On 12th April, I attended two declarations, in Llanfair Caereinion for David Peate and in Worcester for Edward Holloway. There were interesting variations between the two events, although the end results were identical.
In Powys, we assembled in St Mary’s Church, where the declaration was presided over by the Revd Yaqoob Khushi, the new High Sheriff’s chaplain, and the Rt Hon Lord Lloyd Jones, a Justice of the Supreme Court. It was a well-attended service, with David Peate’s daughter playing the harp beautifully before and during the service, when she accompanied the tenor Edryd Williams. I tried to follow the Welsh version of a hymn to the tune of Cwm Rhondda, but I had to rely on volume rather than accuracy as far as joining in was concerned.
In Worcester, the declaration was held in Court No 1 in the Shirehall. Lucy & I were seated, along with other current or former High Sheriffs, in the dock, a unique experience, I hope. Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, and the Revd Anne Potter, Chaplain to the new High Sheriff, Edward Holloway, presided and led the prayers respectively. Again, the event was well attended by civic dignitaries, the Police and other emergency services as well as several former High Sheriffs willing and able to offer helpful advice and the Lord Lieutenant. Edward Holloway and I hope to make some joint visits together in our year as there is some overlap between our two counties.
Karen Usher DL, a driving force behind the establishment of NMiTe (New Model in Technology & Engineering), invited me to meet the Design Cohort and view the former Robert Owen Academy buildings which will become the main NMiTE site off Blackfriars in the centre of Hereford.
The Design Cohort works on several topics that range from ideas on student life (health, sports, culture, community) to input on the delivery of the curriculum; how students will be assessed; student accommodation; academic buildings and equipment; community relations; marketing and more. They are in teams of 5 and work in open-plan offices on St Peter’s Square. The team members are a mixture of gap-year students and graduates, from a range of disciplines. They are 25 in total, paid for their work and an almost equal balance of genders.
It is a pioneering project for the UK, where aspiring students have never previously had the chance to design their future studying environment. To judge by the enthusiasm of the group and the quality of their output, it is working well. The space at the former Academy has great potential, and it will soon be clear how it can best be refurbished and used. NMiTE will be a great boost to Hereford and, it is hoped, engineering companies seeking talented and committed recruits for their key sector in the British economy.
My first appointment after my Declaration was to attend the opening of the Bromyard Festival of Speed. As I normally attend the Bromyard Gala with a steam engine, the event promised to be quite a contrast.
Lucy & I met Roger Page, the Mayor, and his consort, Clare Davies, with the mayoral party at the Falcon Hotel for refreshments before being led up the street by his town crier, Peder Neilsen, for the start of the festival, preceded by photographs. Shortly afterwards, an impressive stream of vintage cars roared, if that is possible at 30mph, past, making the drivers and the and admiring crowds very happy. The cars ranged from Rolls Royce’s to an Austin 7.
Events like this are an important part of the mix of attractions Herefordshire can offer visitors, and the centre of Bromyard makes an excellent backdrop. Up to 10,000 have attended the event in the past, bringing good business to the town. Plenty of cakes and tea were on offer at the Royal British Legion, under the watchful eye of Major (Retd) Jan Brodie-Murphy.
James Hervey-Bathurst CBE DL , in Court number 1 at the Shirehall in Hereford, made the oath as laid down in the 1887 Sheriffs Act before The Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire The Dowager Lady Darnley, the Vice-Lord Lieutenant and many of the Deputy Lieutenants, neighbouring High Sheriffs and many past High Sheriffs, The Vice Chair of Hereford Council, The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Hereford, the Mayors of the Herefordshire market towns, The Bishop of Hereford, the Bishop of Ludlow, the Precentor of Hereford Cathedral, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Chief Constable of West Mercia, Superintendent Thomas (the Senior Police Officer for Herefordshire), a senior representative of the Fire & Rescue Service, a number of her Majesty’s distinguished judges, magistrates, the coroner and other distinguished guests.
Sir Geoffrey Vos, The Chancellor of the High Court of England and Wales, presided over the ceremony and addressed the company.
Thus James is for the time being at Her Majesty’s pleasure the High Sheriff of Herefordshire.
A Festival of Artist Blacksmithing was organised by Hereford Bid and the Hereford College of Arts. This runs from 5th to 14th April at various venues in Hereford City. mostly in the Maylord shopping centre and is a mixture of exhibitions and presentations and the opportunity to have a go yourself.
Paul Mikula, a South African Blacksmith designed a piece called “African Sun Mandela”, which was assembled by students from the HCA and I saw at the Maylord Shopping centre in Gomond Street. It is magnificent.
Ambrose Burne, a lecturer at the HCA, set a challenge for students world-wide to make the most of a piece of metal 150mm by 20mm by 20mm. It attracted more than 200 entries which are on exhibition throughout the week before they go on tour. The creativity and the beauty of the results left me open-mouthed. As the last event for this High Sheriff before handing over to his successor in about an hour’s time, it was a great finale.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.