EDUCATION was the theme behind the Herefordshire Business and Technology Show last week - and one of the brains behind the biggest event ever was a 55-year-old 'schoolgirl'.

Multitalented grandmother, Sylvia Merriman from Howle Hill, Walford, organised the successful event with Pat Jones on behalf of Ross-on-Wye Chamber of Trade and Industry at the Chase Hotel in Ross - in addition to her own business and education commitments.

The popular event attracted more than 70 exhibitors from across the county and as far as Shropshire, Gloucestershire and Cardiff .

"We have extended our parameters this year to other counties and have had to refuse people from as far as Cardiff - including 10 businesses last week," said Sylvia who is also a part time textile designer and a student at Hereford College of Art and Design.

One stall-holder last Thursday was bride-to-be Diana Hawkins from Chepstow whose burnt orange Celtic wedding dress has been designed by Sylvia.

The stunning silk creation took Sylvia to the top of her textile design class winning her the nationally recognised Joan Weston Award for Textiles.

"I want to encourage more people to go for this award. There is so much talent out there that is not touched on," said Sylvia who believes education is a key element to business success.

Opening the show, Councillor Chris Chappell, cabinet member for Economic Development, reinforced the message.

"My aim is to encourage young people into further and higher education and to come back to Herefordshire. Young enterprise is encouraging schools to set up in business - St Mary's High School at Lugwardine may go to Europe if their business wins a schools competition."

He said Herefordshire is at the cutting edge of technology, with many businesses enjoying world-wide recognition.

Telecommunications entrepreneur Edward James, 27, who own RedLine Communications in Commercial Street, Hereford, is at the forefront of the county's mobile phone industry.

He was launching the new 'business mobile', which aims to improve communication and save money. He tested the phone with Herefordshire Council, immediately cutting bills in one department by more than £8,000 a year.

There were also live demonstrations of the new artificial intelligence device 'Bluetooth' as worn by Lara Croft in the film Tomb Raider.

And Herefordshire Council was making some of its own business breaks for the county with the launch of its new website

The site includes an on-line business directory and is aimed at promoting the county to businesses and new inward investment.

Ross and District Community Development Group, COMDEV, the group behind the successful Farmers' Market in Ross was also encouraging more business through a new consultation exercise.

The group can be contacted at

Education was being promoted from an early age with displays from Acorns to Oaks Education Centre, Hereford Cathedral School and Cats, the private children's nursery at Walford run by Stella and Graham Mitchell. - staff can even collect children from work for a day at the four-acre 'luxury' complex.