VECTIS VIEW: Graham Biss – Isle of Wight High Sheriff 2024-25

As the son of a dairy farmer, and running a small Island charity, Natural Enterprise, I am surprised but greatly honoured and delighted to be selected as the Island’s latest High Sheriff, following in the footsteps of the previous holders of this long-standing position.

In fact, the office of High Sheriff in England and Wales began over one thousand years ago, and is the oldest continuous secular office under the Crown. High Sheriffs were originally the main tax collectors for the King, but today the role is mainly ceremonial, along with some interesting tasks. Later in the year I look forward to being the returning officer for the parliamentary elections.

The appointment of High Sheriff runs for one year starting in April. During my term in office I am keen to support all aspects of Island life, but in particular I intend to focus on two specific areas.

From my role at Natural Enterprise, I am fortunate to be surrounded by some brilliant and skilled individuals. I know at first hand the importance the voluntary sector plays on the Island, and how volunteers make a real difference. It is my wish to help celebrate and promote the work of volunteers, the impact they make, and the way each voluntary group contributes to making the Island a better place to live.

We are blessed to have a vast range of local charities, voluntary groups and organisations, but they face some significant challenges. The Covid era changed many aspects of our day-to-day life, and the impacts continue to be experienced, with the voluntary sector seeing a reduction in the number of people actively volunteering.

As a result of my involvement with the Island’s County Show, I know many of the groups who support the show have struggled to regain their membership after Covid. I hope to be able to promote and celebrate the importance and benefits of volunteering. I’m extremely proud to be part of the County Show team of volunteers, who, each year, through their commitment and dedication, produce a brilliant event.

The County Show team is inspiring, and I would encourage you all to take that first step and volunteer in an area of interest or a pastime you enjoy. I can promise you it will be worth it. Failing that I hope you will all join us at this year’s County Show on July 13 and 14.

My second focus will be our young people and the important role they play in our community. We are lucky to have some fantastic youth groups on the Island, led by inspirational individuals – truly the unsung heroes of our community. I hope during the coming year to raise awareness of their brilliant work, and to support them in any way I can.

I would also like to encourage us all to think about how our young people are portrayed. Yes, there is antisocial youth behaviour, which quite rightly should be highlighted and needs to be addressed. But we should not forget that the vast majority of our young people already offer and contribute so much.

I’m not just thinking about our sporting and academic champions, whose successes we should rightly celebrate, but the large majority of our young people who are already contributing greatly. Whether they are young carers, a volunteer in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, or active in their local youth group or club, they are already making a significant impact. It is very easy to lose sight of the many positives which far outweigh any negatives.

I hope my coming year will be a busy one, and I will get an opportunity to support the many fantastic groups and events which make the Island so special.