Nominations so far for 2020
Read our nominations for 2020 here! And remember it is not a public vote - the Pride of Reading Awards have an independent panel who will judge the categories. The nominations continue also on the next page (see above)
the inspiration award SPONSORED BY mcdonalds
A TEEN from Twyford has been making making hundreds of protective masks for the NHS.
Oliver Hitchings, age 15, has been using the 3D printers at his house to make protective equipment for local key workers.
He is a student at the specialist engineering and computing school UTC Reading, and he has used the skills he learns in class to make more than 150 masks.
He said: “I got the inspiration from reading about people in Italy using their printers to make similar equipment in the midst of their outbreak- I thought it was a great idea and decided to do the same”.
Mr Hitchings uses PVC to create the front shield and elastic to secure the masks, using the help of his mum when needed.
He added: “It’s difficult to get the printers running, but once you’re in the rhythm it’s not hard anymore, but it is time-consuming to deal with all the fiddly bits”.
He started making the masks on his own, but now shoulders the demand with two other Twyford residents – Oliver Beadsall and David Dawkins – and in July he estimated that they had created more than 200 between them.
Mr Hitchings said he has managed to supply all the local GPs, pharmacists, hospices, care homes and chemists with masks, and is now shipping them as far as Birmingham.
His school donated around £150 to him in the beginning, which allowed him to buy the materials to make the first 100 masks.
Now he is relying on the public’s generosity to manage, as each mask costs around £1.50 to make, as the plastic is not cheap – he aims to raise upwards of £1,000 to make as many as possible.
From the nominator: 'Sarah Shield is an Area Manager for Autism at Kingwood, a Reading based charity which supports 140 autistic adults. Sarah has worked for Autism at Kingwood for 7 years, but started her career as a front-line key worker for autistic people when she was 18, 15 years ago. Sarah, who was born, raised and has lived in Reading all her life, works hard to provide truly person-centred support for adults, ensuring they are able to lead the lives they choose.
Whilst Sarah is an excellent manager, with incredible attention to detail and motivating her team through sound leadership, Sarah excels at working directly with autistic people – and maintains a personal relationship with all the autistic people on her ‘patch’. Sarah was pivotal in setting up a specialist home in Whitley, providing a supported living house for local and very vulnerable young adults who were transitioning from their residential school or care setting, to this supported living home. Overseen by Sarah, the home has been hugely successful, supporting the young people who have challenging needs and complex behaviours.
Sarah has also enabled and delivered fast track supported living for autistic individuals who have been in inappropriate care/psychiatric hospital settings, and she has planned and overseen the gentle rehabilitation of autistic adults who have suffered trauma as a result of how they have been cared for in the past – one of whom lived at a home subsequently closed because of its abuse and mistreatment of vulnerable adults, uncovered by the BBC's Panorama programme.
A stand out achievement is that - after many months of one-to-one dynamic support – this young man and another, both supported in the transition house, spoke their first words in their early 20’s. Sarah implemented bespoke interaction strategies for these young men, and we believe that for the first time in their lives, they felt listened to. Sarah joined Autism at Kingwood as the Young Adult Transition Manager, and has made it the success it is.
Modestly, Sarah says ‘There’s something about that team’, but it is really Sarah, managing the team, steering the service and maintaining excellence. Sarah’s ambition and determination has enabled her to develop her career at Autism at Kingwood and now a successful Area Manager, she is responsible for all the charity’s supported living houses in Reading. Sarah works calmly under pressure and works directly with autistic adults with challenging needs and unpredictable behaviours. She is a true exemplar of person-centred support under challenging situations.
Sarah sees past the autistic person and sees just the person. She is a strong advocate for the rights of autistic people and those with disabilities. Sarah is an expert in her field, and delivers our induction and specialist autism training to the charity’s autism support workers.
She is an extremely valued member of Autism at Kingwood staff, and respected by all the families of those she supports. Totally committed, she encourages support staff to contact her at any time of the day or night, and will not hesitate in visiting a house during the night if she or staff have concerns.
