Monday 15th May 2017
The Mayor-Making at Hereford City Council. Jim Kenyon came to the end of his term as Mayor, and Councillor Sharon Michael was elected the 636th Mayor of Hereford in a colourful ceremony at the Town Hall. Sharon has chosen as her Mayor’s charities Blood Bikes, an organisation of volunteer motorcycles who transport urgently required blood supplies to hospitals, and the Hereford branch of the National Autism Society, an important charity which seeks to spread understanding of autism as well as to improve care and support of those with the condition.
After the Mayor-Making we were treated to an excellent dinner in the town Hall, which was a very good opportunity to catch up with many of the Mayor’s guests. I wish Sharon every success in her year of office.
Saturday 13th May
To Leominster in the evening for the Annual Meeting and Mayor-Making of Leominster Town Council. A fascinating mix of ceremony and informality, with the Sergeant at Arms and the Mace Bearers in attendance, and less conventional office holders such as the Ale Taster and the Bread Weigher, dressed in Elizabethan costume.
In a delightful speech, warmly applauded, the outgoing Mayor, Angela Pendleton, reported on a crowded year as Mayor of Leominster, and on raising £7,400 for her two charities: Dementia Friendly Leominster, and the Children’s Ward at Hereford County Hospital. Angela’s husband, Roger Pendleton, the present Deputy Mayor, was elected as Mayor of Leominster for 2017-18, and chose as his Mayor’s Charity the Janice and Peter McCaull Trust, which provides advice and assistance to young people in Leominster with programmes of physical and educational activities to advance them in life. I wish him all the best for his year of office.
It was good to meet a wide range of guests at the reception following the Mayor-Making, including Inspector Callie Bradley, who is the Safer Neighbourhood Team Inspector for rural Herefordshire and the Market Towns, with particular responsibility for improving the relationship between victims of crime and the police. As High Sheriff I have a particular role in supporting justice, law and order, so it was especially useful to be able to discuss a number of policing issues.
Sunday 7th May
I attended the Orchestral Eucharist at the Cathedral. This is an annual Service for the Cathedral’s Feast of Consecration. Although there is some debate about the precise year in which the consecration of the Cathedral took place, the date of 11th May (or the nearest Sunday) has for centuries been the occasion of this celebration.
As always, the music was outstanding. The orchestra, led by Hazel Davis, accompanied the Cathedral Choir and soloists Lucy Bowen, Susanna Spicer, James Oxley and Alex Ashworth in Haydn’s Schöpfungsmesse or Creation Mass (so called because for the Qui tollis peccata mundi section Haydn re-used the music of Adam and Eve’s final duet in the oratorio The Creation. As the Dean told us in his sermon, this so scandalised the Empress Maria Theresa that she had Haydn re-compose that section for her own personal copy!
The Dean’s sermon centred upon the special place of cathedrals in worship and in communities. They are places of calm, peace and prayer, but they can also be catalysts for challenging assumptions and encouraging fresh thinking. As someone remarked after the Service, they cater for their regular congregations, but also for “entry-level Christianity” – you can go to a cathedral without being “labelled” as you might be in a small parish. As an assistant priest in an eight-parish benefice you would rightly expect me to be supportive of parish worship, but it is also right to celebrate our own wonderful Cathedral, its worship and its music.
And – before a drinks party hosted by the Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust in the Bishop’s Garden – it was music that ended the Service, with Peter Dyke performing a spectacular improvisation on the last hymn O Praise Ye the Lord – ten minutes of superb musical invention with the hymn-tune returning in the last few bars on the trumpet stop!
Saturday 29th April
I was welcomed by the Dean of Hereford at the Apple Pavement outside the West end of the Cathedral, and then walked in procession with the Bishop of Hereford, led by the Town Crier, Jim Kenyon the Mayor, in his robes, the Junior Mayor Tofi Folayan, the Dean, the Sword Bearer and the Liveried Men. We made quite a colourful spectacle!
We arrived at the Left Bank, where the Junior Mayor and Aaron Baldwin, the Chair of Hereford City Youth Council, declared the 2017 River Carnival open. We had splendidly energetic songs from the choirs of Blackmarston School and Lugwardine School, and then enjoyed the wonderful array of stalls, music and activities both at the Left Bank and on Bishop’s Meadow. I was interviewed by Seb Fuller on Carnival PA Radio, and was able to explain the role of the High Sheriff as well as to raise awareness for my theme of tackling loneliness and isolation.
