Tunbridge Wells Mela organiser and broadcaster-comedian Paul O’Grady among seven new Kent Deputy Lieutenants

Gurvinder Sandher

KENT’S royal representative, the Lord Lieutenant Lady Colgrain, has chosen seven new Deputy Lieutenants (DL) to take up the non-political roles supporting her work, the Crown and the county.

Nominations were made in April, under the reign of the late Queen, but were only announced last week (November 7), said one new nominee, Gurvinder Sandher MBE, organiser of the Tunbridge Wells Mela.

Mr Sandher told the Times he had had to keep a number of secrets this year, having been awarded the MBE in Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee honours this summer, and now the Deputy Lieutenancy.

“It’s really humbling to have been recognised this year,” he said. “I’ve had messages of support from all around the world.”

However, he attributed the recognition not to himself but to his community work. He is CEO of Kent Equality Cohesion Council and artistic director of Cohesion Plus, which supports integration through the arts and community events.

“All of our work is about bringing communities together,” he stressed.

No member of the Lieutenancy may hold an elected post within Kent, but Mr Sandher said this was never a consideration for him.

“We have to work with all people. I work with all communities without being hampered by being tied to a political badge.”

Six other DLs were announced at the same time, including Judith Armitt (Medway), Sir Stephen Deuchar CBE (Ashford), Tracy Luke MBE (Folkestone and Hythe), James Ryeland (Dover) Susie Warran-Smith CBE (Folkestone and Hythe) and Paul O’Grady MBE (Ashford).

Mr O’Grady, also known for his character Lily Savage, has lived in Kent for over 21 years.

In 2020, he travelled the county for Paul O’Grady’s Great British Escape on ITV. He has also written on living in Kent, and has a children’s book set on the Romney Marshes.

DL duties include greeting and accompanying royalty and heads of state during official visits to the county, presenting honours and awards on behalf of the Crown, and participating in citizenship ceremonies.

DLs also advise on events potentially warranting royal visits, and can advise on nominating individuals or organisations for various honours.

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