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Sorrow and joy in the Town Hall

Several events over the past year have cast a long shadow over our Parish, particularly the explosion at Haut du Mont on Pier Road which tragically ended the lives of ten of our parishioners. For the survivors of the incident, and the family and friends bereaved by it, the anniversary on the 10th of this month will be difficult, while many of the first responders, including the fire and ambulance services, States and Honorary Police, and the staff of Andium Homes, will still have painful memories.

The Town Hall was opened in the early hours to provide shelter for those rendered homeless by the incident, and a centre from which various agencies could provide support and coordinate the rehousing of those affected, and it was heartening to see the dedication and concern of everyone present, whether in a professional capacity or as volunteers.

Almost a year later I was in the Town Hall for a very different reason: the graduation of the class of ’23 from University College Jersey, or Highlands College. In the warm autumn sunshine, a hundred students in their academic gowns and mortar boards gathered in York Street with families, friends and teachers, before packing the Assembly Room for the ceremony, which included a stirring Commencement Day Address and inspirational speeches from the heads of UCJ’s three UK partner universities. This was followed by a procession of the new graduates to the Weighbridge via the Royal Square, and in the restaurants, bars and cafes of St Helier, celebrations of the exciting prospects our young people have as they enter the world of work, or pursue further academic qualifications.

As the Christmas Tree goes up in the Assembly Room in readiness for our Senior Citizens Christmas Lunches and the other festive events at the Town Hall, we keep in our minds those for whom private grief makes this time of year particularly challenging, at the same time as looking forward with confidence and optimism to the opportunities the New Year will bring.

I wish all the readers of the Town Crier a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.