4th July 2016
Today I had to discuss community cohesion. A very informative discussion, with suggestions on how we can engage the regional universities.
5th July 2016
Attended dinner with the Judges, an excellent evening.
6th July 2016
The Fire Service Award Ceremony. I delivered the speech without incident, though it was probably the first time in recorded history when a High Sheriff has attended without the tights and ruffle!
My driver managed to retrieve the missing kit and get back in time for the speeches, so at least for the main photograph I was properly dressed! We had a fabulous evening, the speech was well received and I had a chance to talk to a number of the recipients and their families.
7th July 2016
Today was The Garden Party at Edgbaston Apart from the Declaration Ceremony this is probably the major event of the shrieval year, and by common consent went extremely well.
The weather just about held off, the catering was truly first class, and everyone agreed that the stars of the show were the recipients, every one of whom took the opportunity to respond.
Of our eight Mayors and Lord Mayors, six attended in person and one was represented by the Deputy. We had five of our Judges as well as Bishop David, Vice Lord Lieutenant George Marsh and my Chaplain, Catherine Ogle, together with a number of former High Sheriffs and quite a few personal friends.
All in all, a very satisfactory outcome and I feel that we have maintained the profile of the office.
17th July 2016
Pam and I attended Walsall Mayor’s Civic Sunday at St Matthews Church, Walsall. It was a fabulous service followed by refreshments and an award ceremony, together with entertainment by the local schools in response to the Buns and Shilling presentations, based on a historical ceremony where disadvantaged children where given food and money.
21st July 2016
An evening at Opus where we were joined by some of the judges and other friends and guests, notably a student who had graduated this summer from BCU with a first class degree in Law. He was able to take advantage of the evening by securing an interview with one of the legal professionals at the table.
22nd July 2016
Courtesy of Norman Gascoigne at Edgbaston I entertained the Recorder of Birmingham, Mel Inman and his son to a T20 game against Notts, which Warwickshire lost rather badly. I took my grandson and we had a pleasant evening. I am looking forward to joining Mel in court in September.
23rd July 2016
Pam and I attended a celebration and commemoration for Corporal Joseph Davies VC at Victoria Park in Tipton. It was an honour to participate in an act of remembrance specifically honouring an incredibly brave man and indeed the only man to be awarded a VC who was born in Tipton.
16th August 2016
Today I attended a memorial service in Wolverhampton to commemorate Victory over Japan Day. It was a good turnout and encouraging to join with others to remember those who lost their lives in the conflict.
Pam and I took a family holiday to the South of France to celebrate our 50 years of marriage.
22nd March 2016 - Declaration Ceremony
Aston-born businessman Dr Keith Bradshaw DL is the new High Sheriff of the County of West Midlands.
1st May 2016
Today I attended a concert at the Conservatoire as a guest of Julian Lloyd Webber, which consisted of an amazing recital by Sir James Galway, his wife and a very talented pianist accompanying. Sir James received a Doctorate from BCU at the end of the ceremony, which of course resonated with me given that I am due to get the same later on in the year.
5th May 2016
Today was a Royal Visit from the Earl of Wessex on what was a beautiful sunny morning. His Royal Highness arrived at the Matthew Boulton Campus of Birmingham Metropolitan College where approximately 100 students were gathered outside. Two abseilers descended from the roof of BMet and His Royal Highness was able to talk with them.
Moving inside the building the Royal party viewed demonstrations of the two Duke of Edinburgh team-building activities by groups of students.
Before leaving His Royal Highness presented the BMet College DLC Licence to Mr Andrew Cleaves, the Principal of the College and approximately 200 students from 4 campuses were gathered in the hall.
The next venue on the Royal Visit was Birmingham City Football Club where approximately 120 students from four schools were gathered to welcome him. Lunch was taken here.
His Royal Highness spoke of the benefits of the DoE Award and four groups of Bronze DofE participants were presented to him before he left the building.
The Royal Party arrived at the Birmingham Conservatoire where the Principal, Professor Julian Lloyd Webber accompanied His Royal Highness into the foyer to meet students from varying courses. This was followed by a five-minute performance of the “Theme from Superman”, and concluded with His Royal Highness talking to some of the students in the Brass Ensemble and meeting with the team in the Principal’s office.
The food at St Andrews was superb and the music performance by students at the Conservatoire was most enjoyable.
10th May 2016
I had a meeting in which I gained a better understanding of the Near Neighbours project. We hope to have a number of projects under way quickly so that we can have a proper launch in the Autumn, at which we can showcase these initiatives and I can engage with a number of potential sponsors..
In the evening we attended an amazing piano recital at the Town Hall preceded by an excellent dinner at the Hotel du Vin.
12th May 2016
Pam and I hosted a dinner at home with some of the High Court judges, Christine Holmes, High Sheriff of Shropshire, and her husband David, together with Sir Nicholas Lechmere, High Sheriff of Worcestershire and his wife Lady Caroline, plus my successor John Hudson and our friend Pam Jones.
