Here are just a few of the activities and events that I have attended during the month…….
The highlight of a High Sheriff’s year is the Justice Service which was held on Wednesday 2nd October
The biennial Justice Service took place in All Saints’ Church, Oakham on Wed 2ndOctober on a delightfully sunny autumnal morning. It is a traditional Service of prayer and thanksgiving for those who administer the law, arranged by the High Sheriff for their County.
Those in the procession from the Castle to the Church gathered in the Castle for an early morning coffee and chat. At just before 10 am the robed procession gathered outside the Castle. It included the Honourable Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, myself, Circuit Judges who sit in Leicestershire, Magistrates, the Lord Lieutenant of Rutland, High Sheriffs from neighbouring counties, our Police and Crime Commissioner, Lord Bach; senior members of the Police, Fire, Prison services, Air Force; mayors of Oakham and Uppingham, members of Rutland County Council and Town councillors.
To herald the arrival of the procession in church, fanfares were played by Freddie Buchanan and Steve Foster (trumpets) and Peter Davis (organ) from Oakham School. The service was led by the Revd Stephen Griffiths (Team Rector of Oakham), supported by Rev Anthony Oram, Chaplain to the High Sheriff and Rev Charlotte Osborn (Team Curate of Oakham). During the service Oakham School Chamber Choir sang two pieces including the anthem: Here my prayer, O Lord by Henry Purcell. Bible readings were read by the Hon Mr Justice Jeremy Baker and myself. Justice Readings were read by Her Honour Judge Jane George and Assistant Chief Constable Julia Debenham. These readings showed the similarity between clauses from Magna Carta (sealed by King John in 1215) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948). The address was given by Rev Anthony Oram, Chaplain to the High Sheriff. He spoke on the theme of justice and protection in our society, equating “defending the vulnerable, the poor, and the needy – with justice.”
Our Justice Service precedes the biennial Crown Court sitting in Oakham Castle, which is necessary to maintain the Castle as a seat of Justice to serve the Community. Oakham Castle is regarded as the longest seat of continuous justice in the land; the first record of an Assize is in 1229. The court sitting was presided upon by the Honourable Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, who dealt with four different cases during the two hour sitting. Students from the Rutland secondary schools/colleges, who are interested in studying law, were invited to attend. They were intrigued to see the barristers and Judge ‘at work’ and enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions of the Judge after the sitting.
After the court sitting , I hosted a lunch for a few guests from the service and court, in the nearby Church Hall. The tables were laid using Rutland Pride & Rutland Living magazines as table mats and horseshoes (from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in Melton Mowbray) with flowers as centrepieces. It was an opportunity to truly showcase Rutland.
The Justice service was a very special occasion, and it was an honour to lead it, as High Sheriff. Together, we were able to reflect upon and celebrate the work of those engaged in maintaining ‘law and order’. We were very fortunate to have our court sitting attended by the High Court Judge, the Honourable Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, who is a Presiding Judge of the Midlands Circuit. It was an opportunity to witness and reflect upon the importance of a fair and transparent legal system.
A very special, enjoyable and memorable day
This morning I took a ride on the Uppingham Hopper, enjoying its hourly route around and through the town. This amazing service – free of charge to the passengers – enables many to visit town and attend appointments, who otherwise could not get there without alternative transport. I enjoyed meeting some of the regular travellers who tell me that they use the service about three times per week. It’s social, friendly, safe and free. What a fabulous community service. Many congratulations and thanks to all those volunteer drivers, those who organise the service, maintain the bus and fund raise to keep it going.
Rutland Community Ventures
This morning I joined an activity with Community Ventures in Uppingham Town Hall. The sessions are run in 6 week periods for those with dementia and their carers. Today they were taught paper marbling and went on to use the beautifully decorated paper to cover books or make bookmarks. It was lovely to meet the participants who all seemed to enjoy the creativity and the comfortable social occasion. Without doubt this benefits both the dementia sufferer and the carer. These wonderful sessions take place throughout the county – organised by Ben Searle and his partner in Community Ventures, Tony. This is such a great community activity offered free, thanks to the volunteers – so please do share this with anyone who you feel might benefit from this.
Rutland Food and Drink Festival
This Festival lasts for a week throughout Rutland with a variety of events. Today we went into Oakham town which was full of people enjoying the fare from the many food and drink stalls that lined the high street, and filled the market place and Castle. It was a gorgeous sunny day and great to see so many people enjoying the sunshine and festival. We particularly enjoyed meeting the owner of the Rutland based Vivia Crumps – a company that sells a wide range of delicious chutneys and relishes.
Sat 26th Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance
This evening we attended the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at De Montfort Hall in Leicester. It was a wonderful occasion featuring the brilliant Desford Colliery Band. During the first half of the evening we were entertained with a wide variety of pieces played by the Band. In the second half we took part in the moving Service of Remembrance. It was very special to be there in the company of many ex-service men and women and young cadets as well as people from the Councils, different faiths and the Lieutenancy.
