Month four of my year as High Sheriff has been as rewarding as ever. And what a hot July it was!
The first day of July brought a visit to Resolve, this time their Drop-In Centre in Welwyn Garden City where I heard more stories from staff and those recovering from addiction to alcohol. Then on to meet Grant Shapps MP in Hatfield to discuss the challenges faced by his constituents, before heading to Broxbourne for a glorious service in which the Bishop of Hertford ordained four curates. One of them was Charlie, curate to my High Sheriff Chaplain, Rev John Chitham. Congratulations!
An incredible day at Police HQ for their family fun day, with dog handling displays, interactive stalls, activities for children and all the family. I bumped into one of my Police Cadets at the BBQ! It was also an opportunity to hand out police awards to officers and volunteers for their invaluable work.
A quick stop at the Polish Heritage Day on the way home, with gymnastics, volleyball, Polish food and fun for all. I even managed to say hello to the Herts Safer Neighbourhood team between queues of children inspecting their police car.
Day two took me to Watford FC to watch Elton John perform in his old stadium in front of the crowds, before back to serious work with a virtual meeting with the Regional Tribunal Judges to learn how they deal with over 3,000 appeals per annum, mainly against benefit or child support decisions. Another important visit to the Broxbourne Police station followed, presenting awards to three deserving officers.
20 young people in residential or foster care gathered at Mill Green tearooms in Hatfield to be trained to run the café during the summer, led by Jane Shipley and her volunteers from Elsa Next Generation. More young people, the Prince’s Trust Team 21, were at WGC Fire station to plan their futures, but I was not expecting talented artist Lily to sketch me in my hat! Then a useful morning in Hertford to discover the support given by East Herts District Council to the voluntary sector and to say hi to Ben Cannell, busy working on this year’s Hertford Theatre panto “The Snowsmith”.
More Jubilee celebrations with a magnificent concert in St Albans Cathedral before TRH the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, put on by the Herts Lieutenancy and the St Albans International Organ Festival. Such glorious music! Another real highlight was the re-naming of the University of Hertfordshire’s Law Court Building after esteemed alumni Professor Grace Ononiwu CBE, Director of Legal Services for the Crown Prosecution Service. A true pioneer.
The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Broxbourne took me on a tour of the Borough, starting with learning about CHEXs, CVS and Communities 1st, before a visit to Holdbrook School with its inspirational Head Ms Angeli. I was so impressed with her achievements that I returned a week later to present her with a High Sheriff’s Certificate.
The Lee Valley White Water Centre was hosting the passing on of the Commonwealth Games Baton by silver medallist Mallory Franklin; watching it being safely carried through the white water by Lynn Whitnall of Paradise Wildlife Park while Mallory paddled her canoe was terrific.
Hertfordshire is full of beautiful churches. It was an honour to open the Standon Flower Festival at St Mary’s with the incredible displays and to support East Herts Chairman Cllr Ian Devonshire at his Civic Service in St Andrew’s, Much Hadham.
My hectic schedule continued with a visit to One YMCA in Welwyn Garden City, where they give a home and hope to 128 homeless young people while they put their lives back together. They have exciting development plans to increase their reach and support.
Back to the University to watch young entrepreneurs pitching their business plans in the Enterprise Hub, then an exciting morning at Essex and Herts Air Ambulance joined by the High Sheriff of Essex. I was delighted to present a certificate to Mary Davis who had celebrated her birthday by a run to raise money for them, and to see the value by hearing the story of a young man whose life was saved last year.
The sun shone at Knebworth and there were musings and music in memory of the late David Lytton Cobbold, such an inspiration to his family, friends and the Hertfordshire community. A picnic in the Park was the perfect celebration of his life.
The 150-strong Classical Chorus Choir from St Albans, conducted by the inspiring Abigail Harris, headed to the Royal Academy of Music in London for two charity performances ahead of their tour to Barcelona. Over £5,000 was raised for Breast Cancer Now, whom I have represented for nearly 30 years, but on this occasion I was the compere in my role as a very proud High Sheriff to be introducing such talent.
I enjoyed a return visit to Emmaus in St Albans to meet with HACRO, who help offenders turn their lives around. The amazing ex-offender Tony leads their Building Better Opportunities programme where clients make carpentry masterpieces, learn public speaking and more.
It was a privilege to join Judge Kay’s leaving tea at St Albans Crown Court where he introduced new Resident Judge Lana Wood and thanked the court staff whom he called the unsung heroes of the justice system. A quick dash on to WGC for more police awards, another opportunity to acknowledge police officers and staff for their long service and achievements. They really do keep us safe.
East Herts police cover one third of Herts. Challenged by rural crime and having to cover wide distances, they have a strong team and engage well with the community. An extremely useful visit with Chief Inspector David Cooke at the Hertford police station.
More fact-finding over lunch in St Albans with Dean Jo Kelly-Moore, hearing about the role of the Cathedral within the community, the 30 or more charities they support and her work with those addicted to drugs and alcohol. Her team’s understanding and pastoral help is vital for the vulnerable in Hertfordshire.
Although I had to miss the Herts County Council garden party (happily represented though by my Under Sheriff Richard Taylor), Chairman Annie Brewster invited me to County Hall along with the next High Sheriff in nomination, Liz Green. We met representatives from SASH, a County Council service providing essential support for troubled young people between 11 and 18, at risk of going into care, child exploitation, homelessness or offending.
Back to St Albans Cathedral for an important historic moment when Abbot John of Wheathampstead was reburied near the Shrine of St Alban. His 15th century remains were discovered during excavations for the new Welcome Centre and he is now laid to rest once more.
The summer picnic after the Sunday morning service at St Catherine’s in Sacombe was an opportunity to join my Chaplain Rev John Chitham to inspect the tree we planted at my High Sheriff Declaration four months ago. A fitting end to a glorious month.