We had a delightful evening. When we got on to the subject of cricket, one of the judges asked to see my Wisden collection. In 1946 his father had played for his university and was featured in that edition, and although he had seen a facsimile copy he had never held an original – he was absolutely thrilled.
13th May 2016
I visited an event organised by The Feast in Digbeth. This is an organisation set up specifically to foster good relations between young Muslims and Christians. It is run under the auspices of the Bishop of Birmingham, a number of youngsters spoke and were inspirational and are doing good work in a difficult area.
14th May 2016
Pam and I attended the 400th anniversary celebration of Kings Norton Market. It was a sunny but cold day and we had a great time. Many of the volunteers were dressed in period costume and one or two thought I was part of the fancy dress.
The local MP was there and I had a chance to talk to him about getting behind the combined authority across the political spectrum. We were presented with a facsimile of the original Charter and, all in all, a very rewarding day.
17th May 2016
I had an opportunity of sitting in court on a judiciary review of a planning case. The process was fascinating. There were three counsels representing various parties and I saw at close quarters a very senior Judge at work, and am beginning to appreciate the complexities they have to deal with. One of the submission documents was 600 pages long and there was reference to various sections by page numbers, and interestingly they were quoting case law that the Judge himself had been responsible for previously.
In the evening Pam and I went to the Investiture of the Mayor of Solihull.
18th May 2016
This was by far the most demanding day with three visits with the Princess Royal. The day began at 10.30am when Her Royal Highness arrived at the Ricoh Arena for the Microlise Transport Conference and was met by the Vice Lord-Lieutenant and introduced to a number of people. HRH visited the various exhibition stands and was then accompanied to the theatre area where she addressed the conference and presented various awards.
After further speeches HRH took a private lunch before leaving for the next venue which was the Citizens Advice Bureau in Solihull. HRH was met by the Deputy Lieutenant who introduced her to various people and the Deputy Chief Executive of the CAB briefed her on why the Bureau had moved. Refreshments were provided and HRH was invited to cut the celebratory cake. The visit finished with the presentation of a posy of flowers and an invitation for HRH to sign the visitors book.
The next visit was to the YMCA in Birmingham where HRH was introduced to some employees and a number of people who had been instrumental in the new building. After meeting one of the residents of the new accommodation she was escorted to the Sports Hall where a short video was played before she unveiled a plaque. The visit and the day ended with HRH signing the visitors book and being presented with a posy of flowers by one of the youngsters who attends the on-site nursery.
We went to a Deputy Lieutenant’s Dinner at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and University in the evening.
19th May 2016
I found myself back in Coventry Cathedral for the first time in 30 years, and led the procession into the Cathedral for the Major making ceremony, which was a civil meeting.
20th May 2016
I had to decline an Air Ambulance Garden Party attended by the Duchess of Wessex due to a change of timing, as we were already committed to a black tie dinner in the Guild Hall, Coventry to celebrate the appointment of the new Lord Mayor.
We had pre-dinner drinks in the crypt and went on to the Guild Hall, which really is an amazing building with a fabulous 16th century Belgian tapestry. A truly memorable event.
22nd May 2016
After having Saturday off we attended St Martin’s in the Bull Ring where the Duke of Kent unveiled a stained glass window in the Prayer Chapel, replacing the one destroyed in the war,
23rd May 2016
I attended an event to celebrate the launch of Islam Week at the Town Hall in Birmingham. I had some useful conversations where I was able to promote the Near Neighbours and The Feast community cohesion initiatives
27th May 2016
Today we had another Royal visit. Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra arrived at the PDSA Pet Hospital in Oldbury and was accompanied to the waiting room where she was presented to various people associated with the PDSA.
HRH was then given a tour before unveiling a plaque to officially open the hospital. After the ceremony refreshments were served and she was presented with a posy of flowers by the son of a PDSA senior veterinary surgeon.
HRH arrived at the next venue; Good Hope Hospital, and was given a tour of the Acute Medical Unit and met with a number of the staff. After visiting the Assessment and Ward Units she was escorted back to the reception area and invited to officially open the unit by unveiling a plaque.
I am a local lad born just a mile from here and could never have imagined that I would be in this position today. I have been married for almost fifty years to a Black Country girl and we are both passionate about this region. I feel strongly that the West Midlands has been the making of me and I want, via this office, to do whatever I can to honour that obligation. So many great things originated here in the West Midlands and I want to encourage as many people as possible to get on the front foot and represent our strengths and values.
