Column: The latest from St Albans Chamber of Commerce

Terry Waite visits Emmaus, Harpenden.

Terry Waite visits Emmaus, Harpenden. - Credit: Archant

District Chamber of Commerce manager Lisa Bates writes exclusively for the Herts Advertiser every fortnight. For more information on the Chamber, visit their website at

WE are delighted to announce we are very fortunate to have Terry Waite CBE confirmed as the guest speaker for our St George’s Day Lunch this year on Friday ,April 19.

Terry Waite was the Assistant for Anglican Communion Affairs for the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, in the 1980s. As an envoy for the Church of England, he travelled to Lebanon to try to secure the release of four hostages, including the journalist John McCarthy. He was himself held captive between 1987 and 1991. Mr Waite is President of Emmaus UK who will be our nominated charity on the day. After a three-course traditional lunch, guests will hear Terry speak about his experiences.

Emmaus St Albans first opened at the beginning of 2002. The building used to be the nurse’s home for the old Cell Barnes Hospital on Hill End Lane. Emmaus St Albans (finalists last year in the Chamber Community Business Awards) has three shops. One shop is joined to the community building, another shop is in Batford (Harpenden), and a new shop opened recently in Hemel Hempstead. All shops accept donations of household furniture, some electrical goods, toys and books, bric-a-brac, bicycles, collectables and antiques.

Many of the furniture donations pass through the in-house workshop where they will be sympathetically restored. Work done will range from a simple scratch removal to complete strip down and re-finishing with French polishing in the traditional manner by hand. The workshop will also design and build a variety of items from scratch with a particular focus on using recycled materials. The busy Emmaus vans collect almost 20 tonnes of donated goods each month. They also operate a delivery service across St Albans and Harpenden area for their customers. Please call them if you have worthwhile goods to donate 01727 817297. Help them to re-use and re-cycle.

We are looking for auction items to help raise funds at the St George’s Day event, which is sponsored by Clydesdale Bank, so if you are able to assist us please do get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you!

Darcy’s Restaurant in Hatfield Road hosted this month’s Chamber Business Beakfast yesterday, another sell-out event for us. Ruth Hurren and her team impressed delegates with a delicious breakfast. The Business Breakfast meetings held by the Chamber have become so popular that we are struggling to find venues big enough to cater for the large numbers attending.

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The Chamber only uses venues that are members so if you have large meeting rooms or a large restaurant and would like to host a business networking event do get in touch, we are particularly keen to host more events in Harpenden. This is a great way to showcase your venue to the business community who are all potential new customers!

St Albans Cathedral has plenty of space and is utilising this very well with a forthcoming screening of the Dickens classic Great Expectations with a talk by the director and cathedral trustee Mike Newell on February 28. The nave of the Cathedral will be transformed for the screening of Mike Newell’s new adaptation of the classic novel staring a high-calibre cast including Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham and Ralph Fiennes as the convict Magwitch.

BAFTA award-winning director Mike will give a talk prior to the film. There will be live music and a Prosecco bar before the film, and film goers may well encounter Miss Havisham and other characters from the book as they gather in the nave. This is a special event not to be missed! Tickets cost £12 and are available from the Cathedral Shop or call 01727 890217. Pre-booking is advisable. Profits from the screening will go to the Cathedral Education Trust to support the work carried out by the Education Centre which welcomes more than 16,000 children each year.

St Albans’ first ever Film Festival takes place this year from March 8-10 with screenings, workshops, talks and events across 20 venues in the city. There really is something for all ages and films for everyone whether you are a professional filmmaker, interested in getting into filmmaking or just love watching great movies.

As well as feature film screenings, the festival is holding a prize-winning competition for short filmmakers. The festival will feature events, talks and some amazing workshops, including stop-frame animation workshops. Children will be encouraged to get dressed up in film-themed fancy dress, there will be a film pub quiz, interactive events where people will have a chance to get on camera or try things out behind the scenes, and celebrities from the world of film, art and music milling around the town. For further information go to Anyone who wants to volunteer at the festival should email Jenny at

Individuals or businesses who would like to be an event sponsor please email A festival pass is £40 for the three days and gives you discounts around the city. You can also buy individual tickets to workshops and events.

The next Chamber event is our AGM followed by a great opportunity to hear from Jamie Stevenson, director of apprenticeships and business partnerships at Oaklands College.

Jamie will be informing employers of the benefits of apprenticeships, sector-based work academies and work experience. With the challenging economic climate and struggle to find potential employees with the right skill set, apprenticeships allow employers to “grow their own” staff, succession plan and develop managers/leaders of the future.

He will also talk about the substantial grants available to employers taking on apprentices. Interested? Book your place online and benefit from networking with like minded local business people.