Choice Unlimited at Rutland Showground
This was a wonderful gathering at Rutland Showground of Information, services and products for disabled children, young people, adults and carers. It was great to speak to so many people working within these organisations including :
Rutland CAB, Sustainable Land Trust, nspire2, Men in Sheds, Rutland First Responders, Adult Learning and Skills, Rotaract, Out of Hours Club. It is very heartening to see many positive activities and services happening in our County.
Probation Offices, Melton Mowbray
We had a very interesting meeting with members of the Probation service and a service user. The latter had been in prison for over 5 years but had been released about 5 years ago. He was able to tell us of his experiences and challenges in re-entering the outside world and gaining employment. In December he will have his final contact with his Probation officer who he has recently been seeing fortnightly. He was very positive about the support that he has received from this service. The Probation officers described some of the work that they undertake to help reintegrate prisoners from varying crimes and length of sentences, back into society. They run many rehabilitation courses and counselling programmes to assist but there are many challenges. Throughout they were positive about their work and were often encouraged by those to whom they had made a difference.
Leicestershire and Rutland Magistrates Association AGM and Educational Event
This was an interesting evening event at the Town Hall in Leicester. It provided us with an opportunity to meet some of the local Magistrates and others involved in related agencies. During the meeting we heard a thought-provoking talk on Tackling Knife Crime by Superintendent Shane O’Neill. It is clearly a problem in our region, that reflects the national problem. The most vulnerable group, as victims or perpetrators of knife crime, are males aged 12 – 24 years. The causes in our area are found to be: robbery, alcohol related, drug related, urban street gangs, domestic incidents. Action being taken includes: stop and search, increased sentences, education at primary school age.
Oakham Scouts with Root and Branch Out
Today I visited the Oakham Scouts who, under the guidance of Root and Branch Out, were preparing garden beds for planting at Rutland Plastics. So good to see the young people out in the fresh air , enjoying the gardening project along with Scout leaders and volunteering parents. The results next Spring will be delightful.
Sunday 20th. Courts’ Service for Northamptonshire
Today we joined the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, Mr Nicholas Robertson DL to celebrate the Courts’ Service for the county. The occasion started with a delightful lunch at the home of the High Sheriff. We met members of the judiciary in Northamptonshire, their Lord-Lieutenant, members of the clergy and other interesting and entertaining guests. After a delicious lunch we headed to nearby Rothwell church. The service contained some thought-provoking readings, splendid trumpeters and plenty well-known hymns for the congregation. The service gave us all time to reflect upon and celebrate the impressive work of our judiciary. After the service we were treated to a wonderful tea in the church which gave us the opportunity to meet many who lived in Northamptonshire.
Met PC Appleton and PC Icke together with RCC personnel at a stall in Oakham market place, informing locals about Modern Slavery. It’s vital that we all know the signs and make real efforts to stop modern slavery. There is a helpline to call if needed: 08000 121 700.
Rutland in Concert
All 17 Primary and 4 Secondary state schools in Rutland gathered for ‘Rutland in Concert’ at De Montfort Hall, Leicester this evening. Secondary pupils entertained us with singing from a Chamber Choir and a Massed Secondary School Choir as well as music from two Rock bands. We were then privileged to hear the world premiere of the Pied Piper! sung by all 17 primary schools, dressed in red T shirts. The music had been composed by Peter Davis who also conducted the choir, having rehearsed with them for many weeks prior to the night.
It was excellent to see so many young people singing on a grand stage and gaining some incredible memorable experiences. A huge well done to The Music Education Hub for Rutland for achieving its aim “to support and enhance music education opportunities for children and young people”.
Visit to Brooke Hill School
This morning I enjoyed a lovely visit to Brooke Hill School. I began the day by meeting all the pupils at assembly. I talked to them about my role as High Sheriff and the roles that others with ‘uniform’ also have, including themselves in school uniform. The pupils had lots of thoughtful questions for me too ! I then toured the school with Head teacher, Mr Westley. The classes were varied and interesting with some beautiful work ‘on display’. This felt like a very active and purposeful school , with great care given to the progress and well-being of every pupil. Many congratulations to all the staff involved in making the school such a happy place of learning.
Rural Achievement awards 19
This evening we attended the Rural Achievement Awards 19 at Winstanley House, Leicester. Leicestershire and Rutland are predominantly rural counties with most of the population living in small rural market towns, villages and hamlets. The RCC (Rural Community Council) is a charity that focusses purely on activity to represent and support rural communities, a unique and valued role which they have held for well over 90 years. They work with people to tackle rural and community issues through community capacity building, community development, public consultation and engagement, awareness raising and confidence building.
This is the third year that RCC held an awards evening. It was very heartening to learn of the ways in which people have worked (often voluntarily) to enhance and improve the lives of those living in rural communities. Issues such as isolation, loneliness, community led planning are just a few that they focus on. They are soon to launch a ‘coffee-cart’ that will travel to villages needing a coffee hub – look out for this if you live in such a place.
