SSAFA AGM – 4th April 2019

This will be the last entry from this High Sheriff as the baton is passed to the next High Sheriff, James Hervey-Bathurst, tomorrow night. I attended the 2018 SSAFA AGM a couple of days before my declaration so I am starting and finishing with this event. It is a perfect sample of what we have seen during the year. So many people doing so much for others in need for little to no reward.

Stephen Richards, acting director of Client Services at the SSAFA Central Office, addressed the meeting. It is clear that the Herefordshire branch of SSAFA is seen as a shining beacon of what a branch should be, thanks to its leadership and volunteers. It was also good that Stephen himself is clearly so dedicated to the job. There is much to do to look after veterans and their families. “Veterans” implies old people but there are plenty of young people too, recently leaving the armed forces who need their help too. There are many in Herefordshire and not all are known to any organisation, amazingly.

The Branch is in good heart and was warmly praised by Lady Darnley, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire, who is the Branch President and a fervent supporter of their work.

Some long service awards were presented. One was for 30 years service.

Herefordshire Youth Music Concerts – 2nd and 3rd April 2019

On Tuesday and Wednesday night at the Shirehall, Hereford, the Herefordshire Youth Music held their Spring Concerts.

On Tuesday, we heard the Brass and Concert Bands. First on were the Intermediate Concert Band with four pieces including Modest Mussorgsky’s  A Night on a Bare Mountain. Next was the Youth Brass Bands with eight pieces. I particularly enjoyed Mack the Knife. The Junior Concert Band gave us four pieces, arrangements of songs that we knew well and loved. Finally, The Herefordshire Youth Concert Band gave us three pieces, starting with excerpts from the Rite of Spring under the baton of Encore’s very own Cliff Woollard. This is a very dissonant piece with lots of changes in tempo – difficult and played very well. After a piece from Delibes’ ballet, Sylvia, we ended with a bang with music from the film, The Incredibles.

On Wednesday, it was the turn of the Strings, Beginner Ensembles and the Herefordshire Youth Choir. Tonight, many of the players were smaller than their instruments. We started with the Starter Concert Band with three pieces : Handel then Beethoven and, by way of contrast, Pirates of the Caribbean. Next were the Starter Strings with a Polka, a Calypso and a Quickstep. The future dance band in the Green Dragon on a Saturday night? The Junior Strings started with a stately Pavane, then Molly Malone’s Cockles and Mussels, followed by the delightfully named Scottish Brawl. Sadly, the Scottish wife was not there to hear this tribute to her countryfolk.

The Ukulele Ensemble (21 listed in the programme so a lot of ukuleles) started with Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious. Hopefully, I will be the only High Sheriff in the UK who has this word in their blog. This was followed by “I have a Dream”, “500 Miles” and a Gospel trio with some of the Herefordshire Youth Choir. The rest of the Herefordshire Youth Choir then sang three pieces and the Intermediate Strings finished the concert with another three pieces.

Herefordshire is the Music County.

Official Launch of the West Mercia new Victim Advice Line – 1st April 2019

To Hindlip Hall, HQ of the West Mercia Police which covers Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire,  joined by Cassian Roberts, outgoing High Sheriff of Worcestershire and Josh Dixey, newly minted High Sheriff of Shropshire, for the Official Launch of West Mercia’s new Victim Support Line. They have, in effect, taken in house, the service previously offered by Victim Support, an independent charity. The ten or so dedicated people providing this service sit in the same control room next door to the police team that are working on the crime. They will have access to the same information and will be able to update the victims of crime on the progress of the investigation as well as direct victims to specialist services to help alleviate the consequences of the crime, whatever it was.

It should also save police time since dedicated people who are not fully trained police officers will keep victims in the picture while the trained police officers concentrate on the crime itself.

The Hon Lady Morrison, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire led the ceremony to launch the service and cut a cake (since there was nowhere to put a ribbon!). This is much to be preferred.

Here is an article on the West Mercia Web-site. Note the number 0800 952 3000. It has its own web-site here.

