Mr Morpeth!

FLOOD campaigner Alan Bell has received the town’s top honour in the new-look Morpeth Civic Awards.

Mr Bell has been named Townsperson of Morpeth for his tireless voluntary work as Chairman of the Morpeth Flood Action Group.

The award was presented by Morpeth Mayor Phil Taylor last night in a ceremony to recognise local champions of the community.

Fifteen-year-old Angus Kirk took the honour of Young Townsperson of Morpeth.

Other winners were the Morpeth Platoon of Army Cadets, Gott Technical Services, Kim Bibby-Wilson, Tom Ridley and Morpeth Rugby Club’s Under 10s team.

The Civic Awards have been introduced by Morpeth Town Council this year to replace the Citation Awards.

Under the previous system councillors would reward a handful of individuals each year who had given outstanding service to the community, but now the nomination process is open to the public to put forward worthy candidates in specific categories.

Sponsors have also got on board, providing their own cups and trophies.

Mr Bell received the Townsperson award for his commitment in campaigning on a range of flood issues.

As a victim of the 2008 flood, he has led the action group, lobbies the Government to ensure affordable flood insurance for all, and is working with Northumberland County Council and the Environment Agency on the Morpeth Flood Alleviation Scheme.

He is also a lead flood warden and played a major part in the campaign for new flood defences.

He said: “I feel very honoured, but I’m just the face of the action group and we have got some very dedicated people in the group. The progress we have made over the past three years has been with them.

“All the members work as volunteers and I do think they have had some effect in Morpeth getting our flood defences. If it wasn’t for our group, the media and the community involvement it is very doubtful that we would be in the position we are now. However, there is still lots of work to do.”

King Edward VI School student Angus Kirk has already received national and international recognition for his writing and speaking skills, including winning an Amnesty International Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year award. He has also produced reports and films, taken part in television documentaries, serves on the Northumberland Youth Cabinet and is a true role model for his peers.

He said: “I am really honoured that I have been nominated out of the whole town. It is just great to be recognised for the work that I have been doing.

“I helped at the Morpeth Gathering, we have been doing a lot of work for BT Big Voice, we re-dedicated the war memorial at King Edward’s after the plaque was stolen, we held a dinner in aid of SSAFA at the Town Hall and last year we did a big 1940s event when we brought about 300 people from all around Northumberland together.

“I also edit a magazine for students from across Northumberland and as part of the Youth Cabinet we just held a charity event that raised £850 for Depaul UK and Help For Heroes.

“I feel really privileged that I get to enjoy all of these things. It’s great to know that it is making a difference to people in the community.”

The Community Award, sponsored by Heighley Gate Nursery and Garden Centre, was presented to the Morpeth Platoon Army Cadets, which has served the area for 50 years. Members take part in the Remembrance Day Parade and sell poppies, as well as help out at Fair Day, the Mayor’s Ball and the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering.

Gott Technical Services was established in Morpeth 32 years ago, providing excellent service to the motor industry. It has also worked with partners in design and technology, and received worldwide recognition in the production of a low carbon and electric vehicle test drive facility for Nissan. Rotarian Brian Gott, who leads the business, also found time to support victims of the Morpeth flood.

The company received the Business Award, sponsored by Sanderson Arcade.

Director Ian Gott said: “We feel honoured to have been suggested for this award.

“We employ people in Morpeth, as well as people from out of the area who spend lunchtimes shopping here. We also invite visitors to the business. People say they had never heard of Morpeth before, or didn’t know where it was, so we are helping to put it on the map to a certain degree.”

Kim Bibby-Wilson, who was presented with the Leisure and Culture Award, sponsored by Richard Rutherford, is a familiar face at many town events. From childhood she has been involved with the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering, but she also serves in the Northumbrian Language Society, Northumbrian Pipes and the Morpeth Antiquarian Society. She is also an accomplished musician.

“I feel very honoured to have been nominated for an award. I’m very pleased that people have thought me worthy of a mention,” she said.

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The Achievement Award, sponsored by Morpeth Lions Club, went to Tom Ridley for his support and promotion of the Bloomers Gardening Group at the Northumberland County Blind Association. He has helped members learn new skills and develop their hobby.

He said: “It is a bit of a shock to be nominated because I don’t do a great lot, I just try to help as much as I possibly can.

“I buy seeds, help to raise money and take the members to flower shows and garden centres, and we try to give them responsibility for maintaining the grounds around the association. The Turner Garden was spoiled by the flood and it has taken us all this time to get it back to the way it was, but it is thriving now.”

Morpeth Rugby Club’s Under 10’s team were the worthy winners of the Sport Award, sponsored by Schweppes Abbey Well, having swept all competition aside to become one of the top teams in the north. Many players have been members of the club since the age of six.

Coach Simon Clemmitt said: “I’m really happy that we have been recognised by the council.

“Our boys represent the town and go out in a really positive way, not just on the field, but when they get off it as well.

“We have won the County Cup as an age group from the under 7s to the under 10s for four years running. This year we won all eight competitions we entered. There was a tournament in Leeds with some of the best teams in Yorkshire and the North West in it and we thought it would be a good learning experience for the team just to compete, but we came away winning that. We are just wondering where to go next.

“We have wonderful support from parents and we always have a whole squad of 28 players throughout the season, there is never any danger of not being able to put out a team.”