Nominations 2022

Community Champion: Reading Football Club

Emma McLaren

From the nominator: "Since Emma has become the Deputy Manager at Tesco's Portman Rd she has gone above and beyond her role to give back to the local community in many different ways."

Liam Murray

From the nominator: "Liam is the driving force behind our street and it's community events. From the moment we all moved into our road, he was the one suggesting we hold street parties, Christmas Lights other community events. His relentless determination to ensure we really bring together the residents in our road is second to none. Despite having a very challenging and time-pressured role, he's always there making sure we all have the right equipment; organising materials; speaking to organisations with regards to charitable donations etc - without a thought of the impact this would have on his time. He's also been responsible for sourcing Christmas Presents for all the children in the road, which are delivered by Father Christmas on Christmas Eve, to peoples' doorsteps...... Liam is one of those selfless individuals who thinks about others and in our case, the community (road) we live in and he really is the driving force to make things happen. At Christmas, he really enjoys being given the title of Chief Elf, as this really does sum up what he does."

Brian Day

From the nominayor: "Brian at 75 is still giving up hours and hours and days and days each year to ensure the Reading and Berkshire Schools Athletics Leagues and Cross Country Leagues can run.

Although retiring from 42 years of teaching 10 years ago he has never stopped running all these events. This enables young people across all Reading schools to take part in summer athletics events and winter cross country. In addition to organising all the schools events he is also then a team manager for Berkshire and takes the Berkshire team to the English School Athletics Championships every year.

This event starts the careers of athletics across the country and he has again never failed to organise and support. Without him in Reading these events would not happen as they do year in and year out. He is a legend among all PE departments in the area for enabling these events to allow young people across the county to take part."

Kelvin Husbands

From the nominator: "Kelvin is a born youth worker. He is passionate about giving kids somewhere positive to hang out. He set up the Grassrootz youth club in Coley and then teamed up with Jo McKnight (who I will also nominate for similar reasons) in Caversham. He also has plans to set up another youth club in Whitley. He uses his own money to get the youth clubs going, he bought the play stations himself. He is a brilliant man, with a huge heart and the epitome of a community champion."

Jo McKnight

From the nominator: "Jo had a deep desire to do something really positive off the back of the town losing youngster Olly Stephens to a senseless knife crime. She was determined to set up a safe space for children to hang our and have fun.

It took 6 months of research to find the right venue / person / support and volunteers, but she struck gold when she partnered with Kelvin Husbands. Between them, these two legends launched Grassroots in Caversham. I went along to see them one evening and it was just amazing. 35 youngsters aged between 11-16 were hanging out playing in the park outside, chatting in the relaxation area, a few were gaming, and a group of girls were doing a fun boxing class (each week Jo arranges external visitors to teach the kids skills, fitness / baking / art / nails etc). As I left, all of the children headed outside for a big team game of dodgeball, it was wonderful to see. Jo and Kelvin have given these children somewhere safe, happy and positive to spend their time and have some fun. Jo is also a befriender for Sue Ryder, and whilst that is not relevant to this nomination, it gives you an idea of what a huge hearted person she is."

School of the Year: Qwerty

Birch Copse Primary School

From the nominator:  "Since covid a lot of children have suffered - my daughter suffered from extremely anxiety and did not want to do anything socially. Birch Copse gave her the support , tools and confidence to get through all situations . She now loves school and knows that if needed she can talk to anyone with the school. Can't thank them enough."

The Inspiration Award: McDonalds

Daniel Pringle

From the nominator: "Daniel Pringle is an inspirational young man. He is a PE Teacher and Head of year 10 at Maiden Erlegh School in Earley and takes numerous school teams to countless fixtures each year. He has championed girls football and is determined to ensure that girls have the same opportunities to play football as boys. He voluntarily runs the Laurel Park FC U10 Diamondz and Starz girls teams and spends most Saturday mornings shuttling between the fixtures for the 2 teams. Additionally, for the last 4 years, he has run the Berkshire School’s FA U16 girls football side. He is a keen runner. During lockdown, he pounded the streets of Earley and Lower Earley dressed as a dinosaur in an attempt to put a smile on people’s faces. He ran the 2021 Reading half marathon dressed as a dinosaur to raise funds for equipment for Maiden Erlegh School and Laurel Park Football club. Early in 2022, a young girl in his year 10 group at Maiden Erlegh was diagnosed with Leukaemia and was rushed into the John Radcliffe Hospital. She underwent 10 days of intensive Chemotherapy. To show his support, Dan decided to run 10 x ½ marathons in 10 days, culminating with the 2022 Reading ½ marathon. Thanks to the fantastic support of the people of Reading, he raised almost £9,500 for charities supporting the family. He is a fantastic role model and an inspiration to us all."

