Year in Review: Late 2020 saw free school meal rows and introduction of tiers

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty with PM Boris Johnson as he announced Tier 4 restrictions.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty with PM Boris Johnson as he announced Tier 4 restrictions - Credit: PA Wire

In true 2020 style, the last three months of the year were as turbulent as the rest, with COVID-19 dominating the news.

But there was more to news in October, November and December than an ongoing pandemic...

October saw the nation's hero Marcus Rashford campaigning to keep Britain's children fed after being awarded his MBE, causing a rally of support from people in our area, as well as across the country.

Marcus Rashford in Manchester United kit

Marcus Rashford's school meals campaign kept kids fed over half term - Credit: MIKE EGERTON/PA WIRE/PA IMAGES

Free school meals are to be distributed over school holidays in Herts until the end of summer half term 2021, after the county council announced it would be providing food vouchers for each child who receives free school meals.

Stevenage's veteran poppy seller Les Mortimer, 91, took his British Legion appeal online in October, after decades of standing outside Coreys Mill Sainsbury's.

Les and Pat at Buckingam Palace

Les Mortimer, 91, pictured here at Buckingham Palace with friend Pat Holding, has been selling poppies for the Royal British Legion for decades. - Credit: Supplied


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Long-time friend Pat Holding described Les as “one of those cheeky people who can always make you smile”, and said "he has dedicated his life to helping others".

In October we said goodbye to "truly inspirational" Stevenage woman Heidi McNeill, who sadly died of small cell lung cancer.

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Heidi's dying wish was to take on a charity challenge for Garden House Hospice Care, but she sadly died in the days leading up to the event.

A couple with their heads together

Heidi, pictured here with her partner Simon, sadly died on October 16 - Credit: Simon Rutt

Heidi’s partner Simon Rutt told the Comet: “She seemed to touch so many people’s hearts with her zest for life. She was always smiling, always wanted a bit of fun out of life.

Hitchin's James Bay lit up The Globe Theatre, with his music echoing around the empty venue. The gig was live-streamed to an at-home audience in the cold, October air, bringing live music back to those who had been deprived of it for so long.

James Bay at The Globe Theatre

Hitchin's James Bay performed at The Globe on October 21 - Credit: James Boardman

He said: “It was the most brilliant feeling being back on a stage with the band and having the crew there, keeping all the tools in working order. To play and almost get a sense of live music normality again has been so galvanising."

Heading into November, the country saw a second national four-week lockdown, closing our high streets, pubs and independent business once more.

staff at The Engine, Baldock

L-R: Caron Bunce, Dale Mabert, Gary Smith, Kieran Kilcullen, Olivia Jonas from The Engine in Baldock - Credit: Courtesy of Kieran Kilcullen

Community spirit shone through, with businesses like The Engine in Baldock supplying free meals to emergency services personnel and the elderly.

Christchurch in Hitchin's display of successful Black Britons, including the likes of Stevenage's Lewis Hamilton, was vandalised in November, with posters keyed and defaced with black spray paint. Herts Police launched a hate crime investigation after the attack.

Defaced Lewis Hamilton poster

The exhibition celebrating Great Black Britons at Christchurch in Hitchin was vandalised in October - Credit: Edward Selby

And Lister Hospital's Geraint Lloyd was "overwhelmed" by the amount of responses in an appeal to save his daughter's life. 11-year-old Arya, who has aplastic anaemia - a life-threatening blood disorder - is in desperate need of a blood stem cell transplant.

Arya Lloyd in hospital

Arya Lloyd was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disorder earlier this year - Credit: Courtesy of DKMS

Dad Geraint said: “Everyone who registers could be saving someone’s life. We need to keep going and encourage many more people to join the stem cell register to save as many lives as possible.”

Into December, Stevenage veteran John Watson Allison shared his own experiences after previously facing homelessness, ahead of the launch of his global challenge that is trying to raise awareness for rough sleeping.

Man in van with canoe on top

For six months, John called this tiny van home. He admits he was lucky to have his steel shelter - Credit: John Allison

Under a Tarp encourages anyone to join in order to raise funds and awareness of a homeless charity of your choice. “We want people to briefly experience the true hardship of what it’s like to be homeless in winter,” John says.

Reporters across our newspapers launched a domestic abuse special report in the middle of December, highlighting the work refuges and domestic abuse charities do - especially in the midst of a pandemic.

Person on phone in dispair

Archant reporters produced a domestic abuse special report in December - Credit: Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline

We also highlighted ways you can play your part in supporting those in need. Organised by chief reporter Georgia Barrow, the online and print report aimed to also take away the stigma around domestic abuse, and open up doors for those who need help.

And finally, December brought tiers, tiers and more tiers for North Herts, with our area jumping from Tier 2 to a brand new Tier 4 in a matter of days. 

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty with PM Boris Johnson as he announced Tier 4 restrictions.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty with PM Boris Johnson as he announced Tier 4 restrictions - Credit: PA Wire

After emerging from the four-week November lockdown, the county was placed into Tier 2, however some of our neighbouring districts were soon placed in the top Tier measures. 

In a matter of days the rest of Herts was put into Tier 3 measures from December 19 - only to be put into a new fourth tier the very next day.  

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