very appreciative and respectful, no suggestion that they were interfering or threatening in any way and rather a genuine recognition that they were there to help. What a wonderful thing to do for others and a great witness to the Christian tradition of care and kindness.

I visited the Amaravati Monastery and had a tour from Amaro Bhikkhu the Abbot, who was waiting for me under a tree in his saffron robes, holding a saffron umbrella! It is a beautiful and peaceful place. The Herts Interfaith Forum had another planning meeting for the event next year and we heard a good presentation from the Watford town chaplaincy service. St Albans Cathedral was the venue for a lovely service to celebrate 100 years of the Federation of Women’s Institutes in Hertfordshire, with a tea party for 40 afterwards.

This month I went back to Watford Crown court and sat with two of the District Judges hearing both Family and Civil cases. I took a picnic lunch and we were 8 – three of the Circuit Judges and four of the District Judges, including Sally Fudge who sits in the Magistrates Court in Watford. I also went to the Old Courthouse in Hatfield to meet with the Coroner and hear about the work of volunteers who help those who are coming to the court for an inquest.

I attended two good Conferences at the Fielder Centre in Hatfield. The first was the Inspiring Communities Voluntary and Community Sector Conference, all about working together and making new connections for the 2020 Hertfordshire Year of Culture. The second was the annual Carers in Herts AGM and event, attended by some of the 31,000 carers in the county.

Herts Young Homeless told me about the different areas of their work and I visited the food bank with Heather Dyce from the Gracemead Pentecostal church which owns the building in which they have their offices, and which is also used by a number of community groups.

It was good to be invited to the local Police Priority Setting Forum in Buntingford with other community members from the Town council, business, church, and scouts. Local concerns are around being able to share information quickly, for example between businesses if there are fraudsters in the area, and how to control drug dealing and anti-social behaviour.

The month ended with my Community Choirs Concert at Haileybury College. 220 singers from 9 choirs sang with wonderful enthusiasm and were the perfect example of coming together for an inclusive, shared and joyful experience through their music making. We raised money for some of the charities and groups in Herts that use music and singing to help those with dementia, learning difficulties and disabilities of various sorts. I received great help on the night from family and from Louise Landman, Henny Buxton and Emma Robarts. Andrew O’Brien, Director of Music at Haileybury, was magnificent and the concert could not have happened without his talent and help.

My two successors as High Sheriff came for a 6 month catch up meeting, all the Justice Service invitations are written and posted, the High Sheriff Awards are open and we are properly into autumn now.

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