Community champions honoured at Town Hall ceremony

Unsung heroes and successful organisations from across Morpeth have received their moment in the spotlight.

The town council’s 2014 Civic Awards were handed out to people who have put in a lot of time and effort for the benefit of the town or others and those who have helped Morpeth to receive widespread recognition.

Deputy Mayor Coun Nic Best and Les English.

Deputy Mayor Coun Nic Best and Les English.

Members of the public were invited to make nominations for worthy candidates and they were able to vote for one of the categories – the Community Award – on the authority’s website or by filling in a slip at the Town Hall.

The other winners at last week’s event were selected by the Civic Awards panel.

Town Council clerk Gillian Turner said: “It’s really important to highlight the unsung heroes in Morpeth as well as those who are great ambassadors for the town and this ceremony is our way of saying thank you to them.

“When you look at what has been achieved by all the nominees it’s absolutely tremendous and we’re pleased that so many people put forward a person or organisation across the various categories.

“We need members of the public to let us know the great deeds that people are doing in the town because these community champions don’t blow their own trumpet.

“It is now three years since we had a revamp and changed the name to the Civic Awards and everyone seemed to enjoy the ceremony. The event is evolving and we hope to make it even better next year.”

Information about each of the winners and short-listed nominees was read out at the ceremony, which took place in the Corn Exchange of the Town Hall. The winners in attendance spoke to the Herald afterwards.

The Mayor of Morpeth, Joan Tebbutt, was unable to attend after suffering a family bereavement.

COMMUNITY AWARD (sponsored by Heighley Gate Nursery and Garden Centre)

The winner was Morpeth Flood Action Group (MFAG), which has worked tirelessly for more than five years to highlight the essential need for a flood alleviation scheme in the town at the right level.

It has also camapigned on other issues such as surface water and insurance and the ‘Morpeth Model’ it put forward with partner organisations has been used by the Government as part of the on-going national discussion on the future of flood insurance.

Group chairman Alan Bell said: “We’re very proud to receive this award.

“We have put in a lot of hard work since 2008 and even though the defences will soon be in place, there will still be plenty for us to do over the next few years.

“We decided that MFAG member and Head Flood Warden Tom Smith should go up to collect the award in recognition of all his efforts, including his reports at hearings for potential developments in Morpeth that explain the negative effect they would have on flood risk in the town.”

The other short-listed nominee was the Morpeth Antiquarian Society.

BUSINESS AWARD (sponsored by Sanderson Aracde)

The winner was Pharma Nord UK, which was set up in Morpeth as the UK arm of the Danish company in 1988 by Bent Henriksen.

It stayed loyal to the town by moving to offices in Telford Court when it upsized, rather than relocating elsewhere. To its knowledge, it is currently running the only private sector apprenticeship scheme in Morpeth.

The company, which supplies pharmaceutical quality vitamins and dietary supplements to consumers, health food shops, pharmacies, hospitals and practitioners, enjoyed a positive 2013/14 as it continues to go from strength to strength.

Mr Henriksen, managing director, was unable to attend the ceremony as he was out of the country on business.

Later in the week, he said: “We are delighted to win this award in our 25th year of business.

“Pharma Nord UK has received good service from the town since I founded the company and we have been able to remain here and continue to grow, with the support of the council.

“It has been a pleasure to bring quality preventative nutrition to the community and help the local natural health business. We have also taken on a young man from Morpeth on our apprenticeship scheme and we hope we can give a great start to his career.”

The other short-listed nominee was Cafe des Amis in Newgate Street.

LEISURE AND CULTURE AWARD (sponsored by Rutherfords of Morpeth)

The winner was Penni Blythe-Jones, who was the project director of the Emily Inspires! programme of activities to mark the 100th anniversary of Emily Wilding Davison’s death.

The dedication of her and the other members of the core team meant that Morpeth was the centre of regional, national and international attention for many weeks during 2013.

Penni was specifically praised for her enthusiastic involvement in a range of areas, including organisation, event management, publicity and performance.

She said: “I’m absolutely surprised and delighted to receive this recognition. The programme created such a buzz in the town and we know from the information provided by Sanderson Arcade that there was a big increase in footfall over the main weekend. It captured people’s attention and there was national and international media coverage.

