Gallery: Honouring the unsung heroes of Islington

Islington's community heroes with mayor Jilani Choudhury Pic by Dieter Perry

Islington's community heroes with mayor Jilani Choudhury Pic by Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

Unsung community heroes including a young man who saved a stranger’s life, a traffic warden who tackled a mugger, and a charitable publican have been honoured in Islington.

The Ben Kinsella Award and Mayor’s Civic Awards were presented to people who have gone out of their way to help communities and local people at a ceremony at Islington Assembly Hall in Upper Street, Islington, on Monday night.

Speaking about the awards – which are sponsored by the Islington Gazette – the Mayor of Islington, Cllr Jilani Chowdhury, said: “Across Islington there are hundreds of unsung community heroes who make a real difference to other people’s lives.

“They do so without thought of reward, and our civic awards are a chance to say thanks for all their hard work on behalf of others.”

The judging panel for the awards was made up of Cllr Chowdhury, Islington’s deputy lieutenant Charles Goodson-Wickes, borough commander Det Chief Supt Gerry Campbell and Gazette news editor Aimee Brannen.

Speaking at the ceremony, Det Chief Supt Campbell said: “What we have seen through our judging is a fantastic amount of exceptionally good work by volunteers and people who have given their own time to improve local people’s quality of life and to keep people safe.

“Of course, it’s not only a celebration of the people who have won awards, they have done a fantastic job, but the awards are also about celebrating all the people who have given to their community.”

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The Ben Kinsella Award, in memory of the teenager who was murdered in Holloway in 2008, was this year judged for the first time by Islington Youth Council.

J’Vorge Kelly, a 16-year-old who stepped in and used his first aid knowledge to help save a man who had collapsed, was chosen as the winner.

Ben’s father George said: “On behalf of myself and my family, we’re proud and honoured to be invited to present this award in memory of our son and much loved brother. This award really means a lot to us.

“It’s great to see so many people here doing such fantastic work in the community.”

Ben’s sister Brooke Kinsella, who has become a prominent anti-knife crime campaigner, said after the ceremony: “I know that they have a tough job each year picking a winner. J’Vorge has done amazing things and he’s a lovely boy.”

Heroic teenager J’Vorge Kelly helped save the life of a man who collapsed in the street before him.

As others strolled past, insisting the man was just drunk, the 16-year-old was the only person who realised he was in serious trouble.

The quick-thinking teen raised the alarm before putting to use the first aid skills he has picked in the army cadets.

J’Vorge Kelly

J’Vorge, a pupil at Samuel Rhodes School for children with learning difficulties in Highbury New Park, Highbury, said: “The man was drunk and drowsy and he fell down right in front of me. There was a chicken shop nearby so I told them to ring the ambulance and I did CPR before they arrived.

“Because of my training in the cadets, I knew I had to talk to him to try to keep him awake.

“Inside I was scared and shaken because it was my first time dealing with something like this. My heart was beating so fast but I tried my best to hold it in.”

J’Vorge now says he would like to become a first aider in the Army one day.

Fay Day, assistant headteacher at Samuel Rhodes, said: “He seems to know when things are wrong and always seems to help people.”

Brother Daron Meade, 20, said: “I’m proud of him, he’s achieved more than I have. He gets award after award because he puts himself out there and helps people.”

Steve Coxshall

For the past two years war veterans have enjoyed a slap-up meal and plenty of pints thanks to publican Steve Coxshall.

Since 2011, he has invited those who’ve lived through the horrors of war to come to his pub, The Barnsbury in Liverpool Road, for a free feed on the Saturday before Remembrance Day.

If that wasn’t enough, when cold-hearted thieves stole the Poppy Appeal tin just days before last year’s event, he organised a host of celebrities to help him raise replacement cash.

Singer Ed Sheeran, rugby star Kyran Bracken and Anthony Costa from boyband Blue all backed the campaign and the resulting fundraiser pulled in £2,000.

Mr Coxshall said: “I’m delighted with the award and it’s a nice honour, but it’s slightly embarrassing at the same time. You don’t do these sorts of things to get recognition, you do them for the good of the community. Really I feel I should give it back the war veterans themselves.”

Yasar Mohammed

When Yasar Mohammed set out on his regular Highbury beat recently he can barely have expected to be hospitalised after dramatically trying to stop a robbery.

But that’s what happened to the brave civil enforcement officer when he witnessed a mugging as he was heading along Church Path.

A young thug on a BMX snatched a mobile phone from a woman he had raced past.

As the thief cycled towards him, quick-thinking Mr Mohammad stepped in front of the bike and challenged the rider.

The young hoodlum got off the bicycle and threw it at Mr Mohammed before running off.

Despite being badly hurt, Mr Mohammed waited with the distressed victim until the police arrived – and only then did he head to hospital.

Lousie Geraghty

Lousie Geraghty has been recognised as someone who works tirelessly to help her community in any way she can.

She moved into Field Court, off Hillmarton Road, Holloway, about 15 years ago and immediately set to work sprucing the place up.

She has kept on going ever since, spending her spare time and pumping her own money into improving the environment for all of her neighbours.

Ms Geraghty, 34, a teaching assistant at Hungerford Primary School in Hungerford Road, Holloway, has also raised thousands of pounds for the Teenage Cancer Trust. For her most recent project, she shaved off all her hair and raised £2,500 in the process.