Sarah has been especially vigilant during the Coronavirus lock-down. Many people we support don’t understand the changes to routine and have experienced heightened anxiety and confusion around not being able to go out, social distancing and at the sight of their support workers wearing face masks (as required). Sarah has ensured staff have done everything they can to alleviate stress and anxiety. She has created videos using Makaton sign language (the sign language used for learning disability) to help autistic people understand social distancing and leaving the house during lock-down. Sarah has also found time to establish a Friday night social club in central Reading for autistic adults (not just Autism at Kingwood beneficiaries), and raise funds for improvement to the homes she manages.'
Sarah Gardner of Reading University
From the nominator: 'Sarah has allowed me to be creative in my job as a community assistant and she created a volunteer scheme during the height of lockdown which matched local community groups with student volunteers with skills that could help. She has inspired me to be a good community member and I’m so grateful for her to be my boss!'
From the nominator: 'I do not know Sally Evans personally but I think the majority of Reading now know of her! Sally set up a Facebook group called RG Halloween Hunt. Knowing that children would still want to be celebrating Halloween in these difficult times Sally came up with a way for that to happen whilst keeping everyone safe asking residents who wanted to take part to decorate their windows and outdoor areas for the 28th Oct - 1st November.
She then asked everyone wanting to take part to drop her a message with their postcode and made several hunt maps for the different parts of Reading on Google maps for everyone use to hunt the Halloween houses. Sally has brought together the whole of Reading with this, so many different areas and thought has gone into this. There are so many houses taking part, I am sure this ended up being a much bigger project than she had first anticipated but she has done it all, and done it all by herself too! It's given families across Reading something exciting to do this half term. Not to mention getting families together to create their displays.
She really has done an incredible job, all out of the goodness of her heart. I really think Sally deserves some recognition for all her hard work with this. She has created lots of smiles in what is such a difficult time for so many.'
COMMUNITY CHAmPION SPONSORED BY READING fOOTBALL CLUB
Manu Dhaumya is the face behind the organisation called UNITED AGAINST BULLIES who deal with kids who are getting bullied at school. He has organised loads of charity tournaments to bring all communities together in his fight against bullying. This cause is aimed to raise awareness for the bullying epidemic that's so prevalent in our local schools. Manu Dhaumya is an influencer who has been using his voice to support many important causes.
Manu has remained active even in these difficult pandemic times. The COVID-19 outbreak sadly affected millions of lives all across the world. Some have been stuck in local lock-downs, others have lost their jobs, and others have experienced family tragedies. However, Manu didn’t stop working to raise awareness on the cause, even amid such a difficult situation. He recently organized an online event, Reading Art Festival, where children had the opportunity to contribute to an anti-bullying poster with some of their drawings.
Manu also actively worked to support those in need during the Coronavirus pandemic. He visited the local hospital with food and supplies for the nurses and workers who are putting their safety on the line.'
From the nominator: 'Through both lockdowns Nicky has given live exercise classes that can be watched back later. Her positive energy, fun Zumba and other classes have helped me feel better. I look forward to these classes and watch them back if I miss them. For me her kindness and motivation has been a light in a horrible darkness.
A Woodley woman is running a campaign to provide vital PPE to frontline NHS staff across Berkshire and South Oxfordshire.
Tina Hancock, who works for a local authority, set up Scrub Hub South Oxon and Berks to support health care professionals in need of scrubs during the current crisis.
In only the first two weeks since its conception, the hub received over £5,000 in donations that go towards making PPE.
Ms Hancock was prompted to create the hub when she learnt about the original Scrub Hub UK and saw their request on Facebook for more seamstresses.
Together with friend Madeleine Steele, a talented seamstress and her husband Duncan Steele, she began seeking volunteers on Facebook, to help produce and deliver the protective clothing to NHS staff, carers and key workers.
The three friends have been working together to coordinate the Scrub Hub South Oxon and Berks network as it progresses.
Ms Hancock said: “We’ve had a lot of support and we’ve really grown incredibly quickly, through Facebook and speaking to friends of friends, it’s snowballed. By the end of the week we were delivering our first scrubs!
“We follow strict guidelines in terms of how the scrubs are made, we have some very proficient sewers.
“It’s brilliant to see how many people want to get involved, the community spirit has been amazing. Even on Facebook people are organizing themselves really well, they’re taking on responsibilities. We’ve been overwhelmed with people’s willingness to help.”