We were particularly delighted to see Joyce Bird from Ketton, receive the ‘Unsung Hero Award’ – in recognition of the “enormous amount of her time and effort” that she has given to the village and community, including spending many years as a local Guide leader. Huge ‘well done’ to Joyce.
International Women’s Day – Rutland style
Fascinating to attend this day organised as a ‘first’ by Helen Briggs, Chief Executive of Rutland County Council. It brought together women involved in RCC and nearby local councils and councillors as well as facilitators/mentors from around the country. The event included presentations, discussion groups, Q&A and talks. The key note speaker was Dr Catherine Raines, who through speaking about her own career, was able to identify the trigger points and challenges that she, and others, can encounter. Her message was to be courageous in accessing the ‘dance floor’ and once there to ‘dance with enthusiasm’ – in other words, work hard to achieve the job and then do it very well. There was plenty opportunity for sharing ideas, common concerns and how to manage identified challenges. Lots of net-working opportunities too. The feedback was excellent and Helen promises to ensure that the work from the event will be continued. Well done to all involved in planning and launching this event.
Uppingham Community College Enterprise Day
Today students from year 9 had spent the morning forming companies to address a variety of issues that they had been presented with eg. What can we do with second hand fancy dress outfits that are not flameproof so cannot be sold in charity shops? How can we help the elderly address loneliness and dementia? How can we encourage the young to read more? Each group of students had been guided during the morning to write a business plan for their company, to carry out secondary market research and to prepare a prototype and marketing materials. I joined a group of adults in the afternoon, who had volunteered to talk with the students about their companies and ask questions to ascertain the strength of their case. We were each allocated 100 ‘investor points’ to share among the companies as we saw fit. There were some wonderfully creative ideas eg apps for the elderly to connect to one another, deliveries of ‘care parcels’ to the elderly, apps to make reading more fun etc.. The students were keen to find their investors in the hall and to take them to their stall where they shared their ideas and resources. A great way to encourage creative thinking and to take a serious look at ways to market life-enhancing products.
AGM of Citizens Advice Bureau
I attended the very informative Citizens Advice Bureau AGM where I was reminded of the great service that CAB offers to our County. Its Chief Executive, Simon Mustaars took us through the Annual Review which evidences the work and progress of the organisation. He and his staff, as well as the team of hard-working volunteers are to be congratulated on providing such a vital service to our community.
Two developing not-for-profit organisations spoke about their projects: Rutland Community Ventures and Root & Branch Out. Both excellent initiatives that help enhance the well-being of those in our community.
Monday 7thOct. Visit to Brooke Priory School
This morning I had a very interesting tour of the School with the recently appointed Headmaster, Mr Duncan Flint. A great school that thoughtfully nurtures the pupils and develops a love of learning, creativity and independence – fabulous life skills. I look forward to returning to give an assembly.
Sunday 6thOct. Justice Service for Cambridgeshire
Today we attended the Justice Service for Cambridgeshire in Peterborough cathedral. This was arranged by their High Sheriff, HH Neil McKittrick. It was a magnificent occasion that began with a sociable lunch at the east end of the cathedral and then moved into the service at 3.30pm.. Readings were given by the Cambridgeshire High Sheriff and Lord Lloyd-Jones, Justice of the Supreme Court. A thoughtful address was given by the Revd Canon Tim Alban-Jones, Vice-Dean and Chaplain to the High Sheriff. We were treated to singing from the cathedral choir and the Kol Echad Choir from Cambridge Synagogue. After the service we enjoyed tea and a chance to meet those who had joined the service.
Visit to Peterborough Prison
Today we were given a tour of both the female and male sections of this prison that has over 1200 residents. This is the nearest female prison to Rutland. We met a number of staff and residents during our visit. It was good to learn about the ways in which the residents are managed and the care that is given to creating individualised programmes for each resident. The aim is to keep them all safe and to aid their successful rehabilitation back into the community. The staff that we met were caring, enthusiastic and keen to help residents make meaningful progress with their lives. Let’s hope that with progressive initiatives and actions, we can reduce the numbers from our community who are actually placed in these prisons. Well done to the staff who manage the prisons, often under challenging circumstances.
Thurs 3rdOct. Chief Constables Awards Ceremony at Athena, Leicester
This evening a large group of people gathered at the Athena in Leicester to witness the Chief Constable’s Award Ceremony. It was a real privilege to see those receiving awards and to hear brief citations about their work. It was absolutely wonderful to see my Police Cadet, Finley O’Riordan receive the Cadet of the Year award – very well-deserved by a diligent and committed cadet. Also a real delight to see PC Joe Lloyd from Oakham, receive the Beat Bobby of the Year award – a well-earned award to a very deserving recipient. Both he and our Chief Constable were interviewed on Radio Leicester the following morning!