After the launch, the three High Sheriffs sat down with Martin Evans, Assistant Chief Constable for a debrief on various matters, including National Crimebeat – under the aegis of the High Sheriff Association- that rewards innovative crime prevention initiatives.

Visit to the Wye Valley NHS Trust – 29th March 2019

Wye Valley NHS Trust (“WVT”) is the provider of healthcare services at Hereford County Hospital, which is based in the city of Hereford, along with a number of community services for Herefordshire and its borders. It also provide healthcare services at community hospitals in the market towns of Ross-on-Wye, Leominster and Bromyard (but not Ledbury which is run by Shaw Healthcare).

The Trust provides acute and community healthcare but not mental healthcare which is provided by 2gether NHS Foundation Trust which covers Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

The Wye Valley NHS Trust faced some considerable challenges and was put into special measures. In 2017 a “Foundation Group” was formed between South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust and  WVT whereby the former mentored the latter. In 2018, the George Eliot NHS Trust in Nuneaton joined the group. Glen Burley is chief executive of the group with Jane Ives, who we met and who gave us a tour, being managing director of the WVT.

Hereford Hospital was built under a PFI contract (Private Finance Initiative using private money to pay for the upfront costs of design, build and maintenance) . This is not the place to argue the merits or otherwise of PFI apart from pointing to their lack of flexibility. The central problem with the Hereford Hospital PFI contract was that there were simply not enough acute beds, with knock on effects on Accident and Emergency and elsewhere. This requires more money to solve. The structure of  the NHS has made this difficult (Foundation Hospitals can fund capital projects from different sources other than applying to the Department of Heath but WVT is not a Foundation hospital and while it had problems cannot be – a Catch 22). The good news is that being part of a “Foundation Group” – the inverted commas signifying that this is an innovative structure, is making it possible to apply for funds. Some of the wards date back to the last war and were built for the Canadian Army. There is funding and a timetable in place to replace these wards and increase the number of acute beds.

There has been a repeated theme that we have observed in regulated institutions. When they get a poor inspection, part of the solution to which is clearly capital funding, that funding is not available. Meanwhile, the media have a field-day blaming management. The public and media need to be rather more sophisticated in their analysis. Hopefully, the WVT have broken out of this funding trap using their partnerships and we can look forward to more improvements to those which have already been made. We were very impressed by the “can-do” approach that we saw.

Another example of the trap is the need to use expensive agency staff because there is not enough accommodation for in-house staff. There is a clear plan to deal with this with an major upgrade of the accommodation. This would then free up funds for other benefits – a virtuous circle. Let us hope that the capital funding is made available.

Visit to the Hereford College of Arts – 29th March 2019

We visited the Hereford College of Arts and saw around both its campuses, on Folly Lane and on College Road. We were told about the College and its ambitions by Abigail Appleton, the Principal.  The College was founded in the mid 19th Century so has had time to build a formidable reputation. It is independent, the only such in the West Midlands. It offers a wide range of short courses and, in 2018/19, 11 college level programmes (A levels), 12 Ba (Hons) degrees and 2 MA programmes. They have over 15o staff including many who continue their own professional creative practise alongside teaching. They also have 30 or so influential and inspiring fellows.

The Folly Lane campus is a modern building  fronted by an architecturally innovative Hub. This campus is dedicated to the A-level teaching

The College Road Campus, which is dedicated to degree courses, is in a gothic listed building originally designed for the Royal National College for the Blind. There are exciting plans to expand this campus following a transaction between Hereford Council and the Royal National College that sees the latter consolidating its campus around the Point4 (See article on Hereford Council Web-site). This will include student accommodation for both the HCA and NMITE (The new University per other blog entries).

An interesting aspect of the HCA approach is to emphasise the important of English and Maths so that its graduates are able to communicate their ideas effectively in employment.

Here is a link to their web-site. This College is a national treasure.

Herefordshire Music Fund Relaunch – 28th March 2019

Some years ago, Jonathan Godfrey OBE, then Principal of the Hereford Sixth Form College (now a Director of the Hay Festival), launched a fund to provide bursaries for music tuition, primarily for Sixth Form College students. This has now been relaunched as a separate charity managed by Encore, the organisation that provides music services to all Herefordshire schools. The fund has the same goal of providing bursaries to anyone in the County who would not otherwise be able to afford music lessons. I was honoured to be a host of this relaunch event at the Sixth Form College. Before the relaunch event itself, we were treated to a wide variety of music treats from Poulenc to Guns N’ Roses and all points in between.

