2021 began in the same way as my term as High Sheriff began – in the midst of a nationwide Lockdown! Thankfully skills have been learned along the way, and so despite the restrictions, there have been some great opportunities to ‘see’ and highlight more of all Hampshire has to offer to enable law and order to be valued and upheld, so that as many communities and individuals as possible are able to flourish safely.
Law Sunday Virtual Fringe Event
In early January, in partnership with Winchester Cathedral, a new, Virtual Experience, held within the beauty and splendour of the Cathedral, was launched. This was originally planned as a ‘fringe’ event to expand the themes of the Law Sunday Service but as with so many things, Covid has forced us to adapt! The theme of this event is ‘Early Intervention’, and includes a beautiful welcome by Dean Catherine Ogle, a chance to revisit parts of the Law Sunday Service, and also includes films and showcases charities which relate to early intervention.
The technology used to create this space is impressive! Please do click on the links below, come in and explore, both the stunning architecture of the cathedral, but also the amazing work which so many charities in Hampshire are engaged in which you will find displayed both in the Cathedral space but also in a linked website.
Southampton Voluntary Services https://www.southamptonvs.org.uk/
I met with the dynamic Jo Ash, the CEO of Southampton Voluntary Services for an online chat. Even a zoom meeting couldn’t quell Jo’s passion for and love of Southampton, and her pride in the breath of volunteer activity which has served the city of Southampton for many years, and which stepped up to the mark to meet the needs and particular challenges which Covid has brought. Jo retires this summer – though I suspect will carry on being a support to many! The network of charities and how well they are linked into other services for the city is impressive.
YMCA Housing Basingstoke https://ymca-fg.org/basingstoke-housing/
The housing project in Basingstoke is one of 3 YMCA housing projects across Hampshire and the IOW which offer care to a wide range of vulnerable people – vulnerable mums and families on the Isle of Wight, 16 – 21 years old in Southampton, and then extending that help to a slightly older age group in Basingstoke.
I had the great pleasure of a Zoom meeting with Adam Barratt Alexander, who manages the Basingstoke project. Living near Basingstoke I was keen to hear what was happening locally. Adam let me know about how the pandemic has added stresses and strains to an already challenging job but all the staff have adapted to work during Covid creatively and compassionately. They have been flexible, done things that aren’t normally within their role specs in order that all those they house can be ‘at home’ in the best ways possible during lockdowns. The timely interventions offered by the YMCA can radically change the trajectory of an individual’s life, literally from homelessness to hope. Basingstoke offer space for c80 18-30 year olds, a home base with support to enable each person to move towards independent living.
Step by Step https://www.stepbystep.org.uk/
YMCA Housing and Step by Step have much in common and work well together, a great model to provide the best possible care for vulnerable young people who have become homeless and need wrap around care to enable them to thrive. I heard from Debbie Morton CEO and Nick Goom, Head of Income Generation, about their base in Basingstoke, along with other projects in Aldershot and Havant, and across the surrounding counties. They also have an impressive network of people who volunteer space in their homes to give supported lodging to teenagers who perhaps have been forced to leave home due to family problems, or who have been in care, or simply find themselves struggling to cope alone.
Public speaking causes a huge amount of stress and fear – conquering that fear can be life changing. From the president of the Southampton branch of Toastmasters – Hamwic Speakers – Guy McNair-Wilson, I learned of a brilliant scheme to plant a public speaking programme into HMP Winchester to enable the men there to develop this skill which can build confidence and self worth and so help in the pathway to rehabilitation and reintegration into work and society, and reduce reoffending. I also attended one of the Hamwic speakers evening events, on line, and had the great pleasure of hearing a number of people give their first ever public speech – I remember only too well my own massive fears when first delivering sermons and was so impressed with the courage and skill demonstrated, along with the excellent feedback process.
Farewell to HHJ Keith Cutler CBE, Resident Judge Winchester Crown Court, 2009 – 2021
Many celebrations had been planned to honour His Honour Judge Keith Cutler on his retirement. Instead, keeping to Covid regulations, a small business lunch was held in the very spacious judges library at Winchester Crown Court where a small number of colleagues – judges and staff from the court, gathered to bid Keith a suitable and immensely fond farewell. I represented all the High Sheriffs who had served alongside Keith over his years in office and presented him with a beautifully crafted bugle – a reminder of the historical and glorious pomp and ceremony of the Courts. Full of kindness and character, he will be very much missed.
Meeting the UK’s youngest ever Mayor – Councillor Prad Bains, Mayor of Havant
Councillor Prad Bains was 24 when elected Mayor of Havant. Having chatted with him I will watch with interest what he does of the next decades of his life! Deeply rooted in and committed to his local community he is very aware of the challenges that face his generation and has the energy and thoughtful wisdom to make a difference.
Acorn Community Centre, Waterlooville https://acorncentre.org.uk/
Prad encouraged me to get in touch with the Acorn Community Centre based in Waterlooville. And so I found myself chatting on Zoom with Aaron Carr, Community Development Worker, and Ann Waters, Chair of trustees. On the face of it, one might ask the question, what has a community centre like Acorn to do with the High Sheriff remit around the judiciary – Law and Order? It is a place that welcomes everyone – from those who are struggling with debt, poverty, homelessness, loneliness; all ages from children to the elderly; it has lake area – which is slowly being transformed so that the whole community can enjoy the enriched wildlife…a café…a children’s nursey…and more. Reflecting on my conversation with Aaron and Ann the image that sprang to mind was that it is like the heartbeat of the community where blood transfusions go on – if I can be so poetic. People get drawn to the centre through relationship – with perhaps some issue they are battling with – they get welcomed, help is offered, but also a place to feel at home – maybe volunteering in the café or around the pond…and slowly, lovingly, the issue gets addressed….there is stability, a way out of or through a current troubling situation. Poverty, both financial and social, is one of the big indicators for being the victim of all sorts of criminal behaviour*. Address poverty, debt, joblessness, loneliness, inability to access education – victimhood falls. Community is strengthened. It seems to me this is what Acorn Community Centre is doing. *https://www.civitas.org.uk/content/files/povertyandcrime.pdf