One of the more unusual events in the High Sheriff’s calendar is the annual Sock Ceremony, where the Framework Knitters pay the token rent for their museum by providing a pair of socks. A visit to the Fire Service was next to witness their expertise and to discover that Leicestershire is a leading provider of Virtual Reality training. They have developed ground breaking training packages for dealing with fire investigation and a hugely effective crash prevention training package for young drivers. It is no surprise that they are providing their knowledge and training tools to other forces in the UK but also in Europe and the USA. We then spent a fascinating day visiting a number of faith centres in Leicester and learnt much more about the different communities that make Leicester such a diverse and vibrant city. This was evident when we attended the launch of the Diwali Festival in Belgrave Gate, which is the biggest celebration of this festival outside India. There were around 40,000 people enjoying dancing, street food and a fantastic firework display. Leicester was also chosen as one of the locations to help celebrate the 550th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak, the founding Guru of the Sikh religion. Supported by the Consulate General of India, a display explaining the founding principles and detailing Nanak’s life story has been touring the country. A number of local religious leaders spoke about the positive influence Sikhism as had on their own faith and community.
Leicestershire Police have organised a Multi-Cultural evening for a number of years and support increases every year. There were nearly 500 guests attending this year’s event and a wide-range of groups and organisations were there to show their support and explain the contribution they make to the successful local policing effort.
The High Sheriff of Rutland organised a joint visit to see our local Probation Service in action and to meet with members of staff as well as a Service User. It was a great insight into what is a very demanding job and one that requires skill and dedication in helping transform peoples’ lives and reduce the risk of re-offending. We were both impressed with all that we saw and were pleased to gain a greater understanding of an essential part of our Justice System. Both counties were well represented at the Rural Awards Evening that recognises communities, local businesses and farms that have a positive impact in their area. I was delighted when one of our near neighbours won the award for their new dairy and visitor centre where you can witness milking in action. We have a fantastic farming community and the dairy sector is very important to the Leicestershire countryside.
Remembrance Weekend is an important part of the Civic Calendar and it was a great honour to lay a wreath at Victoria Park in Leicester along with many local dignitaries and local service organisations and regiments who joined the parade. There was a strong turnout across the County and tremendous support from the general public. They were held spellbound by one of our Normandy Veterans who spoke of his memories coming ashore on D Day and the many colleagues he lost as they fought their way off the beaches 75 years ago. ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the Sikh Welfare & Cultural Society also held a dedicated multi-faith Service hosted by Brahma Kumaris at Harmony House on the evening of Remembrance Sunday. Special prayers were said by all the local faith leaders and it made for a memorable and touching close to a special day.
I was delighted to join the Leicestershire Scouts at their AGM and see the recently upgraded facilities at Holwell Pastures Campsite. We enjoyed an excellent BBQ as well as hearing about the many successful events they had completed during the year. It was a great privilege to be asked to inspect Leicestershire Police Cadets for their Annual Parade and they were remarkably enthusiastic about the morning of drill practice they had completed under the expert eye of PC Bagshaw who had mastered his parade ground knowledge while serving with the 9th/12th Royal Lancers. Immediately after the parade I joined members of the Jewish Community in Leicester for their Mitzvah Day midsummer event where they were doing a tremendous job collecting much needed supplies for Women’s Aid Leicestershire, which supports children and families of domestic violence. The generosity of local shoppers at Oadby, who collected extra items during their weekly shop, was wonderful to see.
All three of Leicestershire’s Universities held their Graduation Ceremonies during the month and there was a large turnout of students celebrating their graduation across a vast range of subjects. We were honoured to help host a popular visit by HRH The Duke of Gloucester at Lougborough ARC and he took a keen interest in the activities he saw in and around Loughborough and Syston. The Defence Animal Centre held an excellent Open Day and it was a tremendous opportunity for them to open their doors to the local community in Melton Mowbray who enjoyed seeing the horses and dogs in action as well as a menagerie of Army Mascost lead by a well trained goat!
As we approached the first anniversary of the terrible King Power helicopter crash, Leicestershire Police organised a moving ceremony at to honour and recognise all those who had been involved in the considerable emergency services operation that night and the following weeks. It was a powerful reminder of the impact this tragedy had on the whole community and the sterling work so many professional and voluntary responders made during such a busy and emotional period.
This was swiftly followed by an opportunity to see the worldwide activities supported from RAF Wittering who held a very informative briefing and display for local guests. The breadth of support they provide around the world was a real eye opener and, unsurprisingly, they are constantly deployed as the RAF remains on active operations around the globe.
Despite the damp weather, there was a large and vibrant attendance at the Eid Festival in Victoria Park which is one of the largest in the UK and many of those attending were wearing their traditional colourful clothing.
There was a similar buzz at the Police Volunteer Awards the next evening and I was delighted to be able to present certificates to some of the hundreds of volunteers who do so much for policing in Leicestershire and Rutland and give a staggering 100,000 hours of support.
The 75th Anniversary Ceremony in Leicester Cathedral was a slightly more sombre event and it was an honour to meet one of the D Day Veterans who had served with The Leicestershire Regiment in Normandy.
I greatly enjoyed the chance to visit the De Montfort University degree Show and was impressed by the depth and creative talent of the art, textiles products and designs on show; we have some amazing students and academics.
While the sun shone for The Leicestershire Regimental Parade, the heavens opened at the Bishop of Leicester’s Reception but this did not prevent everyone enjoying a fun opportunity to meet and help celebrate our uniquely diverse culture.
The Lord Lieutenant’s Youth Awards was a great occasion where young people throughout the County are recognised for their achievement in a number of sporting, artistic and community support roles and gave an insight into the amount of young talented people living in Leicestershire.
I also attended the swearing in for the new Mayor of Melton Mowbray’s and AGM of the Borough Council. A fascinating day in Leicester Crown Court followed where a visiting Judge was hearing a murder case involving a new-born baby. This was a serious and highly emotional case, where I saw at first hand the demands this puts on the Jury members and court officials. The defendant was subsequently found guilty.
The outgoing High Sheriff, Diana Thompson, handed over to me on April 12th at a Ceremony she kindly organised in the St Martin’s Centre. I hope very much to continue her work supporting Warning Zone, Leicester and the rural County during my year in Office.
My first duty was to support the Lord Lieutenant at a BEM Presentation Ceremony at Beaumanor Hall, which was a great opportunity to meet some wonderful people who have already served our County so well. The High Sheriff of Rutland kindly asked me to her Declaration Ceremony in Oakham Castle and we have a number of joint visits planned as we share much our Police Force and Court system.