The merry – and very busy – month of May
2nd May 2021: A walk on Long Mynd with my family reminded us of how lucky we are to live in Shropshire. The county’s beauty is a magnet to visitors from far and wide and will drive the recovery of our tourist industry.
4th May 2021: I had the pleasure of presenting High Sheriff awards today to Barry Davies and Tony Reeves for their outstanding contributions to Broseley. Barry and Tony are responsible for the upkeep of Broseley Cemetery and the parish’s green spaces. With their combined 24 years of service, they are an example of how the unsung heroes of our communities keep the county’s towns and parishes so beautiful, with care and consideration for all within the parish and those visiting.
6th May 2021: I had an excellent conversation this afternoon with Andy Begley, CEO of Shropshire Council. I explained that my aim was to champion Shropshire and to particularly focus on the tourism and employment sectors.
Mr Begley could not have been more supportive. We talked in detail about areas for growth in tourism. We also covered the importance of the green agenda, the challenge of funding social care, Shrewsbury’s Big Town Plan, business growth and the need for good Broadband connectivity. We plan to hold further meetings.
10th May 2021: I visited the offices of the personal support charity Crane Quality Counselling in Shrewsbury this morning. The not-for-profit organisation does vital work in providing valuable counselling and relationship support, helping a wide range of people – from individuals, couples and families to forces veterans, prisoners and the homeless.
I met CEO Lin Foley and some of her team of volunteers and heard in detail about Crane’s vital work in the community, including ‘teen talk’, a new counselling service for schools.
As the fallout from the pandemic continues to take a toll on people’s mental health and wellbeing, organisations like Crane Quality Counselling will be hugely important and I pledge to do all I can to help.
10:th May 2021 I had the privilege of meeting clinical staff from the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre in Shrewsbury this afternoon and learning more about their work. I spoke to four separate groups of 10 – to maintain social distancing – telling them about my aims for the year and how I am keen to champion the efforts of the county’s unsung heroes.
The main purpose of the event at the Hamar Centre, Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, was to thank cancer staff for their work and commitment, particularly in 2020 which was such a challenging year. I was honoured to take part. It was also an opportunity to cement the link between medical staff and those at Lingen Davies Cancer Fund raising money to help finance their work.
I am keen to champion all those in our magnificent NHS, particularly on the frontline who have worked in the most challenging of circumstances over the past 15 months.
13th May 2021: I visited the inspirational Kelda Wood today. Kelda runs the wonderful independent charity Climbing Out which operates nationwide from its base near Worthen. Climbing Out works with anyone aged 18 or over who has been through a life-changing injury, illness or trauma.
This also includes victims of bullying or abuse, and survivors of terrorism or crime. It offers places for members of the Emergency Services and NHS plus members of the Armed Forces and their families dealing with mental or physical trauma.
Programmes range from fully-funded five-day outdoor activity courses aimed at rebuilding confidence and self-esteem, to online workshops to enhance mental wellbeing and resilience.
Kelda founded Climbing Out in 2010, eight years after a freak accident left her with an irreparable leg injury that ended her dreams of being an Olympic rider. After rebuilding her confidence, she retrained as an outdoor instructor and determined to help people facing the same kind of challenges that she had overcome.
Latterly, Kelda was diagnosed with breast cancer and is bringing the same resilience and positive thinking to dealing with the illness. A remarkable and inspiring woman! I am determined to do all I can to shine a light on her incredible work.
13th May 2021: I was delighted to present an award to Kirsty Jones, who has worked for Broseley Town Council for five years, in which time she has been instrumental in helping with Youth Provision. Kirsty also works for the Broseley Youth Club and helps to manage Broseley MUGA (Multi Use Games Area). This is another example of how the unsung heroes of Broseley keep their town and parish a vibrant and engaging place for residents and visitors.
17th May 2021: Today I had the pleasure of meeting former Telford Borough Mayor Raj Mehta of Telford & Wrekin Interfaith Council. The aim of the body is to try to bind all faiths together, an ambition helped considerably by Raj’s personal charm and great skill as a communicator – he speaks seven languages!