13th April 2016
Today we arrived early at the Wat Santiwongsaram Temple which was incidentally very close to my old school Handsworth Technical School (now Hamstead Hall Academy). When we arrived we were greeted by a really colourful array of flowers and young children dressed in bright Thai costumes. The Monks and Leaders of the Temple including the main benefactor who is the Chairman and owner of Leicester City Football Club, were also there on our arrival. I, of course, echoed the sentiments of just about every person in the country outside of the top three clubs, and wished them well for securing the Premiership title. We were formally presented to the Duke of Gloucester on his arrival at the Temple.
The Thai Ambassador was on his first visit to Birmingham, and casually mentioned that Thai Airways were looking to start regular services between Bangkok and either Birmingham or Manchester, so the Mayor and I made it clear that Birmingham was the obvious choice.
We didn’t have chance to go into the inner part of the Temple, I would have had to remove my shoes to enter, which could have been a problem with my disability, but when we arrived at Soho House the Mayor’s driver bought out a gift of a tea-set from the temple leaders, much to my wife Pam’s delight.
We arrived at Soho House and enjoyed a fascinating tour, we agreed in principle to use the dining room at Soho House as part of our programme for entertaining the Judges. The Duke unveiled a plaque and we had a bite of lunch in the company of the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and many other fellow members of the Lunar Society.
Our next call was the Birmingham Dogs Home near Solihull, we had a quick tour and agreed it was an amazing place, the dogs looked so forlorn and I think if Pam had her way we would have bought back half a dozen. What impressed me was the genuine commitment of the kennel staff, they really do love these animals.
We left early to arrive before the Duke at the Coventry Freeman’s Guild. It was the first time I had been in the building and I was most impressed. We were ushered into the chamber next to George Marsh, the Vice Lord Lieutenant, and witnessed a very special ceremony in which a dozen or so people were inducted into the Guild, including the Duke. However, I did make a bit of an entrance - getting my sword and stick caught in one of the chairs and dropping my hat.
Afterwards we went to a reception in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour and the incoming Lord Mayor gave Pam a personal tour of the building. We both had some interesting conversations and we were well looked after and learnt a lot. Interestingly the Guild in Coventry admits only apprentices who served within the City and maintains very strong links with the trades and manufacturing industries.
The Lord Mayor was very gracious and we are both looking forward to going to the induction of the new Lord Mayor in the Guildhall. We got home at about 6 o’clock and were both surprised how well we had lasted, but it’s still early days and the diary is filling up.
14th April 2016
Today was my first visit to the Judges lodgings in Edgbaston, we made sure that we were on time and were greeted at the door by our host, Mr Justice Holman and were surprised that there were at least 20 people around the table. We talked about everything, most particularly music.
This was an event for the High Sheriff and former High Sheriffs. Jonnie Turpie and Marian were in attendance, together with Anita Bhalla and Christine Braddock and her husband. They were excellent hosts, top wine and food.
I got on particularly well with Mr Justice Holman who is nearly my age and is one of the few Judges on the circuit who started soon enough not to have to retire until he is 75, unlike the norm which is 70.
15th April 2016
We attended an event at The Hawthorns for “Pass it Forward”; an initiative to help under privileged kids in Delhi who are interested in football. Sadly the event started late so I had to leave before the meeting really got under way which was a shame.
16th April 2016
After a very disappointing match at The Hawthorns against Watford we went on to an inspiring event at West Bromwich Town Hall by invitation from IoD Regional Director, Calum Nisbet to a performance of the People’s Orchestra. It was a thoroughly inspiring evening, the famous composer John Altman composed a piece especially for the Orchestra which fitted in with the theme “A Night at the Movies”.
The Orchestra was 50 strong, all amateurs and did a lot of work in engaging young people with behavioural and social problems. I promised to support them.
21st April 2016
Today we attended Dudley Zoo at the invitation of the Mayor of Dudley to assist in the Beacon lighting ceremony celebrating Her Majesty’s 90th birthday.
We met with the Bishop, local Police Chief and a number of young Brownies who stole the show and were fascinated with my sword. It was cold but the sight of the beacon on top of the castle in the Zoo was special and we were both glad we made the effort.
22nd April 2016
Today I had an early meeting with Ab Woolass to discuss the support for the Boys Brigade, followed by an interesting meeting with the Assistant Chief Constable, Michelle Lamour, where we discussed social cohesion and agreed to work together.
23rd April 2016
We attended Ingestre Hall in Staffordshire at the invitation of the Mayor of Sandwell. We sat with the Mayor of Walsall and the Deputy Mayor of Sandwell for an excellent lunch followed by a tour of the Hall where a picture was unveiled, designed by the children, and a visit to the only Christopher Wren church in the country outside of London.
Most of the other regional Mayors were present and we really felt privileged to be there.
25th April 2016
Today I had a useful meeting at Opus discussing the Home of Metal project, and then a meeting at the Fire Brigade offices to discuss support for their community initiative and participation in their award ceremonies.