She said: “I’m really pleased to get the award – it’s nice to be recognised!

“When I moved to Field Court in 1998, it was a jungle out there and we had lots of trouble with drug addicts and that sort of thing. The council wouldn’t do it, so I asked if I could and we have not stopped since.”

Cllr Barry Edwards, who represents Holloway ward, said: “She’s a wonderful example of the sort of people we really like to have in our borough.”

Ashok Patel

The whole Newington Green community was stunned when much-loved shopkeeper Ashok Patel was stabbed in a vicious robbery.

He spent two days in hospital after being knifed in his head and hand when thugs robbed Lena Supermarket in Ferntower Road.

Mr Patel said he thought he was going to die as he lay on the floor bleeding – and even later considered shutting up shop – but was overwhelmed by the support he got from people in the area.

Flowers and cards came flooding in, showing how valued Mr Patel is to the people of Newington Green, whom he has served for 13 years.

Mr Patel said: “I’m very happy with the award. At least someone will remember me now. My family are all proud. It’s just so good to be part of this community – I love them all.”

Newington Green resident Nicky Southin paid tribute to Mr Patel at the ceremony.

She said: “From the moment he arrived in Newington Green more than 13 years ago, he has been very much part of the community. He keeps us all in touch with one another and if he misses a regular customer he asks after them.”

Andrew Daniel

In the cold winter months, the most vulnerable people in society rely on the generosity of people like Andrew Daniel to stop them freezing to death.

Since 2000, Mr Daniel has given up his spare time to run shifts at the Cold Weather Night Shelter at St Andrew’s Church in Whitehall Park, Archway.

As one of the most responsible members of staff on duty, he has to make sure guests are behaving appropriately, watch out for health emergencies and keep the building secure.

He also volunteers for Islington Christian Action Response in Society (Caris) and travels all kinds of distances to support those struggling with bereavement – all in addition to running a hairdressing business in Soho and bringing up three children.

The 48-year-old said: “You never do it for reward but it’s nice to be noticed. My inspiration is my mum, she has always worked for the community so I’ve grown up with it.”

Gloria Chandra, who nominated Mr Daniel, said: “He’s the sort of person you like to have at your side if you’re in trouble or if you need something done. He just pops up there and he does it with such grace and such willingness.”

Daniel Baker

Daniel Baker has been pivotal in getting hundreds of people from Islington involved in art for the first time.

He works with Cubitt Education in Angel Mews, Islington, where he spreads his passion for the arts, getting people to explore their creative side – many of whom have never picked up a paintbrush before.

One of his ideas was to bring artists into the council chamber for the first time to draw what they saw.

The pictures that emerged went up in the town hall and were well-regarded by those who saw them.

Mr Baker is determined to involve people from all backgrounds to find their artistic voice.

Council leader Catherine West, who nominated him, said: “His enthusiasm inspires me and many others and he is always coming up with new and exciting projects to incorporate art into the everyday. Daniel is a real example of someone who cares passionately for what he does.”

Daniel Flood and Kamil Painsy

Two lads who had grown up amid a culture of gangs and antisocial behaviour broke down those stereotypes to make a massively positive impact on their community in Crouch Hill.

In 2012, Daniel Flood and Kamil Painsy decided to break free from the criminal lifestyle which was rife among their peers and get themselves a good education.

With this under their belts, they then set up a community football team to help other youngsters who were tempted to join gangs, offering something less destructive to do instead.

These exceptional young men made a successful bid for funding and now run coaching sessions, as well as matches.

They are inspiring other youngsters to stop hanging out on street corners and make their own positive contributions to the area.

Felix Hebblewaite

At a time of high youth unemployment, Felix Hebblewaite has been working hard to ensure youngsters in the borough get a fighting chance when it comes to achieving their career dreams.

Working for international law firm Linklaters, Mr Hebblewaite has put into place an apprenticeship scheme taking on five young people from Islington across a wide range of roles within the firm for a year-long placement – all while getting paid the London Living Wage.

Mr Hebblewaite, who lives off Essex Road, Islington, said: “It’s about giving young people in the borough of Islington opportunities which are otherwise difficult to source. The reason I’m particularly proud of it is the partnership between the private and public sector, as we work directly with Islington Council.”

He has also been instrumental in hosting a business breakfast which brought together young apprentices from Islington with business colleagues from across the borough, and has secured funding from Linklaters, based on the borders of Islington and the City, for the Holloway charity One True Voice.

He added: “I’m very passionate about Islington as a place as it has a lot to offer.”

Gabby Mann

Without Gabby Mann’s tireless dedication in spearheading improvements and ensuring elderly people on her estate are cared after, the community where she lives would be a poorer place.

The 71-year-old, also recognised by the council earlier this year, commits most of her time to helping others as chairman of the tenant management organisation (TMO) on the Taverner and Peckett Square Estate in Highbury.

Despite undergoing two hip and knee replacements in recent years, she also sees people on the estate who would otherwise have no visitors, organises events and is never afraid to make her voice heard on a variety of issues.

The Bowen Court resident said: “I do it because I get great pleasure out of doing things and helping others.”

Highbury ward councillor Terry Stacy said: “There have been a number of times when I have crossed swords with her and I have the scars to prove it.

“One of the things that really impresses me about Gabby is the way she puts her neighbours first and in many ways puts herself on the frontline for her fellow residents.”