“People asked me ‘how are you going to do all this?’ but everyone in the core team put in a lot of time and effort and we managed to make it work. It was an incredbile partnership of people and organisations that don’t normally come across each other.”

The other short-listed nominees were KEVI TV and the Emily Inspires! programme core team.

SPORT AWARD (sponsored by Schweppes Abbey Well)

The winner was Morpeth Town AFC. The club had a good season in Division One of the Northern League after achieveing promotion in the previous campaign, securing their place in the top division for 2014/15 with a few games to spare.

The Highway Men also got through to the last 16 of the FA Vase (round five) for the first time in their history, which raised the profile of the town nationally.

Club Secretary David McMeekan said: “We’re pleased to win this prestigious award and it shows how far the club has come in a short space of time.

“Over the last few years, our main goal has been to produce a team that Morpeth can be proud of and we’re also looking to make our mark at a national level, so it was fantastic to do so well in the FA Vase this season.”

The other short-listed nominee was Morpeth Cricket Club’s junior section.

ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (sponsored by Morpeth Lions Club)

The winner was John Wright, who works with the children at Morpeth First School in Goosehill two or three mornings per week.

He helps with reading and telling stories and is extremely dedicated and reliable, attending the school in all weathers. The 88-year-old also assists with school visits and supports services, events and concerts.

John was not present at the ceremony and Coun Andrew Tebbutt collected the award on his behalf.

Coun Tebbutt, who has known John for many years, said that he uses walking sticks to get to the school from his home in Mill Race and he is a gracious and caring gentleman.

The other short-listed nominees were Les English, Angela Hunt, Jared Johnson, the Morpeth Detachment of the Army Cadet Force and Tim and Jane Wyncoll.

YOUNG TOWNSPERSON OF MORPETH AWARD (sponsored by Morpeth Town Council)

The winner was Chloe Dodd, a Year 13 student at King Edward VI School, who has done much to raise the profile of young people in Morpeth.

With her fine voice and organisational skills, she has raised money for charities and churches in the area, in particular Henry Dancer Days and Cancer Research UK. She has organised cake sales and rugby matches, and supervised a team of young people serving refreshments at the Mistletoe Fayre.

Chloe is a talented singer and musician, but also works behind the scenes when not in the limelight.

She said: “It’s amazing to receive this award and it’s nice to be recognised for organising charity events – my latest one for Cancer Research UK (it took place last Friday) at KEVI includes a hockey match and bake sale.

“The first concert I was involved in for Henry Dancer Days made me want to do more to help good causes.”

The other short-listed nominee was Rebecca Megwa.

TOWNSPERSON OF MORPETH AWARD (sponsored by Morpeth Town Council)

The winner was Les English, who has been an active member of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade for more than 50 years, and for the last 18 years he has led the group’s Bloom contributions.

In recent years, he has worked together with partner organisations to help Morpeth win the Northumbria in Bloom Best Town award on many occasions and has steered the commercial entry into winning the Best Shopping Precinct accolade for eight years in a row after encourgaing a plethora of businesses to purchase hanging baskets and planters.

Any gaps in the main town centre streets are filled by Les and other Chamber volunteers.

In 2008, the Britain in Bloom judges awarded him the Shredded Wheat Neighbourhood Champion title for his efforts, but the highlight of his service was last year when Morpeth won the UK Best Town title and a gold award and the Chamber and Sanderson Arcade received the Commercial Award for the best environmental and horticultural contribution by businesses.

Les said: “It’s a great honour to be chosen for this award.

“It was fantastic to win the commercial title for Britain in Bloom last year and I must thank all the businesses that have purchased plants and flowers as well as the volunteers who have helped me over the years. I wish the new Bloom team at the Chamber all the best for the years ahead.

“To receive four silver gilts from the RHS in previous years was an amazing achievement and the icing on the cake was getting the gold in 2013. Credit must go to everyone involved in Morpeth’s entry, particularly Gillian Turner for being the driving force behind this success.”

The other short-listed nominees were Rhona Dunn and Penni Blythe-Jones.