28th April 2016
Pam and I visited Featherstone Prison where we met individually and collectively 12 prisoners, all in for serious offences including murder. The programme is designed to help rehabilitate prisoners by getting them to acknowledge the impact of their crime on the victims. It apparently had good outcomes in terms of re-offending but unfortunately it is the end of the programme due to the retirement of the chaplain.
29th April 2016
Walsall Civic Awards Ceremony took place today at the Council House. Approximately 15 entrants of low profile, high impact volunteers were awarded. We sat at the top table with the Mayoress, the former local MP Bruce George, and Michael Collie who compered the event and who sat next to Pam.
The recipients were over the moon with their award and this simple ceremony spoke clearly as to what this year as High Sheriff is about and also emphasised the importance of local councils in terms of encouraging and rewarding some pretty amazing people. I asked the Mayor to nominate one of the entrants for the High Sheriff award and to come along to the Garden Party to present them.
1st June 2016
Tonight we had dinner at The Hyatt last night followed by an excellent concert themed on Shakespeare. The object of the evening was to introduce local businessmen and influential people to the work of the CBSO. It was certainly successful and the music was particularly quite special.
4th June 2016
Pam and I attended the Conservatoire as the guests of Julian Lloyd Webber, great programme – the overture of the Marriage of Figaro followed by a Haydn Cello concerto and ultimately Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. This is one of the last concerts to be held before the Conservatoire and Adrian Boult Hall are demolished.
7th June 2016
Today Pam and I went to Villa Park for the Chinese Community Centre 40th anniversary..
10th June 2016
Pam and I attended a Heart of England Community Foundation Garden Party at Tyndalwoods in Edgbaston. The weather threatened the whole time, but just about held off. We were particularly moved by a group of youngsters with severe physical physical disabilities who played in a brass band.
11th June 2016
Today Pam and I attended the celebration for the Queen’s Birthday at St Mary’s Church in Handsworth. The service lasted for 1.5 hours followed by refreshments. The weather was awful so the steel band outside could not perform, but the service was moving.
12th June 2016
Today we attended the service celebrating the Queen’s Birthday conducted by Bishop David Urquhart in Birmingham Cathedral. Again the lousy weather theme permeated and it rained heavily for the duration.
A really inspiring service and wonderful sermon from David Urquhart, some rousing music and a really enjoyable service, which enabled Pam and I to meet quite a few people. One of the events that I probably would never have heard of but one which we will both remember.
14th June 2016
A day of meetings today, then Pam and I attended an exhibition of students work at the BCU School of Jewelry. It was comprehensive and a large number of students from various years were presenting their work. To my untrained eye most of it would not have been out of place in Bond Street. Although that’s not entirely surprising given the City’s reputation driven by the Jewelry Quarter. It showed another example of interesting things in our City which simply fall below people’s radar.
15th June 2016
Pam and I attended the Prince’s Trust team presentation in Solihull, it was worthwhile and inspiring. There were 9 individuals, all of whom had troubles in their lives, some pretty profound, who had undertaken a 12 week course and had learned about team work and gained a lot of confidence, and there was a real sense of achievement on their part.
20th June 2016
Today we attended the flag raising ceremony in Wolverhampton. It was raining heavily but as the MC said, the people we were there to remember died for their country.
Our old window cleaner aged 91 was one of the standard bearers and the flag raising was a simple but very moving ceremony. Pam and I had the chance to get to know the new Mayor and Mayoress a little better, and we also met our long standing friend Wendy Thompson who is now leader of the Conservative Party in Wolverhampton.
A young man from Wolverhampton who received the Military Cross, Luke Cole, was in a sense the guest of honour. He lost part of his leg and stomach in Helmand Province and reminded us all of the sacrifice that these people have made, not only for his own suffering, but also being responsible for saving the life of a comrade.
25th June 2016
Today we attended the Armed Forces day parade at Coventry, and again Pam and I were part of the civic parade together with the Mayor and the Vice Lord-Lieutenant. A very moving service followed by the march past the Town Hall.
It was another occasion when we felt very privileged to be there and we later attended a reception. We left early and had enough time to go home and change ahead of the event in Birmingham Town Hall, an excellent multi-cultural extravaganza.
Today we were a guest of the Lord Mayor of Dudley at the Armed Forces parade at Himley. The weather was awful, but the hospitality was genuine. We were seated and provided with umbrellas for the performance, and then I walked over to the podium where the Mayor, the DL and I took the salute.
4th September 2016
After the holiday the first appointment was in a sense bizarre and slightly unexpected, but turned out to be very special. The event was the Gypsy Memorial Dedication held at St Mary’s Church in Handsworth, which I visited earlier in the year as part of the Queen’s Birthday celebrations.