A total of 90 sets of scrubs have been distributed or are in production and demand is high for bags and masks too.
Ms Hancock said: “I’ve just spoken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital today and they want 40 scrub bags from us. That’s two per person so 20 people we’re supplying for.
“On the mask front, we set up ‘The Big Mask Task’, we challenged people to make ten masks each a week, a lot of them have made 20.”
The original Scrub Hub UK was founded in Hackney Wick, when doctor Katie Ward shared with her local community group that she urgently needed protective clothing.
Neighbours rallied round and began sewing scrubs for NHS staff. A Scrub Hub network formed and people were invited to create their own local hubs. Since then, many more Scrub Hub networks have been set up across the U.K.
Ms Hancock explained how the volunteers are being organised in her local hub.
“We have 148 volunteers, out of those, 46 are making scrubs,” she said. “We’ve divided them into 20 groups, each group has a coordinator, a group leader, at least one scrub maker and the rest are making masks and bags.
“We’ve got drivers and a logistics coordinator minimising time on the road and we’re implementing social distancing.
“Our orders have come from individuals working in hospitals and care homes including the Royal Berkshire hospital, the John Radcliffe Hospital, Wexham Park hospital and the Duchess of Kent Hospice.”
From the nominater: 'Since the lockdown due to the Coronoviris my husband who is 76, myself 72 and we both have high blood pressure, and our son who is 43 and visually impaired have not left the house. Roy Withers knocked on our door and has since done all our shopping, brought us treats and cooked meals and delivered them to us and he is still doing all these things to keep us safe. He has checked on us daily. I don't know what we would have done without him. We would have had to take our chance. He is one in a million and we will be eternally grateful. He deserves recognition for his dedication of care in the community.'
From the nominator: 'Rotary clubs of Reading and Berkshire. For donations, and support made to so many either by for example befriending through eg: Berkshire vision , Link,. Looking after the elderly and venerable by shopping etc. Supporting foodbanks Supporting Royal Berks hospital well being room for the staff Supporting many many local Charities such as Alexander Devine Being a trusted charity in the communities.'
Kathryn deacon Burgoyne
From the nominator: 'Kathryn has headed up foodshare in the Newtown area of Reading and gets very little recognition of it. She feeds up to 50+ Families 5 nights a week purely from donations and with the least amount of fanfare!!'
EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY READING BUSES
From the nominator: 'Teresa Oswin of Shinfield View Care Home is absolutely amazing, she is the most happy, upbeat person and really relates to people. She can be quite noisy / boisterous but has an amazing heart of gold. She has worked hard throughout this horrendous situation and always has a smile and a laugh!
From the nominator: 'I manage a store in the Broad Street Mall. Rob Clark is MD for security and cleaning. Its a very scary time to be at work and yet I drag myself in every day for the sake of our customers. However, I don't think I would if it wasn't for Rob and his team. They are cheerful, smiley and encouraging every time I walk through that door. Rob has given them masks, visers and gloves... Uncomfortable for them I'm sure, but all are still smiling and welcoming, and they are protected from risks. I think under the circumstances I am just grateful that Rob and his team are with us. There's only 5 of us open inside the mall and we all agree. Rob deserves recognition. We are all there, serving the public, only because he's there for us. Please consider honouring his dedication to his job and care for the all of us. We couldn't do without him. And none of us would be there without him.'
From the nominator: Rachel Barker, of Circle Reading Hospital - for her perseverance, compassion, integrity and putting her team and patients first. For trying to keep everyone safe and boost morale during these difficult times and for going above and beyond. She is a fantastic Manager always ready to help and listen and support and she needs to be thanked and recognised for this.'
From the nominator: 'Lucy McCabe of Prospect School has been working above and beyond to support the mental wellbeing of both staff and students.'
Mark Smith, Head of DT & Engineering, Leighton Park School.
