Year in Review: Looking back on April to June 2021

Ian Kirkby, Bob Golding and Andy Day in St Albans pantomime Sleeping Beauty at The Alban Arena.

Panto star Bob Golding quit the Alban Arena pantomime after nine years. - Credit: Pamela Raith

Verulamium Park was targeted by vandals just prior to the start of April, with piles of rubbish dumped just days after yobs trashed the £250,000 new play area, Verulam School appointed its first female headteacher in the form of Julie Richardson, and we continued our retrospective look at Covid: One Year On by focusing on the work of the Harpenden Trust and the activities of the St Albans Rainbow Trail.

The relaxing of restrictions on April 12 saw pubs and shops reopening after months of lockdown, and questions were asked about whether St Albans' iconic Charter Market should be redesignated as a non profit-making civic function.

Time was unexpectedly called on the team at The White Lion pub in Sopwell Lane just hours before they were due to reopen when Punch Taverns served them notice, and the district paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh following his death at the age of 99.

An independent investigation discovered financial irregularities at Colney Heath Parish Council stretching over 11 years and to the tune of a quarter of a million pounds. Councillors identified over £250,000 had been paid in ultra vires payments during the late John Dean's tenure as parish clerk.

The national body representing market traders made a damning indictment of plans to introduce gazebos at the Charter Market, and many stallholders said 'enough is enough' over changes to their contracts.

Panto legend Bob Golding.

Panto legend Bob Golding. - Credit: Paul Clapp

Moving into May, and plans were revealed for at least 14 festivals on Green Belt land near St Albans, we marked Mental Health Awareness Week, and panto legend Bob Golding announced plans to quit the Alban Arena show after a decade of gags and custard pies.

Cllr Mandy McNeil falsely claimed that the decision to replace market stalls with gazebos was a fait accomplit, with the consultation process over and a decision made, something which was denied by the district council. The Herts Ad subsequently surveyed 45 traders at a Wednesday market and found 31 were in favour of a return to the old stalls.

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The Lib Dems bucked national trends to deal a bloody nose to local Conservatives and seize overall control of the district council, including major gains in Harpenden, and further Covid restrictions were eased on May 17, with customers allowed inside pubs, restaurants and other venues.

The new playground at Clarence Park.

The new playground at Clarence Park. - Credit: Clarence Play

A new £222K playground was opened at Clarence Park, the leader of Britain First condemned a painting portraying a black Jesus at St Albans Cathedral, and the controversy over the city centre road closures stepped up a gear as traders claimed they were having a detrimental effect on their businesses.

Roy Scammell by Donato Cinicolo.

Roy Scammell by Donato Cinicolo. - Credit: Donato Cinicolo

We celebrated the life of stuntman Roy Scammell, party leaders clashed over plans to restructure the district council, and a campaign was launched for safety improvements to the St Albans Road following the tragic death of a motorist.

Geoffrey Golding has retired from St Albans tailors, GD Golding.

Geoffrey Golding has retired from St Albans tailors, GD Golding. - Credit: Archant

June saw St Albans Amnesty mark its 60th anniversary, tailor to royalty Geoffrey Golding retired after more than 58 years, and the fifth St Albans Sustainability Festival was a resounding success.

The hospitality industry faced a new crisis, as recruiting staff proved more difficult following the double blow of Covid and Brexit, residents and family members were left shocked by the sudden closure of Grace Muriel Care Home after 60 years, and plans were unveiled for more than 650 homes on the site of Aldwickbury Golf Club.

Grace Muriel House in St Albans closed after 60 years.

Grace Muriel House in St Albans closed after 60 years. - Credit: Abbeyfield St Albans Society

Freedom Day - the proposed lifting of pandemic restrictions due to take place on June 21 - was delayed by four weeks, Wheathampstead held its first scarecrow trail, and councillors were told there was no money to buy or erect gazebos to replace stalls at St Albans Charter Market, delaying a long-awaited trial.

Herts Ad reporter Laura Bill discovered the delights of naturism, police were urged to increase patrols in Verulamium Park following a teenage gang attack, and residents of Drakes Drive in St Albans demanded an end to years of flooding during heavy rain.

Laura Bill in a hot tub at Sunfolk.

Reporter Laura Bill discovers the pleasures of naturism. - Credit: Laura Bill