February might be a short month, but I have been very busy.
Looking after His Majesty’s Judges is an important part of a High Sheriff’s role. What a pleasure to sit in court with Resident Judge HHJ Lana Wood at St Albans Crown Court and then to spend a day with the Family and County Court Judges in Watford, observing proceedings before Magistrates and in the Small Claims Court, and discovering the help given by mediators from the charity Relate.
Next came briefing the three High Sheriffs in nomination, the Stevenage Mayor’s Charity Concert that showcased the wonderful musical and dance talents of children and young people from the town, and a 100 year Celebration in St Peter’s Church for the Buntingford Branch of the Royal British Legion. Congratulations to the new Bishop of Hertford, Jane Mainwaring, whose Service of Welcome was led by the Bishop of St Albans in All Saints Church in Hertford.
A day in the pretty market town of Rothwell near Kettering was the setting for the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire’s Justice Service, which included inspirational rap artist Callum and producer Dimz performing a track highlighting the challenges faced by young people to fulfil their dreams rather than falling into crime. Then back to Police HQ to recognise PCSOs who have served the Hertfordshire Constabulary for over 20 years.
After months of planning, the High Sheriff’s Symposium on Substance Misuse, hosted by the University of Hertfordshire Law School, took place in Hatfield over two icy February days. Keynote speaker Dame Carol Black addressed the Government’s aim to tackle the increase of drug use, and panel members from Herts County Council Public Health and Herts Constabulary, local and national charities, Probation and many other agencies debated these serious issues. The Police & Crime Commissioner spoke at an evening reception where a marketplace of voluntary groups had set up. There was clear agreement that this was a start to raising awareness and working together, with plans now in place to take this further.
Teenager Rebecca saved her father’s life with CPR before the East of England Ambulance Service arrived and he was airlifted to hospital. A return visit to the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance airbase to join those who were involved at the time and to present her with a Humane Society Resuscitation Certificate was a special day. Supporting Hertsmere Mayor John Graham with a tour of Elstree Studios in aid of Peace Hospice Care was also an opportunity to witness the increasingly valuable role played by the film industry in Hertfordshire.
More long service and Humane Society certificates to be presented at Police HQ, before an amazing day with Stevenage Mayor Margaret Notley and Lady Mayoress Cathy Bibby. The Stevenage Postbox Knitters decorate the town’s 100 postboxes during the seasons, Stevenage Cycling Hub in Fairlands Valley Park refurbishes bikes and runs courses training courses to learn bike riding, and Stevenage Leisure Centre has a sports centre and gym, where they have one of the few anti-gravity treadmills for weightless running for those with disabilities. The Gordon Craig Theatre is much loved in Stevenage, and the Healthy Hub runs courses on anything from nutrition and health to advice on mental health and addictions. The Crisis Café next door is a refuge until 1am every day.
By coincidence, a catch-up with Jo Kelly-Moore, Dean of St Albans the following day led to the discovery that she had been given a stunning knitted postbox topper depicting the Cathedral by the St Albans Sopwell Knitters!
Attending the Young Carers Conference at Oaklands College in Welwyn Garden City with other dignitaries and professionals involved visiting music, art and drama workshops and talking to young people who devote their childhood years to being a carer. The common theme was the need to be listened to and supported by their schools, but these workshops give them some respite and the tools to cope. While in WGC, I dropped in on the What Were You Wearing display in the Howard Centre, put on by the University of Hertfordshire Law School and Red Kite. This display of innocuous clothing highlights the challenging issues raised by the Violence Against Women and Girls Campaign.
Hertford Mayor Sue Barber’s charity evening at Hertford Castle was a sell-out, with a fun and witty pictorial history tour of Hertford through the ages, highlighting its significance as our county town.
A visit to Watford included a morning with Tribunal District Judge Newman observing a judge and doctor panel hearing an appeal against refusal of Universal Credit, then a tour of Garston Fire Station where we discussed their work and role in the community. I even became one of the team for a moment! Soup and snowdrops in St Catherine’s Church, Sacombe happens every year thanks to the wonderful volunteers in the parish.
The Parish Church of St John the Baptist in Royston was destroyed by fire four years ago. A glorious service of Rededication was led by the Bishop of St Albans who had rushed to the scene of the fire at the time to offer support and cups of tea. Then off to Cambridge for a High Sheriffs’ Association Regional meeting, where High Sheriffs in Nomination are helped to prepare for their year in office. The East Herts Arts Society meets at the Spotlight in Broxbourne every month, and I was invited to speak about the role of High Sheriff before their lecture began.
HRH The Princess Royal visited the Old Palace at Hatfield House in her role as Commandant-in-Chief (Youth) ofn Ambulance, presenting Super Badger and Grand Prior Awards to young people of Herts and Beds.
A meeting with Kate Belinis and Sue Whiterod of CDA Herts was an opportunity to review the High Sheriff’s Symposium on Substance Misuse at the University of Hertfordshire in February. I also attended a seminar in Milton Keynes on the Family Drugs & Alcohol Court operating in 15 counties, yet to come to Hertfordshire. FDAC gets families back together and saves more children from growing up in care. I then supported four intrepid lecturers and staff from North Herts College in Stevenage, who slept out overnight in the February cold to raise money for The Living Room and Safer Places.
The magnificent refurbishment of the Sadleir Tombs in St Mary’s Church, Standon was celebrated with music, theatre and a history guide to the tombs and family. Members of the Sadleir family visited from Derbyshire and Australia and a Tudor Evensong was led in Olde English by the Bishop of St Albans.
Hertfordshire’s Mayors and Chairs supported Stevenage Mayor Margaret Notley at her Charity Ball in aid of the Anne Robson Trust, Stevenage Scouts and Stevenage Rotary Clubs. We met again for a beautiful Civic Service in Welwyn Garden City for Mayor Barbara Fitzsimon’s chosen charity, the Welwyn & Hatfield Women’s Refuge.
The month has shown the extent of a High Sheriff’s role in the county. Days in courts and tribunals, police awards and charity presentations, church services and celebrations, a Royal Visit, and working with those involved with addiction to drugs and alcohol culminating in the High Sheriff’s Symposium on Substance Misuse.