Year in Review 2017: Meraki success, A-Level wins, and tragic losses

A St Albans woman who contracted Hepatitis C from contaminated blood the NHS imported from the US in the 1980s was relieved when an official inquiry was announced into the scandal in July.

Nicky, who long campaigned for an inquiry, said: “It’s taken so long, it’s one of those things that I thought was never going to happen.”

Announcing the probe, Theresa May said: “The victims and their families who have suffered so much pain and hardship deserve answers as to how this could possibly have happened.”

St Albans MP Anne Main also welcomed the decision, saying she was “pleased”.

The families campaigning against the closure of Nascot Lawn also made progress.

They presented a petition with 14,000 signatures to Herts County Council on Wednesday, July 19.

Several of the parents, who were joined by their wheelchair-bound children, made emotional pleas to councillors to save the Watford service.

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Portfolio holder for children’s services Teresa Heritage promised the needs of children who used short break services would be met.

“Nascot Lawn is an oasis of hope for 62 families in Hertfordshire for children with complex and life-limiting health needs.

“We will not aggregate the responsibilities.”

County football suffered a loss this year with the death of fervent volunteer Clive Churchhouse.

Mr Churchhouse died in hospital after falling from the roof of St Albans City Football Club’s Clarence Park ground on Tuesday, July 18.

Tributes soon flooded in from Luton Town FC, Hitchin FC, and Hemel Hempstead FC for the 71-year-old long-time supporter.

St Albans’ chairman Lawrence Levy said: “Clive was a much-loved character around the club with a big personality.”

The club later renamed part of the stand after him and unveiled a commemorative plaque in September.

The Health and Safety Executive’s investigation into his death is ongoing.

In other tragic news, a 76-year-old grandmother was killed in a hit-and-run collision.

Barbara Liddle died in September outside her home on Camp Road while she was on her way to a darts match.

The keen dart player and singer is sorely missed by her family, with daughter Sharon saying: “She knew everybody, it’s what happens when you live in the same house for 45 years.

“She was a brilliant mum and we had a good upbringing, she did everything right.”

Sharon’s brother Kevin said: “Mum always had her lipstick on and her hair done. She was always well turned out, she looked after herself.

“She was the best. Sharon and I had such a happy childhood.”

Famous faces such as Bonnie Tyler, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and Jason Donovan took to the stage for the first Meraki Festival in August.

Tony Hadley, Belinda Carlisle, Lemar, and Rebecca Ferguson also performed at the Herts County Showground in Redbourn.

The Herts Advertiser was on scene at the festival all weekend, bringing video from all of the headline acts and from some of the smaller stages as well.

We also recorded from the top of the zipline, the VR beach, and the ferris wheel.

And taking advantage of the full range of food and drink on offer from the likes of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, Dylans The King’s Arms, Farr Brewery, and The Pudding Stop.

Also revelling in the late summer were St Albans’ latest sixth form success stories.

Beaumont, Sandringham, St Albans School, Roundwood Park, Oaklands College: all celebrated outstanding, or even record-breaking results.

Beaumont head Martin Atkinson said: “It’s particularly rewarding so many students have reached or surpassed their aspirations, with our highest ever number of A* grades and a record average points score per student.”

Nicholas Breakspear head Declan Linnane said: “These results demonstrate the outstanding efforts of students, parents and staff and this community should be proud of what they have achieved. Our students leave our school community as well rounded young adults ready to take on the next chapter of their lives.”

Samuel Ryder Academy head Matthew Gauthier, said he was: “Not surprised by the outstanding results achieved by students.

“Our teachers have worked tirelessly to ensure that the new curriculum makes students as independent and thoughtful learners to prepare them for their future endeavours.”

The Herts Advertiser interviewed Hitchin and Harpenden’s newly-elected MP Bim Afolami in September.

The conversation ranged over a series of topics - broadband service, financial services, science, farming, housing, Luton airport, and his first few months in the job.

He said of his experience so far in Parliament: “The way I would describe is it’s a weird mix between loneliness, in you are making individual choices, and people will take your views on x from those choices.

“Ultimately it’s just me here, and every day you are making decisions about quite major things in people’s lives.

“On the other hand, there is a huge sense of camaraderie amongst Conservative MPs, and dare I say Labour and the Lib Dems as well.”

Also in Harpenden news in September, council officers were left scratching their heads on how to deal with a 4x4 that had been driven up Batford Springs.

It was originally believed the Suzuki would not be retrieved until the next week.

Herts police confirmed the car was not stolen, and its owner was eventually able to remove the vehicle from the spring without Harpenden Town Council’s help.

It was not believed any damage was done to the river’s ecology.

Back in St Albans, a number of Marshalswick shoppers were tricked by a prankster putting a picture of the McDonald’s logo in the window of a vacant shopping unit on The Ridgeway.

Sadly for chicken nugget fans, McDonald’s confirmed it was a joke, saying: “McDonald’s currently does not have plans to open a new restaurant in St Albans.”

It followed similar tomfoolery when locals spotted a McDonald’s drive-thru planning application notice for Bowers Parade in Harpenden High Street.

This also turned out to be a trick - with the reference 5/15/APRL1 as an Easter egg for anyone observant enough.

This did not stop some people though, with one Facebook user commented: “I’d hate a McDonald’s in Harpenden. It would then make it like every other town..”