Interestingly, during our conversation, the High Commissioner for India rang him, which illustrates how he connects with people on many levels.
Raj is, by profession, a doctor – a practice manager in Birmingham – and his wife is also a doctor, based in Telford. Raj has worked in the NHS for two decades and been able, through the previous Indian High Commissioner, to recruit more than 250 doctors to come and work at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford. Prior to that, the hospital was apparently under threat of closure through a lack of qualified staff.
He tries to encourage people of any faith to come together through his Interfaith Council.
The aim is to not only bind various faith groups together but, as importantly, to encourage respect between the generations. He is acutely aware that many of the younger generation, from whatever colour or creed, have less respect for their parents than they did formerly.
Raj invited me to attend an interfaith meeting and speak, which I should be only too happy to do.
19th May 2021: I gave an online presentation to Shrewsbury Business Chamber on my vision of the role of High Sheriff and what I wish to achieve.
This was followed by an open discussion involving the 16 chamber members attending the Zoom meeting.
It was agreed the priority is to stimulate employment in and around Shrewsbury.
A challenge is the trend for many of those educated in Shrewsbury to gravitate to big cities, such as London, Birmingham or Manchester, for work.
Shrewsbury needs to be made a more ‘happening’ place for the young to encourage them to remain.
The work/life balance is changing and it is important that Shropshire has high quality connectivity, whether via broadband or travel. Road links are extremely good but rail links poor.
Members discussed the northern relief road which is clearly controversial. However, if Shrewsbury wishes to attract more business it will need to improve its connectivity. The town is a hub for people from Mid Wales and needs to be as appealing as possible to continue to attract those from further afield.
A major challenge is attracting capital to Shrewsbury, with investors tending to focus on more recognised commercial centres.
Overall, though, the tone of the meeting was very positive.
20th May 2021: I visited the headquarters of the 11th Signal and West Midland Brigade at Venning Barracks at Donnington where I had the pleasure of meeting Deputy Commander Col Chris Ledsham, Col Nigel Sarling, Colonel of the Cadets; Lt Col Paul Walkley and NASM Mac Singh.
We discussed the importance of cadets and the CCF (Combined Cadet Force) in
Shropshire. There are 23 cadet units within the county and six separate CCFs, mainly in schools.
21st May 2021: As I’ve said before, doing all that I can to promote Shropshire’s tourism industry is at the heart of my shrievalty. To that end, I had a meeting at Shirehall today with three council officers concerned directly with a new tourism drive in the county.
Jane Trethewey, Assistant Director, Homes & Communities; Clare Featherstone, Culture, Leisure & Tourism Manager, and tourism specialist Andrea Fox.
Jane told us the council had recently appointed a marketing consultant, Katrina Kerr, whose previous campaigns had included the promotional work for Chester. Katrina will help to develop support for Visit Shropshire, the county’s Destination Management Organisation.
She will create a Covid tourism recovery marketing campaign, the outline of which Andrea talked me through.
I was asked to champion this first Shropshire county-wide tourism drive, which I should be delighted to do. I do believe the role of High Sheriff can help to bring interested parties together. Certainly, the feeling from the meeting was that the High Sheriff, as a high-profile figure, could be a significant influence as Shropshire Council moves into this new phase of developing and supporting the county’s tourism sector.
The council would like me to promote various initiatives as the year unfolds, one example being the Crowd Funding campaign for the North Shropshire Hoard, launched by Shropshire’s Museum Service.
Discovered in Wem three years ago by an anonymous metal detectorist, the treasure included a sun pendant, also known as a bulla, that could be the most significant piece of Bronze Age metalwork ever discovered in Britain. The treasure is so important that it has been acquired by the British Museum. However, it will go on display for the first time ever at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery (SMAG) between September and December this year.
