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‘Meet the minister if you want to be part of island’s future’

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People in the UK who want a stake in St Helena’s future are being urged to turn up to a meeting with the Secretary of State for International Development.

Securing time with Andrew Mitchell at Swindon on 19 May 2012 is something of a coup for the island. It is rare for UK community groups to be given free access to such a high-level figure.

But the event clashes with a talk being given only 30 miles away by former island governor Andrew Gurr, at the Friends of St Helena annual meeting.

Kedell Thomas, St Helena Government’s UK representative, said the clash was unfortunate, but it was the best date for the meeting with Secretary of State because it coincided with a St Helena Day dance in Swindon.

“We have been talking about it for a while and that’s the best chance for him to meet Saints,” she said. “I think he’s really keen to have this meeting.”

Anyone can simply turn up – Saints and non-Saints – but if people can let Kedell know they’re coming it will take some of the guesswork out of the planning.

Mr Mitchell is expected to talk about the airport project and to refer to a White Paper the UK government is preparing on its relationship with its overseas territories.

He is an enthusiast for the role of the private sector in development: he set up a new division within the Department for International Development to encourage private investment in poor countries to generate jobs and trade – a strategy also being pushed on St Helena.

Kedell said it was important that people turned up at the meeting if they wanted to take advantage of the changes the airport might bring to the island. “The message is to encourage Saints to become involved in the island’s future.

“We want Saints to take the opportunity and be part of the new era. The opportunities are there but they might not be there in three or four years’ time because people will have gone in and staked their claim.”

The meeting has been set for 4pm on 19 May, at the Jury’s Inn Hotel in Swindon – chosen because about 800 St Helenians live in the area, and more are expected to travel there for the dance.

The annual general meeting of the Friends of St Helena starts two hours earlier at the University Club in Oxford.

Although the formal part of the meeting is due to end at 2.45pm, it is due to be followed by a presentation of material collected by the late Trevor Hearl, an expert on St Helena affairs.

Andrew Gurr’s presentation – titled “Managing change in St Helena” – is scheduled to run until 5pm.

It may be that on this occasion, it’s the Friends who have to manage change.

  • Andrew Mitchell MP, Secretary of State for International Development, will be at the Jury’s Inn Hotel, Fleming, Swindon, SN1 2NG on Saturday, 19 May at 4pm. All Saints and those with an interest in St Helena’s development are warmly invited to attend. For further information contact Kedell Worboys, SHG UK Representative on 0203 170 8706 or 07989404654 or email
  • The Friends of St Helena AGM takes place from 2pm to 5pm at the University Club, 11 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3SZ. From noon, members can visit the Rothermere American Institute to see a small display of Trevor Hearl’s material relating to St Helena. Mr Hearl was an expert on island history, and the library at Prince Andrew School on St Helena was named after him. For information, contact St Helena Online via the link at the top of the page.

‘We want to work with you’ – Minister Bellingham’s pledge

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development

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