Meet Islington's 2021 civic award winners
Nicola Blackburn and Pol Allingham
- Credit: Islington Council
Eight inspirational people and groups who do good deeds in the community will be honoured in tonight’s civic awards.
The annual event is an opportunity for the borough to celebrate outstanding community contributions from those whose vital work often goes unseen.
In addition to the mayor, this year's crop of community heroes was chosen by new deputy lieutenant, Michael Messenger, and Gazette editor André Langlois.
This year’s winners will be announced at an online ceremony, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Love and Loss Group
Jennifer Appleton, 55, of Essex Road, has been supporting grieving families in Islington since 2016 when she and her niece Tanisha set up the Love and Loss Group.
Jennifer had lost her 18-year-old son Stefan when he was stabbed to death in Nightingale Park the year before.
Her family’s own experience of bereavement prompted them to form the support group, whose members are passionate about sharing their own tragic experiences to help others.
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“When we lost Stefan, we were hearing other families that we knew tell their stories," said Jennifer.
"There was a waiting list for victim support groups - it wasn’t as though you could come straight away.
“We thought this was ridiculous. How could you wait to speak to someone about what has happened to your child or your loved one?"
“There is one man there who lost his son years ago,” Jennifer added. “People think that when it’s years ago you just get over it. But that’s your child. That’s not the case. That pain will be with you till the day you die.”
The group has collaborated with Islington Youth Offending Service to make an anti-knife crime film, which is shown in schools and youth settings in London, and will be soon rolled out across the UK.
Rose, 80, has been a volunteer cook at the Hanley Crouch Community Association for over 10 years, and was nominated for being "always hardworking and a cherished, valued member of the community".
She also does the shopping and picks up supplies for the lunch club for the group based at Brickworks Community Centre, in Crouch Hill, Finsbury Park.
“We have lunch, we have chats, we go to outings and things like that,” Rosalyn recalls of her time spent there prior to the pandemic.
Rosalyn used to frequent the Friday lunch clubs, where over 50s are offered a three course meal for £3 - and when the cook became ill, Rosalyn offered to help.
“When the cook died, no one wanted to take over. I decided because I was helping that I would take the job until they got someone else," said Rose, but no one else was ever hired.
“In the end someone volunteered to come in and help me for a couple of hours. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since."
She enjoys the work because it “gives her something to do”.
“I’m retired and I don’t like to stay indoors at home, I like to be doing things. So I didn’t mind doing it," she said.
Councillor Anjna Khurana, who nominated Rosalyn, said: "She's never let Hanley Crouch down. She's a mediator, a lovely presence and so important to the over 50s who go to the centre."
As chair of the Family Carers Reference Group, Mark has helped create a powerful and united voice for family carers in Islington, and aided the council to shape services and improve the lives of adults with learning disabilities.
Volunteering his time for the past seven years, Mark, 74, brings together family carers twice a month, and has created a space for people to meet, support each other and raise key issues.
The group has recently troubleshooted issues such as vaccine access and families being unable to visit loved ones.
With a son who has learning disabilities, the cause is close to Mark’s heart.
“Our son wanted to live independently from us and we got to know more about what services Islington could provide," said Mark, who also volunteers significant amounts of time and energy to the development of new learning disability services in Islington and is a volunteer member of the North Central London Transforming Care Board.
He said: “It’s been brilliant working with Islington because the council is really strong on involving people who receive services in planning services.
“You feel you’re part of a team, right up to Janet Burgess. As well as being mayor, she’s been very involved in that side of the council’s services for a long time.”
A council spokesperson said: "Mark has devoted much of his life to the learning disability and family carer community in Islington and the community will be forever grateful to him for this."
Copenhagen Street food Bank
Sister Miriam Attracta Joan and the rest of the team at the Copenhagen Street Food Bank have created a strong community resource.
For the past three years, with limited resources but 100 per cent commitment, they have developed a weekly drop-in distributing food and other items to make life just a little bit easier for some of the more vulnerable Cally residents.
They have also developed partnerships with the Cally and Barnsbury Mutual Aid Group addressing critical support needs during the Covid crisis which has been lauded as an "excellent example of a Cally collaboration that really works".
Andover Estate Community Centre Food Project
At the start of the pandemic the surplus food project at the Andover Community Centre was scaled up to meet the increasing needs of Finsbury Park residents.
The involvement of the Finsbury Mutual Aid Group and other volunteers who have supported the project since March 2020 made the project very successful and it now distributes about 130 bags of food every week.
Over the past 11 months some 6,000 bags of largely surplus food have been shared with households in the ward.
A council spokesperson said: "The creative and collaborative approach of the Andover Food Project volunteer team and their dedication, hard work and much-appreciated sense of humour has been crucial to the success of the project and in delivering vital support to many residents."
St Luke’s Community Centre
The team at St Luke’s Community Centre has been nominated for their outstanding contribution to community support during the coronavirus pandemic.
The centre in Central Street, Clerkenwell, had about 72,000 visitors each year before the pandemic, and has remained active despite having to close when the Covid-19 lockdown hit.
“The local community dictated what we should do,” said Michael Ryan, 61, CEO of the centre.
“Very quickly we were getting phone calls to say, 'What about daily hot meals being delivered? Is it possible for food parcels to be arranged?' It was great because then the local community were forming the services that we needed to provide during lockdown.”
Volunteer numbers have “rocketed” during the pandemic, and the centre has also offered a telephone helpline.
“It’s been the worst of years from the pandemic and the effect that that’s had on local residents, but it’s been the best of years from the way the community has come together,” said Michael.
After a dangerous journey Jamad arrived in the UK from Somalia as a refugee from the civil war in 1994.
She has gone on to set up the Galbur Foundation charity to support children and young people’s education in Somalia and the UK.
She has also established innovative project in St Peter’s called Dad in Action to encourage fathers from the Horn of Africa to be more involved in their children’s development and help them to reach their potential.
Recognising that Muslim girls wanted to be able to play football, she also set up the Hijabi Footy Club for girls aged nine to 16.
She said: “I’ve been watching the young people and their families in Islington for such a long time.
“I have six children between the ages of 14 and 23, all were born in Islington except one.
“They’re grown up now but I learned a lot from them about being bright young people in Islington, I’ve shared their ups and downs, and they share the same experiences as the families I work with.
Talking of her amazing work, she said: “I can’t stop, it’s addictive.
“Winning this award shows me other people feel that what I am doing is a good thing, it’s filled me with enjoyment and encouraged me to do more.”
Manager of the Hilldrop Community Centre, Elaine Maffrett, has been given a civic award for being an "invaluable member of the community", "deserving of public recognition for her warmth, energy and determination".
Her energy and imagination has helped transform the centre in Hilldrop Road, Tufnell Park, into a "thriving respected community body", according to Sarah Martin who nominated her for the award.
She has shown "great imagination" in organising celebration events, meetings and a successful health and wellbeing fair before the first lockdown.
During the pandemic Elaine went on to keep her cool and adapted to keep as much of the centre open as possible, ensuring the workers and volunteers have been protected.
Liaising with mutual aid groups, the food hub has grown and the chef now prepares healthy tasty vegetarian meals for neighbours of vulnerable residents to pick up to deliver to them.