Connecting Yorkshire’s unsung heroes at the High Sheriff’s Connectivity Lunch

Recently a buzzing Connectivity Lunch at York Racecourse hosted by the outgoing High Sheriff of North Yorkshire, Venetia Wrigley, brought together a hundred or so of the most extraordinary people doing crucial work at very grassroot level in the region – the Unsung Heroes of Yorkshire.

Over her year as High Sheriff, Venetia travelled the length and breadth of the region meeting over 100 small charities and community organisations, who along with their huge army of volunteers have literally ‘got stuck in’ to reassure and make a difference to vulnerable local people of all ages. Delivering prescriptions, getting shopping, running activities on-line and getting on the phone to check-in.

Venetia talked about her time as High Sheriff and what brought her to put on the lunch.

“Throughout the year I could often see how one group would benefit so much from meeting another charity with similar aims.  I recognised that many people could share resources, feed off each other ideas, forge new relationships, making communities and the region even stronger. This was my thinking behind the Connectivity Lunch and it really is wonderful to see the buzz from people doing just that – connecting.”

One of those heroes is John Venables from The Big Communitea in Selby who founded the mental health charity after seeing for himself the difference a cup of tea and a chat with someone that understood could do.

Connnectivity Lunch

John had had a serious accident, breaking his back, which saw him out of action for 18 months and become severely depressed.  He made his way around various mental health facilities, working with health professionals, but what he realised was the best support he received was peer support – talking to other people suffering with their mental health.

He set up The Big Communitea on the back of his experience, first using cafes around Selby for people to drop in for a cuppa, then being available over the phone during lockdown when face to face meeting wasn’t possible and now they have their own premises in Selby city centre, supporting all types of people with a cuppa and a chat on a daily basis.

He loved the Connectivity Lunch and the opportunity to meet so many of his Yorkshire peers, John said:

“It was marvellous, brilliant to meet so many people from around North Yorkshire and be hosted so wonderfully.

“It was really great finding out what everyone else is doing. Running a charity, you tend to have your head down, you are dealing with your own stuff, so meeting other people and finding out how they are communicating, how they are innovating – it is just fantastic.

“It was buzzing, people were firing questions at one another. People asking how they can help us and how we might work together. It worked really well and definitely was a celebration.”

Venetia also visited Schools for young people with Special Needs and the Fire Service, Police, Air Ambulance and Mountain Rescue Teams who remained on standby throughout the lockdowns. She’s travelled to every prison in the region, sat in Court listening to cases with the jury and visited the Magistrates.

The event was further enhanced by the inspirational speech by Richard Cowlishaw of Clipper Logistics talking about their forward-thinking back-to-work initiative Fresh Start.

Fresh Start helps people, whatever their background, back into employment.

They encourage ex-offenders, the homeless, people with disabilities, refugees and retirees onto their training programme, removing and overcoming barriers to work. They have had 1200 people through Fresh Start with a significant number of those still in employment with them.

All in all the lunch was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the diverse and inspiring people that makes Yorkshire so special.

And plenty of new connections were made.