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Islington and Holloway firefighters and Pearly King and Prince of Finsbury awarded freedom of Islington

PUBLISHED: 14:30 16 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:46 16 March 2018

Firefighters from Islington and Holloway stations, who were awarded the freedom of the borough last night. Picture: Em Fitzgerald

Firefighters from Islington and Holloway stations, who were awarded the freedom of the borough last night. Picture: Em Fitzgerald

Em Fitzgerald

The heroic Islington firefighters who rescued Angel flood victims joined the Pearly King and Prince of Finsbury to be given the freedom of the borough last night.

Firefighters from Islington and Holloway stations, who were awarded the freedom of the borough last night. Picture: Em FitzgeraldFirefighters from Islington and Holloway stations, who were awarded the freedom of the borough last night. Picture: Em Fitzgerald

Some two dozen firefighters and officers from Islington and Holloway stood beside John and Darren Walters at a special town hall meeting to be given the ceremonial honour – which, according to council leader Richard Watts, means they can drive sheep over Islington Green should they find the time (or the sheep). An Islington spokesman could not immediately confirm whether or not this had been a wind-up.

Some of the firefighters who packed out the chamber had been among the first on the scene at the Grenfell Tower inferno in June, bravely entering the burning tower block to help save scores of lives. Seventy-one people died in the tragedy.

Sitting in front of them were John and Darren, who have spent decades raising countless thousands of pounds for good causes and putting smiles on people’s faces with their eye-catching uniforms.

Islington’s fire borough commander Gary Squires told the chamber the firefighters and officers of the two fire stations were “honoured to have beeb nominated for this prestigious award”.

The Civic Award and Ben Kinsella Award winners with George and Debbie Kinsella, Cllr Una O'Halloran, Cllr Richard Watts and Gazette Editor Ramzy Alwakeel. Picture: Em FitzgeraldThe Civic Award and Ben Kinsella Award winners with George and Debbie Kinsella, Cllr Una O'Halloran, Cllr Richard Watts and Gazette Editor Ramzy Alwakeel. Picture: Em Fitzgerald

“They arrive at the start of their shift not knowing what incident they will be called upon to attend, no matter what time it is, night or day, they are called out, they attend with the same commitment and professionalism.”

He added: “They don’t come to work expecting to receive praise, rewards or gratitude, but they are gratefully received.”

During his acceptance speech, after asking “is there any press here?” and apparently ignoring the answer, John proceeded to reel off a list of Cllr Una O’Halloran’s more memorable engagements from her year as mayor. These included dancing round the maypole with the Pearly Kings and Queens, leading a conga line in the town hall at the Christmas party for pensioners, and – he added – “at one of her last events I note she was jumping up and down on a trampoline”.

“She is a people’s mayor,” he concluded.

Referring to the award, he said: “It is with total pride that we stand alongside the greatest men and women in Islington Fire, who on a daily basis put their lives on the line protecting the citizens of Islington and nearby boroughs.”

The second part of the ceremony saw the Ben Kinsella Award and Mayor’s Civic Awards handed out by Cllr O’Halloran and Gazette editor Ramzy Alwakeel.

The Ben Kinsella Award is named in honour of the murdered Holloway teenager and goes to one of the borough’s brightest rising stars – a young person who has gone above and beyond to help others, overcome adversity or inspire their peers.

Introducing it, Ben’s dad George told the town hall: “This year marks the 10th anniversary of our Ben’s murder. It’s a very difficult time for myself and my family but I’m really pleased to be here tonight to present this award to its worthy winner.

“We set up the Ben Kinsella Trust in 2008 to campaign against knife crime and direct young people away from crime. Since 2012, 11,500 visitors have been through our exhibition at Finsbury Library. The young people who visit the exhibition get to understand the dangers associated with carrying a knife.

“This year, we are introducing the 10 for Ben campaign to mark’s Ben’s 10th anniversary. It will highlight all kinds of fabulous work that young people do for others.

“We will be asking young people to do 10 acts of kindness or good work and raise sponsorship for the Ben Kinsella Trust. We want this campaign to be a good news story highlighting the amazing contribution young people make to our community every day.”

The Ben Kinsella Award 2018 went to Artur Ahmati, while the Mayor’s Civic Awards went to Kathy Green, Linda Brown and Rosey Lyall. Read more about them here.

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