From the nominator: 'At the start of lockdown Mark Smith single handedly set up a face shields factory from the DT lab in our school. This grew into a cottage factory setting with volunteers and partner schools from around the county. These face shields were vital PPE for a community struggling to cope with the virus. In our opinion, this act of kindness and passion to help others has saved potentially thousands of lives. It also helped to reduce anxiety for those exposed to the virus on a daily basis through their work. He adapted, produced and delivered over 36,000 shields with his team of volunteers by the end of the summer. People who benefitted from this ranged from NHS workers in hospitals such as RBH, Wexham Park Slough and Heatherwood in Ascot. Thousands went into cares homes, GP surgeries and primary schools as well as shops, pharmacies , food banks and charities. We believe Mark is a true hero and legned within the school and now in Reading. This nomination is from the student body and submitted by Ellie Pearson, Deputy Head Girl.'
business in action SPONSORED BY POR
From the nominator: 'Alex Gibson plus others from RLab (Reading Hackspace). Alex suspended his business, partnered with several other people from the Hackspace community and set up a 24/7 factory at Cisco's Green Park offices to produce face mask PPE for Berkshire NHS Trust. He and others volunteered their time, incurred costs of their own and borrowed the communal 3D printers too, working around the clock producing around 7500 masks over six weeks before the supply chain could get moving to get the right volumes of PPE to the medics who needed them most. They didn't have to step up but they saw the need and acted on it - I'm so proud to know them and to have been able to make a tiny contribution alongside their efforts.'
SHINFIELD VIEW CARE HOME
From the nominator: 'I’m so appreciative of all of the staff at Shinfield View. They constantly strive to improve on their already high standards, and have continued to do so throughout Lockdown. Their highest priority has been the protection of their residents in a safe and friendly environment.
When I was last in the home, on Mon 16 Mar, they were putting plans in place for lockdown and that night they closed their doors to visitors. However within a few days they’d set up video-calling facilities so residents can stay in touch with family members. They closed their dining rooms to reduce the risks of spreading infection if a resident becomes ill and have been serving all meals and refreshments to each resident in their room.
They also closed off social spaces (the lounges and bar) and somehow the Events Team are still managing to arrange activities (all with social distancing) to stimulate mind and body - painting, pizza-making, visits by Shetland ponies, exercises, Alice in Wonderland tea party, etc. Also the staff make time to sit and chat with residents (who’ve mostly got used to having conversations with staff wearing PPE all day).
Many relatives have had general questions about how Shinfield View is coping under lockdown, so each week the Manager, Amanda Tanner, sends out the Shinfield View Update email, letting relatives know about such things as supplies of PPE (which are constantly restocked), providing reassurances about food and drink delivery, updates on staffing levels, data on COVID-19 testing at the home, and details of how to schedule a video-call with your relative. Always amazing care and consideration from the teams at Shinfield View!'
Clay’s Hyderabadi kitchen
From the nominator: 'During lockdown whilst most businesses were focused on how to make it through financially, the team at Clay’s were focused on how they could help others. They provided hundreds of free meals to Whitley CDA and at a time when hospitality is really struggling. I was amazed of the work they did and the dedication they showed. They are a fantastic business and provide Reading with authentic, diverse and top quality food - we should be so proud to have them in Reading.'
Nibsys gluten free coffee shop, Reading
From the nominator: 'I’ve nominated Nibsys for the business in action award because the owner Naomi Lowe is always thinking of ways to help the community. She has started a plant a tree receive a free diy donut box to help get the community to plant trees to help regrow the wilderness that’s depleting.
She displays local artists work on one of her walls in the shop to help them get exposure and not only locals but she has also got a wall dedicated to a very talented homeless man called Lee where he can display his drawings to earn a living and to get him off the streets!
Finally in amongst the COVID-19 crisis she has lost money and business (like everyone) as she’s had to close the shop for several months due to the first national lockdown although she’s doing everything to keep her business afloat whilst looking after her two boys with the help of her husband she’s still managed to giveaway loads of free lunches in replace for the free school lunches that the children would be getting over the half term she’s donated these to the families that need them.'
Caversham Artisan & Farmer's Market
From the nominator: 'I would like to nominate Caversham Artisan & Farmer’s Market for this award, as they not only have been able to support the community by continuing to hold the market but, have also enabled other small businesses to continue to trade in this unprecedented and difficult time. Covid-19 really has taken its toll on both businesses large and small, but for those smaller enterprises it has been especially tough.
