Some things transcend the divisions in everyday life and the Jubilee is certainly an event that will bring people together, to celebrate as a nation Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne and to remind ourselves how much our local communities matter.
Acting as something of a bridge between the Royal Family and our everyday lives, the role of the Lord-Lieutenant feeds into all aspects of life, from promoting the county to supporting businesses and recognising excellence in all aspects of local life.
James Saunders Watson has held the post as The Queen’s representative in Northamptonshire for the past two years. His home, Rockingham Castle, was set to be uncharacteristically quiet as he prepared for official duties in the county and in London to mark the historic milestone.
“Although there will be other events during the year when we will mark the occasion, we felt that the Jubilee weekend was a time when people would be doing their own thing in their own communities, so there won’t be much happening at Rockingham,” he explained. “We’re lighting a beacon and planning to light up the house in red, white and blue but otherwise it will be fairly quiet, and as I’m going to be very busy with pageants in Northampton and official duties in London, that is probably a good thing.”
Part of the Lord-Lieutenant’s role this year has been to help facilitate the official events – such as the beacon lightings, the parties at Delapré Abbey and Wicksteed Park for the live screening of the Jubilee pageant, or the procession through Northampton on the Saturday – and to ensure people throughout the county knew what was happening and how they could celebrate, be that at official gatherings, or by organising their own street party.
The Jubilee celebrations have simply been an extension of the Lord-Lieutenant’s role in bringing people together as individuals, groups or businesses to work for the benefit of all and for the county as a whole. He is served by 35 Deputy Lieutenants, from all walks of life, who offer specialist knowledge and expertise across a variety of disciplines from charitable organisations to commerce, education and social enterprises.
Mr Saunders Watson said:
“Northamptonshire is very much a county of two halves with the south looking more towards Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and the north, where I’m based, very much more aligned with Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. What I think is important is to bring those two together. We have companies doing the same things that can benefit from sharing knowledge; we have companies in different sectors that can benefit from interaction.
“SMEs are the lifeblood of our county, we don’t have one very large employer like some places have. Yes, there are large international firms like Weetabix and Carlsberg, but they’re not dominant as employers. Instead, we have this extraordinary mix of highly entrepreneurial and diverse small companies, and we need to support them.
“For instance, I’d like to see the more established companies use their corporate social responsibility investment in different ways. Instead of sending employees out to volunteer, maybe some could look at getting involved with mentoring the CEO of a smaller company, to be hands on and provide the support they need.”
Understandably, the Lord-Lieutenant is an advocate of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, which recognise the achievement of firms in a range of categories and is a much-coveted award. This year’s awards saw two recipients in Northamptonshire – a first award for Diamond Hard Surfaces in Towcester and a second for reusable nappy firm Bambino Mio. Previous recipients have talked about how winning has had significant implications not just on their bottom line but on the boost it gives to both employer and employees.
Entries are currently open for the 2023 awards and, in the midst of some significant challenges for business, the Lord-Lieutenant is keen to encourage more organisations to enter.
“The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee has come at a time when we need some positivity,”
“We’ve been through some difficult times, and it can feel that society is quite divided at times, but I think what we saw during the pandemic was a demonstration of the core values and people pulling together.
“And, of course, whatever challenges we face, situations like that in Ukraine serve as a reminder that the things we get irritated by, or feel unhappy about are, on the whole, surmountable and broadly speaking we are lucky to live in a liberal and inclusive society.
“The Jubilee presents a chance to put the worries about the pandemic and economic outlook behind us and an occasion to enjoy and to help us forget about the challenges for a moment.”
Find out more about the role of the Lord-Lieutenant here.