SMAG now wants to raise £50,000 to acquire other Bronze Age objects discovered at the same site. This includes a rare jewellery parcel wrapped in lead, believed to be one of the earliest recorded uses of this material. It is hoped to raise the money through crowdfunding, enabling the museum to house this rare collection, conserve it for future generations and display it to the public. This will allow visitors an opportunity to admire the extraordinary craftsmanship of these remarkable objects and to understand the significance of the Shropshire landscape to Bronze Age Britain.
Finally, I’ve been invited to host a VIP event in the autumn, when the main tourism campaign begins. Again, I shall be happy to take a lead – anything I can do to help get the tourism industry, the lifeblood of Shropshire, back on its feet.
My thanks to Jane, Andrea and Clare for what was an extremely positive and encouraging meeting.
25th May 2021: Tourism again – and I make no apology for that. I cannot stress enough how vital the industry is to the economic recovery of Shropshire following the devastating effects of the pandemic on businesses and livelihoods.
I was invited to address an online MP Round Table Forum, organised by Visit Shropshire, as part of English Tourism Week.
I spoke about my role and shared my thoughts on the importance of tourism to the county, with many dependent on it for their livelihoods.
I referred to how the industry had been badly hit by Covid restrictions with travel limited and visitor attractions, hotels, pubs and cafes either closed until a few days ago or restricted in what they could offer. Many leisure businesses have struggled and some have lost their jobs as a result.
I expressed my love of Shropshire as a wonderful county, with breath-taking countryside, a colourful history, and a rich architectural heritage. It has so much to offer, not only to visitors from outside but those who live here. I told the Round Table that I believe tourism will help drive our economic recovery and that I aim to play a part in that.
I outlined the Shropshire Council strategy, as explained to me the previous Friday. This aims to find a golden thread to encompass not only the trophy destinations like Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Shrewsbury and our wonderful countryside, but also smaller attractions, and to promote them to a wide diversity of people
Part of the strategy will be to establish what visitors are really looking for, whether it be entertainment, leisure, culture or the outdoors.
I also spoke briefly about my schools’ initiative to encourage students to think of tourism in the county. It is along the lines of Alan Sugar’s Apprentice, where they are asked to prepare a ‘Marketing plan for promoting tourism in Shropshire’.
I prepared an introductory ‘Alan Sugar-style’ video for the schools to show to their students. The feedback has been really encouraging. Several schools are taking part, which
I’m extremely pleased about as the aim is to engage young people in our tourism drive. The more people, across a diverse range of ages and backgrounds, who appreciate how vital tourism is to Shropshire’s economy and who ‘buy into’ the idea of the county as a visitor destination, the better.
Throughout my year, I plan to work closely with Visit Shropshire and both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Councils.
The meeting heard from Owen Paterson, former cabinet minister and MP for North Shropshire, and Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury, who both articulated their support for tourism.
Mark Hooper, Visit Shropshire’s excellent Project Leader, then put a series of questions to the MPs, who vowed to take Shropshire’s case for tourism funding to central Government.
We also heard from Beth Heath, Visit Shropshire’s Chair.
I want to use my year as High Sheriff to make a difference to tourism and to help promote the county not only to visitors from outside but from within. There’s absolutely no reason why more people from Oswestry shouldn’t explore the delights of Ludlow – and vice versa.
26th May 2021: I had the pleasure to attend a community networking lunch held by Shrewsbury Town in the Community, attended by around 40.
It follows my meeting with chief executive Jamie Edwards and Steve Burnside of the charity. Its main aims are promoting health and wellbeing and better life chances, building a stronger community and reducing crime. It encourages young people to have a career choice in either football, sports or the wider working community.
The football club provides the facilities but no direct funding. There is, however, funding from the Premier League to the tune of £100,000. The EFL provides a further £30,000. The current turnover is £1.3 million a year all of which is re-invested in Shropshire.
Since Jamie Edwards took over, the charity has generated about £5 million worth of investment and Shropshire Council has recently made a grant of £180,000.