The Event was attended by the Dowager Countess of Darnley, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire and a number of Mayors from the market towns of Hereford. The audience was primarily made up of a formidable of array of the movers and shakers in the musical world of the County. A purpose was to raise money for the fund but, more importantly, the hope is that the audience would organise musical events that would also raise money for the Fund.

The Ambition is to be able to support 40 young people every year. It would take 200 people £5/month to achieve this, £12,000 in total or £300/per bursary. As the leaflet says “Every donation goes towards helping young musicians develop their talent and overcome the financial and social barriers they face”. It is a very achievable goal which, I hope can easily be surpassed.

Here is a link to the Herefordshire Music fund web-page. At the bottom you will see how to donate. I believe passionately in the power of music of all types to help give young people confidence, appreciate beauty, work as a team towards a end greater that the sum of the parts.

Faure’s Requiem – 27th March 2019

This event was driven by the Cathedral School but brought together school choirs from all around the county in Hereford Cathedral.

In the first half, we heard classical pieces by Mozart and Debussy before a new piece called Night Sky, written by Judah Moore, a Hereford Cathedral School, musician of what was obvious talent. We also heard Time by Hans Zimmer, the soundtrack for the 2010 movie Inception followed by The Curse of the Black Pearl written by Claus Badell for the movie, The Pirates of the Caribbean. All good fun.

In the second half, a change in mood as we heard Faure’s Requiem. The choir was some hundreds strong with many very young people, many apparently without music but clearly singing their hearts out at the right times under David Evans’ baton. The Pie Jesu was exquisite. What an experience for the young choir to remember.

Visit to Hereford & Ludlow College – 27th March 2019

Next door to the Sixth Form College is the Herefordshire & Ludlow College. On the web-site is listed three campuses – Hereford, Ludlow and Holme Lacy.

Hereford, which used to be what was called a Technology College, offers a wide range of courses well beyond technology in the old sense – full and part time, Higher Education, Apprenticeships and Short/Hobby as well as distance learning courses. Its facilities are of the highest standard. Again, as we went around, we sensed an vibrant energy from staff and students.

Ludlow College is a Sixth Form college but also offering part time Adult and Leisure Courses.  with its own prospectus and web-site here.

Holme Lacy offers land based courses on a 257 acre mixed organic farm.

The Principal, Ian Peake, is proud of the College and believes that he has a formula that makes the College successful and is looking to expand this elsewhere. Everything that we saw would underwrite that belief. Mrs High Sheriff was keen to enrol the High Sheriff as soon as possible.


Visit to Hereford Sixth Form College – 27th March 2019

Peter Cooper, principal of the Sixth Form College in Folly Lane in Hereford met us to talk about the work of the College and give us a guided tour. Apart from the John Masefield secondary school in Ledbury and the John Kyrle School in Ross-on-Wye, there are no other sixth form colleges in Herefordshire and most of the County and further afield will come here to do a myriad of A-level subjects. I counted 40 in the prospectus. In addition there is strong emphasis on other subjects and activities so that students leave with a rounded education.

The College won TES 2016 Sixth Form College Of The Year and has retained an Ofsted Outstanding rating for fourteen years.

On our tour, everywhere we went, there were things happening with energy and verve. This is another example of Herefordshire punching well above its weight. No backwater but the best education to be found anywhere.


The Vennture Volunteer Celebration Dinner – 26th March 2019

Vennture, the charity that ahs appeared in this year’s blog and has been supported by many previous High Sheriffs, had a dinner at All Saint’s Church Hereford, for its volunteers at which awards were given for outstanding contributions. They are all outstanding but some stood out even further. This is what Vennture does. A major force for good.

We also played some fun games in which we raced to link the common theme from four seemingly disconnected statements. Some was some impressive lateral thinking  at speed on display.