Many of the companies that trade at the Caversham Market do not have physical retail space and some are unable to operate online deliveries, leaving this market as one of their main opportunities to make a profit and sell their goods. Covid-19 has certainly forced businesses to make rapid decisions and they’ve had to evolve quickly in order to survive, but for smaller companies that just isn’t always possible – especially for those that had only just began their journey before lockdown. Caversham Artisan & Farmer’s Market enabled these smaller companies to continue trading by adhering and following the government’s guidelines. Clear, visible markings were added to the floor so that social distancing of 2m was put into place. Traders stands were also at least 2m apart from each other. Individual traders are also adhering to Covid secure measures themselves and throughout their businesses.
During lockdown when only essential shops could open, the market continued to trade but only with those that were selling essential items such as food, drink and household cleaning products. This market was a saviour to those locals that needed essentials but didn’t necessarily want to queue outside a large supermarket and come into contact with lots of people. As the market operates outside, masks were not required to be worn to enter.
This was a huge bonus for those people that struggle with anxiety around wearing a mask and for those that have medical conditions that mean they can’t wear one and would otherwise feel uncomfortable in a usual retail setting. The market therefore provided them with a place to shop and feel comfortable all at the same time.
I truly believe that without this market that those local, smaller businesses would have severely suffered due to Covid-19, not to mention the locals that enjoy visiting their market every other week to pick up essentials would have been negatively impacted too. This truly is a case of supporting small and local.'
CHARITY OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY POR
We have had numerous nominations for Whitley CDA - here are just a few:
'Trisha Bennett, Maria Cox, Lisa Alloune and Aneta Banas. of Whitley CDA - Trisha and her team have been feeding those Whitley residents who would normally need to rely on foodbanks since the start of lockdown (and even before that!). Raising funds, sourcing food and gathering the support of local restaurants and other businesses in order to feed those in the community that are vulnerable and those facing financial struggles. They have done amazing work and made the impossible happen in an extremely difficult and unprecedented situation.
'Trisha Bennett is a force to be reckoned with. She has surrounded herself with a group of strong women who have tirelessly worked for the good of the Whitley Community. They have earned the acknowledgement of being the best that Whitley shows other communities how to knuckle down and get things done. Well done everyone!'
'Seeing all the amazing work they have done over this Covid 19 crisis had been overwhelming, they have done a great job and worked so hard to help others.'
'They are a credit to Whitley and Reading as a whole. Personally I have been self isolating as new single mum since March. A member of the CDA made time after their job to pop by, drop me some reading material but also checked in on me. That small gesture went a long way as I was feeling extremely overwhelmed.'
'This team in Whitley (mix of staff, volunteers and partner organisations) has been working tirelessly to pivot their services and support during the covid-19 lockdown. They have prepared hundreds of food parcels for isolated individuals and vulnerable families across Whitley and beyond, they have partnered with local restaurants to deliver hot meals, they have partnered with charity groups to increase their volunteer delivery capacity, they have networked with commercial and corporate partners to collect unused food and distribute to those in need as well as essential supplies like toiletries, nappies etc. Further, Whitley CDA has linked Reading residents to services via the One Reading Community Hub and other local partners, thereby strengthening community ties for post-lockdown support. They have been a friendly face at the front door (keeping social distance!), the other end of the phone and online. If Whitley CDA does not symbolise the Pride of Reading, I don't know who does!'
From the nominator: 'Readibus always provides a professional,service to the elderly and disabled in the town but this year they surpassed themselves by working closely at the height of the pandemic by working alongside the South Central Ambulance service by transporting local patients for dialysis and cancer treatment to hospitals across Berkshire and Oxon when The RBH was unable to treat them. This really meant they had to up the ante to include intensive cleaning regimes and procedures and take sole responsibility for the patient as they were transported. Well done Readibus !'
From the nominator: 'Dingley's Promise provide support to my 4 year old daughter and have done for the past year, they work incredibly hard with the limited funds available to them! They work tirelessly to ensure that every child has the best possible start and support! The staff team by no means receive the credit that they deserve for what they do! Without them my little one would not be in the position to be independent and receiving the support that she does and i truly cannot thank them enough for all they have done.'
