Longridge headteacher invited to Buckingham Palace next week after being awarded the High Sheriff of Lancashire award

The headteacher of Barnacre Road Primary School in Longridge has been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace next week, after being awarded the High Sheriff of Lancashire award.

By Aimee Seddon
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 4:55 am

Simon Wallis was given the award in 2018 for an educational project he did that year, with the support of the Longridge community, which commemorated the centenary of the Armistice.

Written by Simon, 'Armistice - The Great War Remembered', was performed at the Guild Hall, and involved over 700 schoolchildren and adults from the ‘Longridge cluster’, which includes two secondary schools and eleven primary schools.

The wider community also got involved, with local firm Longridge Timbers providing 100 silhouettes of soldiers, and over 15,000 people donating poppies for the show’s backdrop, some from as far as Australia and Canada.

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Headteacher of Barnacre Primary School in Longridge Simon Wallis has been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Speaking of his recognition, Simon said: “I was just a bit shocked really, I wasn't expecting anything. It's a very prestigious award, and I don’t think they give it out to education that often, so to accept it on behalf of educationalists, and in particular the Longridge cluster, who were very supportive of the project, was really special, I felt proud.”

Simon had been invited to the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace that year, however it was cancelled due to the pandemic, and he admits he had ”completely forgotten about it” until “out of the blue”, a new invitation arrived last week, which he opened in front of the children.

Simon, who has been headteacher at Barnacre since 2003, said: “One of the older children came up [to read it outloud] and when they said ‘Buckingham Palace’, you should have seen the kids faces, they really lit up at that because obviously we've got the build up to the Jubilee happening at the moment as well.

“It's one of those sorts of things you never think you're going to do, so it's gonna be a really interesting experience, and it’s nice to be recognised.”

Simon Wallis pictured with his invite to Buckingham Palace, his High Sheriff of Lancashire award certificate, and props from 'Armistice - The Great War Remembered', which he wrote.

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Although Simon calls his royal invitation “a once in a lifetime opportunity”, he says the show itself is “not just a one hit wonder” and continues to have an impact today.

He explained: “There’s quite a legacy from this show, the following year, our school was invited to the laying of the wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, on the 11th of November, and that's really quite an unusual thing to do.

“Also, in Longridge, you still see these black silhouette figures appearing in shop windows, and there's a lot of the poppies left over that are used by the community for making various decorations, so the project seems a long time ago, but this new invite, following on from all that, has kept it going.

“My reasons for writing the show was that my grandfather served in the First World War, but we were lucky in that he did a tape recording of his memories of it back in the 1960s, and hearing that, oh my goodness, the sacrifices made were enormous. When you look at Longridge, over 100 young men lost their lives. Many years ago, I did London to John O'Groats on a bike, and every village you went through had a war memorial with names, so it's really important that children learn about the sacrifices made in the past.