Islington’s unsung heroes celebrated at town hall
PUBLISHED: 18:58 11 March 2015
Award winners hailed as ‘the best of Islington’ were celebrated at a ceremony at the town hall last night.
Some of the borough’s unsung heroes were recognised for their tireless work in the community at the Mayor’s Civic Awards in the council chamber, while World War Two veteran and former councillor George Durack and the Islington Veterans Association were given the freedom of the borough.
Debbie and George Kinsella, whose 16-year-old son Ben was stabbed to death in 2008, were also at the ceremony to give out an award in his honour and spoke of their sadness at the death of 15-year-old Alan Cartwright.
Mr Kinsella said: “I would just like to pass on our condolences to the family [of Alan Cartwright].
“Giving this award brings a little light to my heart – there is good in the young people in this borough and that needs to be recognised.”
Islington Mayor's Civic Awards
Rarely has the camaraderie and discipline engendered by organised sport been more crucial to Islingtons young people. Lenny Hagland former national and international boxing champion has been providing just that for the boroughs youths at Islington Boxing Club since 1974. Despite the Hornsey Rise gym desperately needing new premises and funding, Lenny keeps the place packed with youngsters, providing coaching, the chance to learn how to box and a reason to keep off the streets. He is always in the gym, and specially looks for and encourages young people to attend, and helps to give them a focus. Citing the club, Cllr Dave Posyer said: In Islington, as we know, young people left alone, can end up forming gangs. They need something to do. Islington Boxing Gym is the best example I have seen. Lenny has won national and international awards as a boxer and long may he continue to pick them up as a coach.
A group of disabled people, service users and carers were awarded for their uncompromising work to improve health care in the borough. The 12 volunteers form Experts by Experience, a group who work with the NHS, the council and the voluntary sector to help tailor support to the needs of residents. They are also part of a programme called Making it Real Islington which is seeking to personalise disabled peoples care. The group have valuable skills and knowledge and give up their time for free to test new ways of delivering personal budgets and making sure information accessible. Simon Galczynski, one of many individuals who nominated the group, said: For me it has been a real privilege to work with them and I hope to see them grow over the coming years. Weve already seen them grow so much in their confidence and theyve been vital in making sure we stay focussed on what really matters. I cant thank them enough for all their hard work.
A veteran responsible for reviving the poppy appeal in Islington was among those who received an award from the Mayor. David Dade, who served in the merchant navy and is treasurer of Islington Veterans Association, spearheaded the fundraising campaign that brought in more than £13,000 as the borough marked the centenary of the First World War in November last year. It was the first properly organised collection in the borough for more than 10 years, and this year David intends to smash last years total by getting cadets and other groups of young people involved in fundraising for the appeal. I intend to carry on as long as I can and raise as much money as possible, said David, who lives in Mathias Road, Newington Green. People were always saying where can I get a poppy weve not seen them in Islington. All I can say is that Im receiving this award personally but on behalf of all the veterans and residents who helped make the appeal such a success.
A driving force behind Archways rampant regeneration, Stephanie Smith has made a huge contribution to the area during the past few years. She runs a thriving twice weekly market, is part of the local business town centre group and is also the founder of literary festival, Archway with Words (AWWW). Billed as a festival of superstar wordsmiths and spellbinding speakers, AWWW started in 2013, has seen the likes of Will Self, Charlie Higson, Simon Singh and Rastamouse head to N19 as part of a line-up of authors who have sold millions of books all over the world. She said: I am genuinely honoured. Its a lovely and very unexpected thing. I am a great Archway fan, I have always been inspired by it and think its a great place to live, full of great people. Theres never a dull moment. There are lots of good things going on here that we just get on and do, and whats happening now, all the investment, feels like a result of that.