Parenting special children
From the nominator: 'Parenting Special Children are a small charity led by a phenomenal woman - Ruth Pearse. Everyone who works or volunteers at PSC are parents of children with additional needs. PSC provides education, workshops, fun events (pre covid!) and an amazing helpline to support Berkshire parents of children who need that little bit extra. They listen, advocate and support parents every single day and they completely transformed their whole way of working to continue this work during the lockdown by moving all courses online and continuing the support that parents & families so desperately need. They are amazing.'
From the nominator: 'CommuniCare stepped up and helped with Reading One Hub when the initial lockdown started. Since then, they have supported their clients with support via the home, at the centre or home visits. They have worked with RBC and other charities to provide advice/support to people in the community.'
From the nominator: 'In recognition for all of the work and difference they have made to support vulnerable children. This year has been an incredibly hard year for them but they have worked so hard at making their help 'Covid Secure'.
'The team at Me2 Club are based next door to our own head office in Woodley, just outside Reading. As such, we get to see the positive impact and the invaluable support that the charity offer to young people in the local area every day. We have been proud to offer our support through various fundraising initiatives, most recently sponsoring the charity’s inaugural networking event at Ascot Racecourse. Colleagues from our Woodley and Henley offices have also taken part in cake sales, charity quiz evenings and indoor rowing challenges, to name a few. We have been proud to support Me2 Club and look forward to offering many more years of support and fundraising activities.'
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY MACBETH INSURANCE
From the nominator: 'Paul Jones of Podium Fitness usually runs a bootcamp at Prospect Park, Reading and South Hill Park in Bracknell. But when government guidelines meant he could no longer, he started doing zoom sessions 4 times a week for us all. Since the 25th March these have all been provided free of charge to members.
Despite the fact Paul was not eligible for any of the government grants or furlough scheme, he didn't feel it was right to charge us when some of us may be having financial difficulty due to the pandemic. Exercise for us all was key to surviving lockdown. The online sessions have kept us all fit, healthy and most importantly happy. They have given us some structure to our week. We are all so grateful for what Paul has done for us and still is.
Due to government guidelines still not allowing groups of more than 6 to train outside , he is now proposing that from 25th July to reduce the zoom sessions to 2 sessions a week but hold back to back sessions outside twice a week with 5 people attending each session , again free of charge.
This means with an average of 20 people usually attending bootcamp. He will spend 4 hours twice a week training us for no financial benefit to himself. He has said he will not expect any payments until group sizes are allowed to be larger and we can then return to the parks twice a week. And even then he is going to finish off the 6 week course that we were only one week into when lockdown commenced! Paul has gone above and beyond to keep us all active and safe.'
From the nominator: 'Three guys, Ryan, James and Matt started up Freely Fruity right at the beginning of lockdown and have worked tirelessly throughout. They have worked through all the various weather conditions and elements to build up the charity to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for those a little less fortunate. Starting out with just a bare piece of land, and very little knowledge and how to grow and what to grow when, the guys have built up and grown an impressive amount of produce which they provide to various local food banks and churches. The guys have sacrificed a huge amount of their personal time with family to pursue their dream and help out those in need during these difficult times. The guys have such a selfless attitude and always go out of their way to help others and always thinking of new ways to help others and how they can expand their plot and vision even more.'
'This amazing group of individuals came together for the greater good of their community, putting others first despite all being furloughed - such a positive inspiration!'
From the nominator: 'Tutu Melaku has amazing community spirit. He cafe is Palmer park is awesome; when it was closed during lockdown she provided meals for children at school it Whitley. Post lockdown she organised a community dance in the park to bring people together. She is inspiring and her food is delicious!'
'During Covid Tutu did fantastic free meals for schools and vulnerable families. She has kept the cafe going in the middle of Palmer Park also, and organised community events to take place there. It’s such a pleasure to see the old building in some use, and for Tutu to be at the heart of it, always smiling, always inclusive of all, with just excellent and yummy food, coffee and cakes on top of it all as well. Tutu deserves to be recognised by Pride of Reading for all her efforts.'
