Becoming the new High Sheriff of Essex during these extraordinary times is a challenge that Julie Fosh is more than happy to take up.
She says she feels “hugely privileged” to be the 840th person to be appointed to the role and is looking forward to using the position to give encouragement and support to people throughout the county.
Essex-born Julie, a former teacher, was appointed during a private ceremony held in her back garden. Sadly, the traditional ceremony which is usually held in the Essex County Council chambers, with around 100 guests in attendance, was cancelled due to the coronavirus.
Julie has been sharing messages with the other newly appointed High Sheriffs across the Eastern Region and, despite the uncertain circumstances, they are all approaching their year of office in a positive way.
“We all agree that these are tricky times, but we want to ‘keep on keeping on.’ Never before has the front line and voluntary services been so vital and we have a role to play in supporting them and buoying them up,” said Julie.
“We will need ideas about working creatively in new ways and will be making more use of social media, Skype and face-time. It will be a challenge, but I am up for it. Many events are currently being cancelled or postponed, but hopefully by late summer or autumn things will improve, so I expect to have a particularly busy time then.”
Julie’s plans for her year of office include a comedy night compèred by one of her former students and an Essex coastal path walk from Harwich to Tilbury. Money raised will go to the High Sheriffs’ Fund, which is run by the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF).
The fund gives grants annually to community initiatives to help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour and promote community safety.
Since it came under ECF’s management in 1997 the High Sheriffs’ Fund has distributed grants totalling over half a million pounds to voluntary and community organisations.
As a former teacher Julie has always been aware of the issues facing young people. Since retiring from teaching five years ago she has become involved with several voluntary organisations, including the Essex Youth Trust and the Essex Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, which has reinforced her determination to help young people.
She said: “I had a modest upbringing myself and went to a comprehensive school. I was one of three girls and we were lucky enough to have parents who believed in all of us and encouraged us to achieve our ambitions. I wanted to do physics and they did not question this, although at that time it was thought of as being a subject for boys.
“When I was teaching at the Cecil Jones College in Southend a lot of my time was spent encouraging students and helping them to believe they could do what they wanted to do.
“My passion continues to be to raise the aspirations of young people, recognising the vital importance of positive role models in their lives. In my year as High Sheriff my priorities will include supporting projects which help increase young people’s aspirations, strengthen their self-esteem and provide activities to divert them away from destructive behaviour.”
Traditionally, the role of High Sheriff was a male domain, but increasingly women such as Julie, who have made their mark in the community, are taking up the office with great success.
Modern-day High Sheriffs of Essex have a radically different role compared to their historical counterparts, who were Royal officials responsible for collecting taxes and maintaining law and order.
Today the High Sheriff’s role includes supporting and promoting voluntary organisations, making a meaningful contribution to the county and giving active support to the Royal family, the judiciary, the emergency services, local authorities and faith groups.
During Julie’s year of office, she will be supported by her husband, Paul, who is Senior Director of Strutt and Parker based in Chelmsford.