At lunchtime – fortified by some extremely good burgers! – Robert and I watched the colourful (and noisy!) procession from Castle Green, through the City and onto Bishop’s Meadow. Later we helped judge the river floats as they arrived at Victoria Bridge – a wonderfully creative display with mermaids, a pirate ship (and explosions) and a range of decoration and propulsion. The judges awarded the prize to the ELY Memorial Fund float, and there were a lot of honourable mentions.
My warm thanks to Stuart Fox and the team for their outstanding organisation (and to Jo Henshaw for getting me from place to place on time!). The day was a wonderful celebration of Hereford and Herefordshire.
Friday 28th April
The second Royal visit: HRH The Princess Royal flew into Longlands, a centre for Riding for the Disabled and a care farm. Longlands was set up 15 years ago by the inspirational Julia Evans, and now has both permanent staff and a large team of volunteers providing alternative education to break cycles of poor achievement and low aspiration. The Princess is National President of the RDA, and showed her enthusiasm for the work of Longlands, and her knowledge of the challenges, during a happy visit in the sunshine (that gave way to rain a few minutes after HRH had departed by helicopter!).
Thursday 27th April
The AGM of SSAFA (formerly the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) took place at The Kindle Centre, Hereford. This featured case histories of Service people and their families who have used SSAFA in the last year. It was heart-warming to hear about the help that SSAFA was able to provide, and at the same time chastening to realise how difficult life can be for some people after they leave the Services.
I then had a fascinating tour of the Kindle Centre with the Manager, Mandy Smith, with an update on the wide variety of services available both to the local and the wider community.
Wednesday, 26th April 2017
The Great Spring Gardening Event for the British Red Cross. This was held in the delightful surroundings of Newport House, near Almeley, and was faultlessly organised under the chairmanship of Debra Tritton, the British Red Cross President for Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire, who was also our host for lunch.
The BRC and the Co-op have established a partnership to tackle loneliness in the UK and Debra Tritton gave me a copy of the report ‘Trapped in a bubble’, an investigation into triggers for loneliness in the UK. Herefordshire has been allocated a small amount of the £7m that this partnership has raised. Mark Astarita, the National Fund raising manager introduced me to Fiona Mac, a local Red Cross volunteer and Community Connector, working in The Golden Valley and Garway,
I really appreciated the opportunity to talk to British Red Cross representatives and to follow this up during an excellent lunch prepared and served by Red Cross volunteers (among whom I spotted a good many friends!).
After lunch, it was a great pleasure to tour the marquees and stalls, with an amazing variety of foods, plants, crafts and everything else! We left with our bags heavier and our wallets lighter, which is as it should be for such a good cause. And the sun shone!
Sunday 23rd April
The Kington Civic Service. Lunch at Hergest Croft Gardens hosted by the Mayor of Kington, Elizabeth Banks and her husband Lawrence was attended by the new High Sheriff of Powys and other civic guests, and lunch was followed by a Service at Kington Parish Church led by the Revd Ben Griffiths, the Vicar of Kington, at which the Lord-Lieutenant was represented by Edward Harley (High Sheriff of Herefordshire 2015-16). The Service featured the Kington Church Choir and the Kington Community Choir and prayers were said by members of the different church communities in the Parish and it was a privilege for me to take part in the Service by reading a lesson.
Friday April 21st
To the Judge’s Lodgings in Presteigne for the Declaration of the new High Sheriff of Powys, Sue Thompson. The ceremony took place in the beautifully restored Victorian Courthouse where the Declaration in the even older Prayer Book English sounded quite at home. Fittingly, the blessing by the High Sheriff’s Chaplain was in both English and Welsh. I reflected on how the start of each county’s High Sheriff’s year is different. In Powys, the High Sheriff has to say what she intends to do in her year; with us (I am glad to say) the speech is retrospective. In Herefordshire, the Declaration takes place in the secular surroundings of a courtroom; but in Gloucestershire the Declaration happens as part of a Cathedral Service (and is combined with the Legal Service, which for us comes halfway through the year).
Thursday 20th April
The first Royal visit of my Shrieval year; I was in attendance as HRH The Duke of Kent visited Prometheus, a company based near Leominster, supplying state-of-the-art, pre-hospital medical equipment for use especially in trauma cases. The company trains healthcare professionals as well as lay people, and its world-wide reputation and export prospects are growing. It is a fascinating company with innovative products, and a strong company ethos of service to the community.
Then we moved on to the beautiful Hergest Croft Gardens near Kington, where the Duke was welcomed by Lawrence and Elizabeth Banks, planted a tree to commemorate his visit, and then joined representatives of the local community at lunch, before he went on to see Jo Hilditch’s British Cassis operation near Lyonshall.