After deciding things werent quite right on his estate, rather than sit around complaining Dennis Kleinberg did something about it . He formed the Whitbread Estate Tenant and Residents Association, which he has spent the past 40 years running with his wife Brenda, got members of the community both young and old to look out for each other and even organised an annual Party on the Podium with music, dancing and food. He said: There was no integration between tenants and residents, so I organised the party and everyone thoroughly enjoys it. But we do more than that, we fight hard to get improvements double glazing, cavity walls especially for the older ones. The whole estate is more together now. If people havent seen one of the more vulnerable residents, someone will give them a knock, check theyre alright. I was very surprised to get the call about the award. We do it because we want to do it. But its nice to get recognised for all the hard work.
Volunteer Gemma Bell has been a positive role model for young people for the past 15 years. Through her work with youth club Urban Hope in River Place, Islington, she has mentored some of the most vulnerable youngsters in the borough and helped raise more than £17,000 for the charity. Gemma, 38, of Essex Road, Islington, volunteers at least one evening a week and helps take the youngsters on trips all alongside running her own food PR business. She said: Urban Hope was a little youth club which has grown into a fantastic programme reaching young people in the area, and Im proud to be a part of it. Joy Faulkner, who nominated Gemma, said: She has mentored many individuals and been a positive role model and trusted presence in their lives and through her care, attention and support, many of those young people have gone on to great things. Her unwavering belief and commitment to the young people of Islington inspires everyone around her and brings people together.
A gardener who has brought a community together by transforming wasteland into a thriving vegetable patch has been praised by his neighbours. Graham Coult founded The Highbury Grange and Taverner and Pecket Square Community Gardening Project in 2012 and since then has watched as those living in the area have bonded over his work. Graham was nominated by the tenants living around the project who credited him with bringing wildlife to the area and helping young children and families learn about how food is grown. The gardener, who lives in Highbury Grange, said he started the project when dealing with a number of bereavements in his family and has since made a number of friends because of it. People have started talking to each other and getting to know one and other, said Graham. Lots of people come and talk to me while Im working and Ive made lots of new friends. Im very touched that so many people nominated me.
A model student who dedicates most of her spare time to helping younger children has won the Ben Kinsella Award. Keeley Timms, 16, who is a pupil at City of London Academy Islington (COLA-I) in Prebend Street, Islington, spends her lunchtimes at school helping younger peers struggling with the transition to secondary school including assisting physically disabled pupil, who she has formed a strong bond with. Outside of school, Keeley, who lives off Essex Road, has volunteered at her local youth club Urban Hope for the last two years with children aged three to six to help build their confidence. But her efforts in helping others dont stop there she has also completed work experience at Richard Cloudesley school opposite COLA-I after persisting in her request, despite being turned down on a number of occasions. And the staff there have asked her to return. Principal Clare Verga nominated Keeley for the award, saying her influence and impact on other young people was inspirational.
Those awarded on the night included the heartbeat of Islington Boxing Club, the driving force behind the return of the poppy appeal in the borough and a group of disabled residents, carers and service users applying their experience to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in the community.
Speaking at the ceremony, Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, said: “These award winners represent the best of Islington.
“There’s a lot we can be proud of in our borough but there are challenges.
“The horrific stabbing of Alan Cartwright chilled all of us and I would like to pay tribute to the Kinsella family – who are proof that people can move on from tragedy like this, however hard it may be.
“We face challenges, terrible things happen, but we come together to support families and to change things.
“The people awarded this evening are vital to Islington and it’s fantastic to have you all here.
“It’s all about building a better borough.”
The award winners were selected by a panel including Islington Mayor Cllr Theresea Debono, Borough Commander Det Ch Supt Gerry Campbell, Deputy Lieutenant Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes and the Gazette’s Community Editor, Aimee Brannen.
Aimee said: “It was a really tough job choosing the winners from such a variety of exceptional nominees.
“These inspirational people make this borough the special place it is to live and work, and the Gazette is beyond proud to be supporting the event again this year.”
The ceremony was held in the council chamber so that councillors could unanimously pass the decision to hand both George Durack and the Islington Vererans Association the freedom of the borough.
See all of our winners and their stories by clicking through to the gallery above.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Islington Gazette. Click the link in the orange box above for details.