High Sheriff West Midlands 2015 -16 VLC Reception.
Thank You Lord Lieutenant. And thank you my ladyship for you kind words earlier in the ceremony.
Good afternoon everyone and thanks for coming to this historic day! We have a really good mix of Judiciary from the Crown and Magistrates courts, Lord Mayors from across the county, family, friends, business, public services and luminaries!
The historic role of the High Sheriff goes back many years, in fact, it is the oldest secular office in Britain. In the West Midlands we have a great tradition of carrying out the role with attention to detail, generosity of spirit and ensuring the area is most welcoming to the presiding High Court Judges and their colleagues as they carry out their challenging duties. I look forward to supporting you all through the next 12 months, as do many of the people in the room. I’m informed the High Sheriff’s sword is the symbol of the Queen’s justice – and may also be called upon to protect Her Majesty’s Judges in case of need. I do hope that will not be necessary!
Mercia in the 12th century stretched from Norfolk to Bristol, York to Essex – thank goodness we have narrowed our responsibilities down to the wealth of Wolverhampton, The Black Country, Sandwell, Solihull, Coventry and Birmingham.
For many reasons this is a special year! It is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta; we have a general election in May and the Queen will be the longest serving monarch in history this year.
The High Sheriff will support the celebration and recognition of Magna Carta, the most important legal document in the world. It was signed by King John in Runnymeade in 1215 and has become the foundation of not only English and British law, but of democracies across the world. So this year The West Midlands will join with the Warwickshire High Sheriff to mark the anniversary on the 15th June in Coventry Cathedral. We will also join with Birmingham University’s Law and History Departments alongwith the city’s legal professions to recognize and celebrate the Magna Carta . Arts, culture and creative industries will be in strong support in the form of Stans Café with a special interpretation of their famous global show – Of all the people of all the world. It will take place on the 18th June and you are cordially invited.
Recently I visited the Staffordshire hoard in its wonderful new interactive new home in BMAG. The hoard, from the 12th century was found by Terry Herbert in 2009 in a Staffordshire field, using a state of the art metal detector. This application of technology and individual focus backed up by historic expertise and analysis gives us all an insight into our shared histories, artistry and artisanship.
The theme of my year will be young people, arts, culture and the creative industries, and since we were informed we were to take on this honoured role Marian has been talking to a range of arts and creative organisations and people who have all been interested in knowing more about the Shrievality and how they can be a part of the year.
Already Partners include the IKON’s Youth Program, BCU Institute of Art and Design, Selfridges, Craftspace, Arts Council, Arts Connect, BMAG, Birmingham and Coventry Cathedrals alongside young offenders, education, skills and employment teams – you are most welcome to join us in every corner of the West Midlands as we celebrate and promote the arts, culture and creative industries that so many of our young people, from all backgrounds are so good at, and are so important for the soul of our communities.
I imagine most of know the value of arts and culture, but might be wondering what are the creative industries. These are everything from fashion, music, design, dance, theatre and architecture to film, TV and the new worlds of social and digital media. Its the world that I have lived and worked in for the past 35 years in the Midlands and in particular at Maverick where we have created a wealth of television and digital media that is watched by millions locally, nationally and internationally.
It’s an important sector locally as we have so many talented people who can write songs, dance, design, perform, produce games, TV and films that are enjoyed around the world. These products are not only important reputationally for the midlands and the country, they are also a major contributor to UKPLC – at the last count 8.5% of GDP.
Arts and Culture are important for the West Midlands as they are where many young people first experience creativity which can free their imaginations and be the inspiration for future careers, jobs and companies. As High Sheriff I look forward to promoting creativity across the board and invite you to join me. To get us underway we have Katie Tomlinson from BCU’s illustration department who has been capturing the day with her pencil, Graham Peet with his camera and you will have noticed that we have a small film crew from Maverick with us. If you would rather not be filmed please let Kirsty know in the time honoured gesture of – hand in front of the camera!
I have selected not one, but two charities to support this year. The John Feeney and Koestler trusts.
The Koestler Trust was established by the famous art historian and critic Arthur Koestler to enable those behind bars for whatever reason, to lead more positive lives by motivating them to participate and achieve in the arts.
Many young offenders have benefited from the good work of the trust throughout the land including penal institutions in the West Midlands – I look forward to assisting and promoting their work and the young people who participate inside and outside.
Secondly, an early midlands media man John Feeney was the founder of the Birmingham Post and established a trust in his name 1905. He recognized the value and importance of arts and culture to society and his legacy supports contemporary projects and acquisitions. He donated funds to establish the galleries in BMAG to house the world’s greatest collection of Pre-Raphalite paintings which inspire with their beauty, insight and immense artistic skills.
So this year I will seek to support these charities as well as supporting the work of the Mayors, Community and religious leaders across the county.
Thanks go to many people who have already assisted in planning the year – including and especially Marian, the Lord Lieutenant, the Undersheriff, Greg, Graham Peet and Andrew Kulman. And no High Sheriff can get by without the behinds the scenes administration that Suzanne, Bridgett, Helen, Cynthia, Claire and our apprentice high sheriff PA for 2015, Jimi Ward
My family, close friends and colleagues have traveled from near and far to be here today to share the honour that it is to be installed as the High Sheriff of the West Midlands.
My thanks go to you all and I look forward to seeing you throughout this year as we welcome esteemed members of the judiciary to the West Midlands and its great young diverse people, arts, culture and creative talent.
I would also like to thank recent High Sheriffs who have kindly introduced me to the role and its responsibilities. In particular David, Anita, Stewart, Christine, Tim and their wonderful consorts. In this light I would like to invite June to come forward and accept a small token of our appreciation.
And finally, I wish to thank the Chairman of the Magistrates Bench, Richard Trengrouse. Richard is a proper Brummie and has a wealth of knowledge about this building – its history and importance in the application of the law to the people of Birmingham. Richard and his deputies have kindly offered to give you a guided tour and answer any questions you may have.
Thank you all for coming and I look forward to working with you in the coming months. Catherine will now say Grace before we enjoy a bite to eat.