Buddy from The Hatchgate/Burghfield Spices restaurant
From the nominator: 'He has continuously worked hard to cater for his customers and provided hot meals for NHS.'
From the nominator: 'Paul Stacey is from Reading and wanted to create a cultural offering for his town, which is why he set up Reading Rep 8 years ago. This company is Reading's leading producing theatre company, not just performing award winning work in the town, but also co-producing with industry heavy weights such as The Young Vic and Birmingham Rep, helping to get Reading's name noticed throughout the UK as a centre for arts excellence.
Over the past 2 years Paul has worked to raise over half a million pounds to develop a new creative hub for the town of Reading. This is during a time when arts funding has been hard to come by. During the recent pandemic, he continued to fundraise, receiving grants from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as well as Arts Council England. The new arts hub is almost complete and will hopefully be open in spring 2021.
This is a centre for everyone in the town, not just for Reading Rep's work. Artists, arts organisations and the local community will all have their work shown and celebrated here. This is the first new theatre to be built in Reading for over 40 years and having been able to complete this project during a pandemic when lots of arts organisations are struggling is a real achievement.
Paul is very proud of Reading and the support that he has received from various bodies, such as Reading Borough Council, Activate Learning, Reading UK as well as multiple creative partners shows the importance of the work that he has done for our town. This is why I believe that Paul should be celebrated as Entrepreneur of the Year.'
VOLUNTEER/s OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY AB WALKER
From the nominator: 'James Suarez, Chairman of Shinfield Running Club. In November 2018 James Suarez founded Shinfield Running Club a free, unaffiliated running club for people of all abilities. It started with a post on a Facebook community page asking if anyone wanted to join him for a run from Shinfield Green. What started with one simple post about running has grown into a active club with over 500 members on the club's Facebook page.
The club is free to join and James gives so freely of his time to organise weekly club runs on a Wednesday night, arrange weekly Instagram live interviews with elite runners plus he has designed a branded club kit for members to wear on their runs. James has done this completely voluntarily whilst balancing the demands of working night shifts and raising a family of three young children. He gives so selflessly of his time and has an open door to anyone who needs help and advice. During lockdown when the club could not meet, he arranged virtual challenges each week to keep everyone connected and motivated. He checked in regularly and offered to undertake errands for anyone who was isolating.
The club is 100% inclusive and just before lockdown had started a couch to 5K group and a walking group for anyone who simply wants to get active. I am nominating James as he truly embodies community spirit and is such a fantastic role model of the sport.'
From the nominator: 'The Weller Centre in Caversham's, Simone and Hazel and their team have throughout covid-19 stayed open providing, games, books, puzzles, clothes, food and cooked meals for the community. So much support and love given when many places closed and so many families were desperate.'
'Hazel Bingham in the Weller Centre has been a lifeline to me and supported me when I have been at my lowest point. Helping fill out forms and making me feel like I’m not alone going through it all. She is a diamond!'
From the nominator: Claire Harrison - Fifi’s Vision. Claire has been an amazing support not just for me but for the community. Her weekly support group is amazing for parents whom have children with special needs. She gives so much of her own time up to everyone even when she is going through stress herself and being the mother of 2 children with additional needs. She still gives time for others. She is an amazing person and I owe her a lot. She deserves the recognition for all she does!'
Hospital Radio Reading, Royal Berkshire Hospital.
From the nominator: 'For many years the HRR team has provided great programmes to the RBH, and previously to the Battle hospital too. The dedication of their volunteer teams who go onto the wards to visit patients, then return to the studio to play requests is astounding. In 2020, of course, ward visiting was called off. But rather than drop the show, or fill with something else, HRR volunteers - led by Chairman Gerard Rocks - went to great lengths to enable broadcasts from their individual home addresses. With diverted phonelines and social media contact, request shows continued and thrived. I'm so proud to have started my radio career on this station...their strapline when I was there was '...the station that cares for you'. They've definitely raised that bar even further in this year when hospitals and the NHS have had such a high profile. Thank you HRR! Robert x.'
From the nominator: 'Karen Kersley was furloughed during lockdown. So she went and volunteered every day at the Whitley community cafe where they boxed up food parcels for hundreds of vulnerable, elderly and isolating.'