The service was presided over by the Bishop of Aston to commemorate the burial in un-marked graves of the King and Queen of the Gypsies and 50 plus of their subjects, many of them only days or months old. The average age of death speaks volumes for the hardships they must have suffered. They were residents of the so called ‘Black Patch’ which has now been verified as the birthplace of Charlie Chaplin. The graves are un-marked because they were considered to be unworthy and the local residents didn’t wish their families to be associated with them in any way.
In his sermon the Rector, The Revd Dr Robert Stephen, pointed out that over a hundred years ago the gypsies were evicted from the site by one of my predecessors and since I was not in court dress and consequently was not wearing my sword, it was suggested I might fear for my safety.
I met with the author of a book called ‘Brumroamin’, Ted Rudge, who gave me a signed copy of the book and I promised to return the compliment when my own book is published.
5th September 2016
The day was spent at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, with a gathering of High Sheriffs (we have not yet come up with a collective noun) from Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire and Herefordshire.
It began with the Service of Remembrance at 11 o’clock in the chapel, which is held every day of the year including Christmas Day, and then went on a land train ride around the Arboretum itself. It’s simply amazing the number of individuals, regiments and events that are commemorated, and there is also an avenue of High Sheriff trees.
10th September 2016
Pam and I attended a civic service in Birmingham’s principal synagogue on Singers Hill. The Chief Rabbi spoke very eloquently for social cohesion and tolerance. All in all, a very moving experience.
Christine Holmes, High Sheriff of Shropshire invited us to her community volunteer awards ceremony at Cosford Air Museum, later that day. We were able to walk around and talk to a whole range of volunteers in Shropshire, and as always I left feeling pretty optimistic about human nature.
We managed to squeeze in 1.5 hours rest before the third engagement of the day which was the re-opening of the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton after a major refurbishment. The evening was compared by Angela Rippon, the second half was a full blown last night at the Proms, which coincided with the actual last night of the Proms at the Albert Hall.
12th September 2016
A British Empire Investiture was held at the Council House in Birmingham, for the first time in history. These events follow the format of the Buckingham Palace proceedings and have taken place ad-hoc around the region. I believe this will be the new pattern for the future. which was attended by the Vice Lord Lieutenant and all of the local Mayors with the exception of Wolverhampton, during which 21 medals were presented across the region.
The ceremony followed the format of the Buckingham Palace proceedings and the National Anthem was sung, this was followed by a reception attended by all of the recipients and their families.
12th September 2016
Pam and I joined a gathering of High Sheriffs at the RSC in Stratford for a version of King Lear – an opportunity to meet with other colleagues in the same role in very pleasant circumstances.
14th September 2016
Today I had an opportunity to visit the Prince’s Trust’s new headquarters in Digbeth which they plan to open next year. Lunch was prepared and served by the youngsters – many of whom come from very difficult backgrounds and with the help of the Trust, are turning their lives around.
This is a fabulous charity that helps so many young people who are at a crossroads in their lives. This development evidences a serious commitment to Birmingham and is one that warrants full support.
14th September 2016
This afternoon I met with Jodie Perkins, BCU student who is working with me, and a professional firm to examine ways of promoting the work of the High Sheriff.
15th September 2016
I had another opportunity to meet some quite inspiring young people at a Routes2Roots charity award ceremony. I presented some awards for a project which had been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, encouraging young people with an interest in the arts and music to explore their heritage and educate them on other peoples.
18th September 2016
Dudley Parish Church hosted a commemoration of the Battle of Britain, where I was able to lay a wreath at the cenotaph. The church was packed with cadets and before laying the wreath the Lord Mayor and I took the salute on the steps of the Council House.
18th September 2016
I attended a Civic Service at the historic church of St Martins in the Bull Ring, Birmingham. This is city’s oldest church and is known as Birmingham Parish Church.
19th September 2016
An interesting opportunity presented today in that I was invited to sit in Court with the Recorder of Birmingham, the city’s senior resident Judge, on a murder trial.
Although the day didn’t work out as expected in that counsels were not ready to present the case properly and there were no witnesses called, I did see the jury sworn in and the prosecution present their opening statement.
Lunch of a Marks & Spencer sandwich with a dozen or so of the other judges introduced an element of normality to the day.
21st September 2016
Today I visited Momentum Skills, a brain injury charity on the 5th floor of Lombard House, Great Charles Street, which was one floor above where I, as a 15 year old, went for my first day at work.
I met with the Regional Manager and a number of colleagues including two current/former clients and was particularly moved by their stories in that their experiences mirrored mine some 29 years ago - I could empathise strongly with the problems of their clients and the related challenges facing people trying to help them.
23rd September 2016
Audley are opening some new retirement homes and today was the topping out ceremony for an impressive development in Edgbaston. However, due to my mobility issues I was not able to get on to the roof.
I made a short speech welcoming the investment and hoping that there would be more of these in the West Midlands region.
