Almost 50 of the county’s good causes and youth groups are celebrating after winning support from the High Sheriff as she comes to the end of her tenure.

Joanna Riddell took on the role, which dates back to Saxon times, at the height of Covid restrictions last April, and vowed to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people with creative pursuits and opportunities following the virus outbreak.

And Joanna, who is the co-founder of both Cheeseburn Sculpture Gardens and the Gillian Dickinson Young North East Sculptor of the Year Award, has done just that, with cash awards distributed among scores of organisations at a special celebration event in Ashington.

She explained: “My year, which began socially distanced in my garden in full Covid lockdown, has taken me the length and breadth of the county visiting youth projects and charities.

“I made visits to HMP Northumberland, HMP Low Newton, and had a wonderful day at sea on HMS Northumberland, as well as one with 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery at Albemarle Barracks.”

Immediately following her installation as High Sheriff of Northumberland, a role nominated by Royal appointment to support the voluntary, charity and social enterprise sector, reduce crime and champion the emergency services, Joanna set about raising money for the county’s good causes.

More than £6,000 was raised at a Cheeseburn open weekend featuring live music and a craft village, supported by both local army and police cadets, and almost £25,000 was added to the fundraising pot at a clay pigeon shoot with a live auction and raffle.

Joanna, who is from Stamfordham, said: “I also secured support from various trusts in Northumberland and due to my effort, was able to recognise 49 youth projects who applied for a High Sheriff Award through the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.”

Each project was given £1,000, with five special recognition awards of a further £1,000 also made to 1st Whittingham Scout Group, Cramlington Voluntary Youth Project, Choysez, Nepacs and Northumbria Coalition Against Crime.

Alastair Walker of the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, which holds the High Sheriff’s fund that benefits Northumberland, added: “On the night, which was our first face to face celebration for three years, 32 groups were present to receive an award, an impressive number for Northumberland in any year, particularly coming off the back of Covid restrictions when there was still so much nervousness around people meeting.

“The fact Joanna engaged with so many of the groups, from Berwick to Haydon Bridge and everywhere in between, demonstrates she’s been really proactive in the role.”

Among the funders were the Sir James Knott Trust, The Barbour Foundation, JH Ferox Charitable Fund, The Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, The Rothley Charitable Trust, The W. A. Handley Charity Trust and The William Leech Charity.

Joanna said: “Several others were also most generous, including the Burnell Family Fund, the Carr-Ellison Charitable Trust, GS May Trust, Langley Family Fund, Ridley Family Charity, Mrs I. J. Greensitt and The Speke Family Fund. A very handsome donation was also given from artists Ian Greensitt and Ashley Boon after their exhibition at Newton Village Hall.”

Ahead of the final award night, which was the culmination of Joanna’s year in office, she also sought out many individuals* that made valuable contributions to the communities of Northumberland, stating:

“From Covid-19 to Storm Arwen and beyond, we are blessed to have many individuals who give of their time to help others, and rarely get a thank you, so being able to give these wonderful people a High Sheriff Award and entertain them at my home after a ceremony in the chapel was very special.”

Among the other individuals supported over the year were north Northumberland musician Alice Robinson who was Joanna’s official piper, and fashion designer Kate Collins, who created her ceremonial coat that re-used the 19th century coat buttons of her ancestor Edward Riddell, who was Northumberland’s High Sheriff in 1842.

Joanna added: “I’ve met literally thousands of people who work so hard for everyone in Northumberland and it has been a humbling and wonderful experience.

“I’d like to acknowledge everyone who supported me in my shrieval endeavour and made me so welcome. I loved hearing your stories, was interested to learn more about the challenges you face, and offer my heartfelt gratitude for all you do for the enhancement of our wonderful county.”

To find out more about the High Sheriff of Northumberland Awards, visit the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland website.