Community Awards 2017

There was a very bright light shining over Sutton Coldfield from Wishaw last night. It came from the first Royal Sutton Coldfield Community Awards and the brilliance of the nominees and winners gathered there. Being one of the members of the Awards Committee I knew, that on paper at least, there are lots of sparkling people in our town. In the beautiful surroundings of Moxhull Hall they glowed even brighter.

Okay – that’s enough with the illumination metaphors. They are flawed anyway as the universal element in the nominees was their complete and utter conviction that there was nothing extraordinary, enlightening or brilliant about them. They were all so wrong.

The awards themselves stood like a modern interpretation of Stonehenge presented in green glass and silver. They are beautiful vases handmade in Sutton Coldfield by an outstanding craftsman. They too set the tone for what was to be a lovely event.

The scope of the awards allowed The Town Council to pay tribute to a spot on range of people perfectly.

The Mayor’s chains of office were set off by her understated glitz in a way that threatens to reintroduce my metaphor… but I’ll resist. The Mayor is an accomplished Master of Ceremonies who took to the microphone and wrangled the presenters and winners with aplomb. Good Citizen Awards for each of the four wards started us off. They were wonderful. The nominees and winners showed all that makes Sutton such a great place to be. It is not a town without its issues and problems but it is a town where there are more people than one would imagine who put others before themselves and strive to improve the lives of those around them. There were people who operate on a larger scale gathering together groups and working for inclusivity and co-operation and people whose kindness is on more of a micro scale who are doing good in their immediate vicinities. Mostly they were names you wouldn’t know and people you’d pass in the supermarket without a second glance but there were a couple of recognisable folk – Jeff – from Jeff’s Really Useful Shop in Walmley who is a stalwart of the local community and Roger Lea – the author of the Observer’s much loved History Spot along with so much more. Both men are more than that. Both men work exhaustively for their communities too. Both own gorgeous green glass object d’art now.

A personal plea to Jeff… I so miss your blackboard and your erratic, eclectic and often hilarious thoughts for the day. My all-time favourite was, “The new 5p? Call that a coin?” Legend. Any chance of bringing the blackboard back?

The Young Person of the Year Award was presented by Cllr Horrocks who most suitably is a young person herself. It went to Hannah Borg who is far too young to have achieved half of what she has achieved. Hannah’s charity, Cherished, helps and empowers young (there’s a theme here) women and girls.

There was no hint of aging as the award for Teacher of the Year was next up. It was presented to a woman who clearly has access to a time machine and/or the elixir of youth. The Arthur Terry School’s Susan Bailey appeared to have taught half the audience along with half the audience’s children and yet looks as though she is setting out on her career and is not forty years into it. Forty years? Elixir! I’m telling you. That’s not down to teaching PE!

The Local Business Award was a polite battle between two undertaking firms whose care and kindness has been appreciated by many and an entertainment outlet. That was a bit odd but oddly charming. The winner was The Empire. It’s “the pictures” it’s still the pictures and not “the movies”. It’s Art Deco and it’s fabulous. What larks are had in our very own picture house with its special, relaxed screenings for groups who need things a bit more laid back and its film shows for seniors and people who like to sit and read the credits, don’t expect the national anthem at the beginning but are quite likely to clap at the end. Of course it’s the home to blockbusters and all the new releases too. Apparently the popcorn’s mega popular and insiders tell me that they are open to more Sing-a-long suggestions… I have one but it’s a surprise.

Big business is, of course, important to the local economy but also as a source for volunteer hours and donations in money and in kind. Many groups have benefitted from the generosity of Jaguar Land Rover which was acknowledged last night with the Commercial Business Award. We’ll gloss over it’s being a bit “Castle Vale” and a bit “Solihull” as it’s clearly Sutton in spirit!

The penultimate award was for a Local Leader. It went to Carolyn McLaughlin who was utterly aghast and joined the many who didn’t see how much we see in what she does. Working tirelessly with Rotary over many years and getting involved with countless people, Carolyn is never off duty. She accepted her awards along with a plea for any group with which she hadn’t engaged to get in touch. Bit of an opportunist!

There was one last award. It was bigger than the others though wrought from the same glass and metal. This was The Mayor’s Award which from here on in will be the gift of the Mayors to come who will have a hard act to follow. We will have more mayors because of the dedication of Ken Rushton. Ken’s Award was accepted on his behalf by The Observer’s Gary Phelps and fellow local democracy activist and campaigner Ray Beech. How could the man who had fought for decades to re-instate the Town Council not be honoured in the first year by it? We’ll forgive Ken for being on holiday and await his return to present his prize to him in person and in public at the next Town Council meeting on 24th May. He’s a hard act to follow. All our winners have set the bar high but I have no doubt whatsoever that there are people all over the royal borough quietly glowing with greatness, kindness and compassion.

Nearly 70 unsung heroes and their families attended Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council's first ever Community Awards at Moxhull Hall on Thursday 11 May. The awards are our chance, once a year, to welcome and reward the everyday efforts and achievements of extraordinary people in our town. Councillor Charlotte Hodivala, Mayor of the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield said "I have been constantly amazed and inspired by the number of people from across our town who carry out selfless acts every day, often without recognition or thanks. These awards are a small way to say thank you to just some of them for continuing to make the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield a great place to live and work."

Full list of nominees and winners listed below

   Good Citizen Four Oaks Ward

Julie Lees – WINNER

Susan Robinson

Charity Chums

Good Citizen New Hall Ward

Jeff Gilbert – WINNER

Arthur Law

Roy Farley

Good Citizen Trinity Ward

Roger Lea – WINNER

Doreen Hopwood

Dr Mirza

Good Citizen Vesey Ward

Jean Malin – WINNER

Jayne Kelsey

Tom Swinbourne

Young Person of the Year

Hannah Simnett – WINNER

Timothy Clark

Isabella Copplestone

Hannah Hughes

Teacher of the Year

Susan Bailey – WINNER

Dean Batty

Stephen Bradbury

Local Business of the Year

Empire Cinema – WINNER

Lilies Funeral Services

Ian Hazel Funerals

Local Leader of the Year

Carolyn McLaughlin – WINNER

Emma Borg

Dennis Kennedy

Ken Rushton

Commercial Business of the Year

Jaguar Land Rover

Mayor’s Award

Ken Rushton

Please click here for a full summary of nominees

Congratulations to all nominees and a big thank you to all who took the time to nominate.