24th September 2016
Today marked the enthronement of the 99th Bishop of Lichfield – an impressive ceremony involving Bishops and Cardinals from all six continents. Following the example set by the first Bishop of Lichfield, Bishop Michael walked from Stoke to Lichfield, a three-day quest which terminated at the Cathedral. As he entered, he was questioned by children as to his motives and aspirations, which underpinned the whole theme of his intended ministry - humility.
The service overran and as I was due to meet the Chairman of Stoke City, for the Albion game, I was in somewhat of a hurry and changed from my court dress into civvies in a lay-by en-route. For the record Albion secured an injury time draw, but my overriding impression was of a very special and spectacular event.
The Mayor of Walsall invited us to the Bloxwich Civic Service, a simple and very moving service which was combined with the harvest festival. The first hymn was ‘we ploughed the fields and scattered’ which I have not sung for about 40 years.
I stayed on for a good hour afterwards talking to the congregation. It was one of those occasions when your belief in human nature was reinforced.
A celebration of the Queen’s Birthday was organised by Midland International Aid Trust at the Al Murad Banqueting Suite in Walsall. It was one of those evenings when yet again we felt incredibly privileged to attend and we extend grateful thanks to our host, Dr Rashid Gatrad who is Chairman of the Walsall DLs. This organisation has directly delivered practical aid and support both materially and individually across the world to people in distress, either those suffering from chronic poverty and deprivation, or natural and indeed man-made disasters.
1st October 2016
East End Foods hosted an event celebrating the birth centenary of Bharat Ratna Dr M S Subbulakshmi, who is reknowned as the Elvis Presley of carnatic music.
A very special occasion, even more so in that it was held on the site of the old H P Sauce factory, and its address is Upper Thomas Street, which was the location of the Infant, Primary and Senior School I went to as a boy.
The old school site was probably a matter of 100 yards from the H P Sauce factory and my home no more than 400 yards away. There was a considerable family involvement with H P – my aunts were cleaners there and my father during the war put out a fire caused by a German incendiary bomb.
Founder of East End Foods, Tony Deep Wourha gave an inspirational speech. He really is not only very impressive but a very successful businessman whose commitment to this country and City is manifest.
4th October 2016
Today Pam and I were invited to a Civic Tour of Solihull School in the company of the local Mayor and the Vice Lord Lieutenant. It is certainly an impressive school and I managed to talk to some young children in the primary school who, as always, were fascinated by the sword.
4th October 2016
In the evening I had an opportunity to address the Coventry Interfaith Forum held in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour. I spoke about the history of the shrievalty, community relations and made a pitch for Coventry City of Culture 2021 – hopefully Coventry will win as the benefits will rejuvenate Coventry and impact positively on the wider West Midlands region.
5th October 2016
One of the High Sheriff’s Association initiatives is a charity called Crimebeat. The charity encourages young people do develop ideas to combat crime. Today I met Chief Superintendant Jayne Meirs at Wolverhampton Police Station to discuss areas of common interest and how we can encourage support for Crimebeat in the Wolverhampton area.
6th October 2016
The Annual Justice Service in Birmingham Cathedral is an annual event which celebrates the start of the judicial year. This is a joint initiative between the High Sheriff, the Cathedral and the Juciary and I am happy to say that this year it ran like clockwork. I would like to thank my son Tim who recommended the readings and hymns. The service, was well received and the feedback has been excellent.
7th October 2016
Magistrates give their time freely and voluntarily in the interests of the community and today I had great pleasure in attending Birmingham Law Courts for the swearing in of more than 20 new magistrates from a whole spectrum of society, in the company of the presiding Judge, Vice Lord Lieutenant and Carl Rice the Birmingham Mayor.
8th October 2016
At lunch time I formally opened an exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery Exhibition, one of the city’s hidden gems, and in the evening Pam and I were invited to an event featuring the Archbishop of Canterbury and Malala Yousefzai in the Assembly Hall of Dudley College. She really is an amazing young lady.
9th October 2016
Today we were guests of Elizabeth Fothergill, High Sheriff of Derbyshire at the Derbyshire legal lunch and justice service. The lunch, which would have graced a Mitchelin star restaurant, was the silk mill which lays claim to being the first factory in the world. The service was beautiful as was the Cathedral and the presence of a brass band topped the event off for me.
10th October 2016
An early start today for the Warwickshire Legal Service, presided by the Bishop of Coventry. These events are fascinating and help to install the importance of the judiciary in our society.
I then went on to Wolverhampton Magistrates Court for the swearing in of 19 magistrates, a similar ceremony to the one in Birmingham and again fantastic to see people from across our communities volunteering in this demanding role.
11th October 2016
The Annual High Sheriff Regional Conference was hosted this year by Warwickshire at the Regional Police Headquarters. This is always a very interesting and useful event, in particular for the High Sheriffs in nomination. West Mercia Police are planning a new Control Centre and shared their plans with us.