Marcus Rashford’s Hunger in Sport charity has also given £10,000. The aim of this is to provide food for disadvantaged children aged between four and 18.
The charity has football centres at Shrewsbury and Ludlow and aims to open up a dedicated gym, which is still to be funded. Educationally, there are between 60 and 70 students on the scheme who go through Shrewsbury University.
Shrewsbury Town in the Community would welcome the High Sheriff’s involvement in promoting their charitable causes. To this end I shall be attending various events throughout my year. I feel this is a very focused Shropshire charity and important to support.
27th May 2021: I saw five absolutely fabulous and inspiring presentations today from 12 A-Level Business students at Thomas Adams School in Wem.
The subject was how to promote Shropshire as a tourist destination.
I found them absolutely inspiring, with plenty of well thought-through and creative ideas.
It is part of the project I have launched, which I spoke about at the MP’s Round Table on Tourism (see above) to involve schools in a major tourism drive. The aim is to try to help the industry in the county, which has been badly hit by lockdowns and restrictions.
I have set the schools the challenge of developing a marketing strategy to promote tourism in Shropshire, rather in the style of a task on Alan Sugar’s BBC show The Apprentice.
The response to this initiative by schools has been hugely exciting, with several coming on board.
I have given the schools a free hand and Thomas Adams School has been the first to present, overseen by Head of Business Studies Amy Glover. Her students displayed tremendous flair and creativity.
Ideas included an Interactive Plan for the county’s tourist attractions which could accessed on an iphone. Most of their marketing is via Facebook, which is what their parents use, with YouTube clips.
The students set out their goals and how they proposed to measure they had been reached, analysed the county’s strengths and weaknesses, identified their target market and potential opportunities to increase Shropshire’s market share of the international tourist industry. And there was so much more.
These students are a credit to our county and I’ve shared their material with tourism officers at Shropshire Council and the team at Visit Shropshire.
This is great start with a number of other schools to present later. Thomas Adams has set the bar high.
27th May 2021: I had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca Blount at Brookside, Telford. Rebecca runs a small charity Recharge Telford aimed at helping those dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. Recharge does sterling work with young people aged 12 to 21 who either have issues with drugs, alcohol or any other form of addiction or who live with a family member who does. There are currently 15 young people being helped by the programme. A terrific cause which I felt was important to highlight.
27th May 2021: I visited Brookside Community Centre in Telford where I met my predecessor Dean Harris and Jo Cooper, organiser of Shropshire’s Outstanding Community (SOC), the exciting new award scheme aimed at celebrating the very best of the county.
We were at Brookside to promote interest in SOC, which aims to create a feelgood factor by casting a spotlight on all that is positive about Shropshire and its people.
Communities across the county can put themselves up for recognition by the scheme – and the definition of community is broad, from a town or village to a housing development, street or block of flats.
The winning community will receive a plaque for display and £1,000 to be spent on something that will benefit the community. Second and third places will receive a certificate each and £500 and £250 respectively.
Visit oustanding.community for details of how to enter. Alternatively contact Jo Cooper on 01743 295900 for more information. Closing date for entries is June 25.
I’m very passionate about this award and am delighted to be involved in its organisation and promotion.
It is very much an extension of traditional competitions like Best Kept Village or Britain in Bloom, which celebrated places that were the loveliest in appearance.
SOC will celebrate community spirit, the collective effort that adds to the pleasure of living in a place for its people. Taking a pride in your town, street or village’s appearance is part of it, for instance through volunteer litter-picking groups or those who voluntarily mow verges and plant public borders.
But this initiative is as much, if not more, about relationships, bonds, identity and about focusing on where people have come together with a collective investment in their neighbourhood, where attitudes and interests are commonly shared.
It’s about good neighbourliness, looking after one another, a community’s sociability and about collective day-to-day attitudes and actions that make life that little bit better for everyone.
It is about celebrating the Shropshire communities that have a strong sense of their own identity and in which their residents have an emotional stake. We want to show off communities that aren’t just places where people reside but that have a heart and soul