Mayor Civic Awards: ‘Inspiring’ event sees Islington’s unsung heroes awarded
PUBLISHED: 08:39 17 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:50 17 March 2016
Islington’s community champions were honoured at an “inspiring” ceremony at Islington Assembly Hall on Tuesday.
Held in partnership with the Islington Gazette, the annual Mayor’s Civic Awards and Ben Kinsella Award celebrate the people who go out of their way to enrich the lives of fellow Islington residents.
The Civic Awards are for adults while young people are recognised with the Ben Kinsella Award, named in honour of the young man who was tragically stabbed to death in 2008 aged 16.
A total of five Civic Awards were handed out at the event, with winners ranging from a pub landlady to a neighbourhood group.
Introducing the awards, the Mayor of Islington Cllr Richard Greening said: “This is a very special evening because it’s an opportunity to recognise some of the outstanding contributions made to our community. I was very impressed by the nominations and by all the hard work and dedication that everyone has shown. Everyone nominated should be very proud.”
Council leader Richard Watts described the awards as an “inspiring event”. “Islington really is the best bit of the best city in the world,” he said, “and it’s the people that make it that way.”
Here, we profile the five Mayor Civic Award winners.
The cleric who saved a community hub from closing down
As well as working as a vicar in the Tollington and Finsbury Park areas, Canon David Bird has played a vital role in saving a valuable community asset from closure.
In the summer of 2015, the Finsbury Park Community Hub, which comprises the Andover Community Centre and the Durham Road Community Rooms, was on the brink of being shut down after the trustees decided to dissolve the organisation. Shortly after, David agreed to become the chair of the hub.
His leadership enabled an orderly transition to new management and avoided the closure of the hub, which helps residents living in some of the borough’s most deprived estates.
The pub landlady and charity champion
Philomena Curtain is known to many as the landlady of the former White Lion Pub where she worked for 18 years, only recently retiring.
Over the years, the pub became a kind of community hub for locals.
“The pub was basically like my front room,” she told the Gazette. “The only difference is that I didn’t live there. We had practically everyone coming through the door. The older residents would tell us stories of their parents getting married at St Luke’s many years ago and romances of the younger residents would blossom in the pub. Now lots of them have children of their own.”
In addition, she has worked with numerous charities tackling social injustice, poverty and loneliness and used to invite veterans and elderly people to the pub at Christmas.
The ex-Mayor and prolific disability rights campaigner
Over the years, campaigner Sandy Marks has supported countless disabled people and carers to challenge unfair treatment and attitudes.
Ms Marks, who was mayor of Islington between 1996 and 1997, had to stand down from politics in 1999 after developing ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
Since then, she has founded the Islington Personal Budgets Network (IPBN) of which she is chair.
She is also chair of Disability Action in Islington (DAII) and independent citizen scrutiny group London Patient Voice (LPV), and she is a member of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) guideline development group and co-chair of the Making It Real Islington Board.
“I think it’s important that everybody is able to be active in the community – whether that means going out of doors and having a coffee, volunteering or working,” she told the Gazette.
The young disability ambassador
At the age of 24, Christopher Cooper has travelled a huge personal distance, using his experience of living with learning difficulties to help and empower others.
Mr Cooper, who has autism, is an ambassador for people with disabilities, working with many charities including the Harington Scheme, Elfrida Rathbone and the youth communications enterprise Exposure, where he is their “alternative abilities ambassador”.
He was also one of the first people to volunteer for the “myVoice Project” run by Ambitious about Autism, which helps young people aged 16 to 25 who have an autism spectrum condition.
Mr Cooper told the Gazette he was surprised but delighted to be nominated.
“As an autistic person I want to be a positive role model and hope to inspire other disabled people to achieve such achievements,” he said.
The charity that goes extra mile
Canonbury Help on Your Doorstep is a charity that goes above and beyond its accepted work duties.
At times their services have proved invaluable for Canonbury residents.
Examples range from opening up a community centre for neighbours to take shelter after a major gas leak to reassuring residents after the fatal stabbing of teenager Stefan Appleton on the Marquess estate in June last year.
The charity has also set up numerous community activities, including an ADHD support group, film nights, football training and yoga and zumba classes.
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