12th October 2016
In the company of Sir Dominic Cadbury, I addressed a Philanthropy seminar aimed at promoting philanthropy within the West Midlands, followed by a discussion panel. It was well attended and thought provoking and hopefully it will have inspired some of the attendees to get involved, or in the case of high net worth advisors to engage their clients.
20th October 2016
Pam and I visited the Victoria Magistrates Court in Birmingham for what is tending to become an annual event, whereby the High Sheriff attends in full court dress and is escorted around the building by the Chair of the Bench, in this case it was Richard Trengrouse who was charming and highly informative. We had the chance to sit in the Magistrates Court and meet a number of colleagues and their clerks.
20th October 2016
I was honoured to be invited to the annual Law Society Dinner, an opportunity to meet the Attorney General who did his training in Birmingham and was very sympathetic to our cause.
26th October 2016
Community volunteers are always inspiring and Pam and I had an opportunity to meet some of them at a presentation of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services to Parkinson’s UK Solihull Branch.
27th October 2016
Another opportunity to entertain some of the visiting High Court judges at our home, along with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Birmingham, the Bishop of Dudley and his wife and some family friends. They were all excellent company and without a doubt these dinners are not only enjoyable but go to the very heart of the role of High Sheriff.
30th October 2016
Childline, now part of the NSPCC, celebrated its 30th anniversary today. This was a family event and Pam and I had an opportunity to meet the volunteers and to hear more about the amazing work that they do. I seem to say this about everywhere I visit, but this is an amazing charity doing incredible work, having taken 4 million calls from children in their 30 years, Birmingham has 1,000 calls per week and is one of the busiest and most efficient branches.
The West Side BID hosted a Poppy Day service to present poppies to representatives of the three emergency services, i.e. ambulance, fire and police. I had the honour of presenting a new standard to the West African King’s Rifles, Sierra Leone Division – a very poignant moment, given my close involvement with Sierra Leone from 1969-1976.
Pam and I attended the 29th annual Wolverhampton Diversity Celebration in the company of the Mayor and Mayoress of Wolverhampton, the Bishop of Wolverhampton and Harun Rashid from Wolverhampton Interfaith. The event brings local schools together to perform in the Civic Hall – a fabulously energetic family event.
Today I had an opportunity to address local GPs at a Primary Care Leaders’ Conference at The Hawthorns – an interesting event and an opportunity to promote the role of High Sheriff.
A planning day for the Wolverhampton Justice Service which will be held on 5th March 2017, kindly sponsored and organised by the University of Wolverhampton. The event was initiated by my friend and predecessor John Andrews some 12 years ago and has become quite a fixture in the city’s calendar.
The Pen Museum in Birmingham’s Jewellery quarter was honoured in the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services. 75% of all the writing in the world in the 19th century was done with Birmingham made pens.
Afterwards, attended a Boys Brigade Company meeting in Perry Barr, accompanied by my brother, David. We were both in the 42nd Birmingham and as we walked into the Methodist Church Hall we both felt a real sense of deja vu.
The children were all delightful, noisy and not remotely interested in me but fascinated by my sword, and wanted to know if I had met the Queen. Many of them could have been me 63 years ago, and frankly Ab Woolass, who not only is the leader of that company but also President of the Scout movement in the West Midlands, and his colleagues were inspirational.
We left the meeting to find most of the company in the back, or climbing over, the Range Rover with Mat, my driver finding it difficult to keep control.
The Dudley Armistice Day Commemoration. We had a cup of tea in the Mayor’s Parlour before the short procession to the cenotaph where the Mayor and I were privileged to lay our wreaths. This was an opportunity to speak to a number of the veterans, all with interesting tales to tell.
A commemoration of the Dutch soldiers killed in the Second World War took place in Jeffcock Road Cemetery, Wolverhampton, as it has for the last 48 years. I laid a wreath and spoke to the Head of the Dutch Infantry Battalion and learned that the Dutch army in abstensia was quartered in Wolverhampton during the 2nd World War.
There were at least two full coaches of Dutch troops who had flown over specifically for this and another two events scheduled over the weekend. They bought with them two of the most enormous guns which were duly pointed to the ground at the moment of remembrance.
The Birmingham Remembrance Day commemoration in Birmingham, an event I particularly wanted to attend and to lay a wreath in memory of my Uncle Joe who was killed in the 1st World War and served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
That evening, Pam and I went to the Festival of Remembrance at West Bromwich Town Hall, which mirrored the traditional Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall. A very moving ceremony and a tradition over 40 years hundreds of youngsters and volunteers, and veterans.
I was due to spend the day with the Recorder of Birmingham in the High Court on what he described as a particularly gruesome murder case, however when I arrived, the trial had to be postponed as a result of the Prison Officer’s dispute - there were no prisoners and therefore no trials.
A remarkable visit to Hampstead Hall Academy, formerly Handsworth Technical College, for their annual awards ceremony. I was incredibly impressed with both the pupils and the staff.
This was my old school and walking into the Hall and going up the steps on to the stage, which I last mounted in 1957 in order to be caned, was surreal, and I presented well over 200 certificates to very well-deserving recipients.
Coventry City of Culture launched their Birmingham bid at the Hippodrome, and I had an opportunity to speak, both as Chairman of Coventry based Listers and also as High Sheriff.
It went very well, we managed to emphasise the on-going support of the office of High Sheriff. What is more I managed to leave early enough to catch the second half of the Albion game, albeit I missed three of the goals.
The Winson Green prison choir performed today, at an event run entirely by volunteers, in an effort to target potential employers. Fewer than than 20% of prisoners discharged from Birmingham prisons have employment on discharge, with the obvious consequences for re-offending.
Later that evening, I attended the Birmingham City University Chancellor’s Dinner, both in my capacity as a recipient of a recently awarded Doctorate and also as High Sheriff. I sat with the new incoming Chancellor, Lenny Henry, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and the Deputy Lieutenant. Fabulous food and I must congratulate BCU on getting such an inspiring personality in their new Chancellor who will also add considerably to the University’s credibility.
Royal visit by the Duke of Gloucester to the Good Shepherd, Wolverhampton. A short ceremony with a few speeches and presentation of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services with the unveiling of a plaque.
This was followed by the unveiling of a plaque and photograph of Prince Albert in Queen Square, Wolverhampton on the 150th anniversary to the day of Queen Victoria unveiling the Albert statue. This had been her first visit following the death of her husband and she was so pleased she that she knighted the Wolverhampton Mayor on the spot. The Duke commented that he was not empowered to do the same.
We then went on to visit the Bloxwich Active Living Centre, Walsall which is a modern new centre, again a plaque was unveiled and HRH said a few words.
And to end the day, a plaque unveiling at the Park Regis Hotel, Birmingham.
Today I sat in the High Court with the Recorder of Birmingham. It was a fascinating case involving two murders within the gangland community, very near to Soho House.
Pam and I were invited to the Advent Service at Lichfield Cathedral with a reception afterwards at the Dean’s Palace. It was everything it was cracked up to be, a spectacular service held mainly in candlelight, with the best seats in the house.
Attended a dinner which I co-hosted with my fellow High Sheriff, Richard Samuda, in support of the Midlands Metropolitan Hospital which is in the course of construction in Sandwell. I made a few opening remarks emphasising the importance of this hospital to the region and the fact that although it will not be in Birmingham, it will be closer to the City centre than any other hospital.
This is a new concept whereby the hospital is the focal point of a major community development consisting of at least 6,000 houses and other local amenities on the old GKN site.
Today we were at a re-enactment of Queen Victoria’s visit to Wolverhampton on the 150th anniversary to unveil the statue of her late husband Prince Albert. Three Regiments plus the Fire Brigade exercised their rights to the freedom of the City and marched through, and a number of actors from the local College organised the re-enactment.
And later we were invited to a civic dinner at the Park Hall Hotel in Wolverhampton at which a number of awards were presented by the Mayor to approximately 30 very worthy recipients, notably an amazing lady who was at our table, who had herself lost a child at birth and supported families in a similar position, and if they required, took photographs of the babies on the spot – very humbling.
In the evening, Pam and I had the pleasure of entertaining some members of the judiciary at a performance of the Nutcracker at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
A splendid evening at the annual British Police Symphony Orchestra Proms Night at the Symphony Hall. This was an excellent event, with the second half following very much the Last Night at the Proms programme. I would certainly recommend this to successors.
Pam and I attended the carol service at Aston Church where I read a lesson and was amazed to see the church virtually full of children. The Minister was inspiring and it felt very special, given the fact that I was christened at that church, and the last time I walked through the door was probably 58 years ago as a bass drummer with the Boys Brigade.
I attended a presentation and piano concert at Walsall Town Hall, during which the Polish school in Walsall with some 300 pupils and without any financial support from the Local Authority, was named in honour of the Polish RAF war veterans. There was a lady in attendance who had fought in that war with the Polish Airforce.
Pam and I were guests at the Salvation Army annual carol concert at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. We had excellent seats at an amazingly slick event.
I attended a civic reception held at the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara (the largest outside India) on Soho Road, Birmingham very close to my old school. It was an interesting event, essentially designed to promote social cohesion and mutual interfaith contact and understanding.
Pam and I attended the Coventry Civic Festive Dinner held in the splendid Guildhall and hosted by the Lord Mayor. We were entertained by the Coventry Male Voice Choir and this is a not to be missed engagement.
The final event in 2016 was to attend in ex-officio as a guest of the BBC, the Sports Personality of the Year awards held at the Genting Arena, aka the NEC. The real interest was being close up to the event and appreciating the amazing logistics that go into these live events.