Rebecca Howard

From the nominator: "Rebecca is passionate about the environment and in 2020 conceived the idea of the Big Twyford Tree Planting Project. Alongside support from the Twyford Parish Council and The Big Tree Plant Nursery, she went on to run a grass roots event in December 2020 where 77 trees were planted in Stanlake Meadow by members of the local community. Building on the success of the day she was instrumental in running the Twyford Tree Festival in November 2021 where a further 60 trees were planted. Her vision, hard work and passion has helped to bring a local community together and inspire adults and children alike to take care of the local environment and consider bigger environmental issues."

Local Hero: Green Park

Matthew Wellsteed

From the nominator: "In June there was a major crash on a motorway between a Nissan Micra and a white Van. The Nissan caught fire my partner got out of his work van and ran towards the vehicle. He retrieved one lady and took her to safety. He tried to save another passenger but sadly this was not possible. My partner deserves this award as not only he was a hero for doing such amazing thing but also risked his own life to save another."

NUMEROUS NOMINATIONS FOR READ COLLEGE - please note shortlisted are chosen by our judges and not by amount of nominations. Below are excerpts from some of the nominations. Nominated for Charity of the Year, Cultural Contribution, Entrepreneur of the Year.

"Throughout an incredibly difficult time, the team at READ College and Access to The Arts have delivered incredible work. They have supported 60 young people through full-time training and, from their base in Reading, have also nurtured 3,500 young people across the UK through grass-roots outreach programmes. The benefit to the young people is massive and tangible, with the vast majority (around 97%) gaining access to Higher Education at degree level that they simply wouldn't have been able to reach without the support."

"With its remarkable success record, family-like ethos and dedication, the college makes training in the performing arts as accessible and supported as possible, enabling students to go on to successful careers in acting, writing, producing and directing."

"They have really positively impacted my ability to train in the arts as a young person."

"The College is an excellent place for young people looking to work in the performing arts, that takes great care of the students' physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, and produces excellent academic results."

The Chris Tarrant Award: The Oracle

Stephanie Awbery

From the nominator: "My mum for over 16yrs has fund raised with a free event for different charities each year, after her parents died as her mum was disabled. The community helped them and my mum wanted to give back to the community as they helped her parents. mum started up from nothing and works hard every year to organise this event. So I think in my eyes she is special."

Cultural Contribution: M&G Real Estate

Lucy Daniels

From the nominator: "Lucy is an incredible human. She works constantly without any expectation of thanks. At a time when cultural budgets are diminishing her and Sian Bowes work incredibly hard to continue to deliver and grow really important community cultural events. I am in awe of her energy and dedication."

Jo Hodder, Ben Sandiford and everyone at South Street

From the nominator: "I am nominating the teachers and leaders at South Street Youth theatre who have for at least 10 years run weekly sessions at South Street for young people from aged 5 -18 years.

Jo and Ben are professionally-trained drama teachers , who work as teachers in local schools during the week and then on a Saturday morning/ Monday evening work with the young people. Over the years they have worked with hundreds of people in Reading and provide an affordable and accessible drama education.

Indeed, unlike other drama groups, they support young people to develop their own scripts, which they perform at South Street or in in the case of the older students in other places, including on a bus, or at MERL, showcasing their work to audiences across Reading. They are very inclusive in their approach, Jo in particular has worked with young people who would have ordinarily found accessing a drama group difficult, but with significant experience in working with young people with SEND she supports them within the group and helps them achieve their potential.

Ben works with the older students and fosters a real sense of confidence as well as team spirit among the young people. Many students join in primary school and stay until the end of sixth form such as my son Joseph. The two of them go above and beyond in their dedication to youth theatre in Reading and highly deserve this recognition."

Dance Reading

From the nominator: "Dance Reading is a fantastic charity that has done so much during the pandemic. They've been running dance classes for older people supporting us to get more active and get back together with people after so much isolation during covid. It's been a real life line for lots of older people, because they were stuck in their homes for months, shielding, and need to gain strength and balance back. They do lots of other work too, around mental health in the community, working with new mums experiencing mental health conditions, and with young people too during the holidays. They are really making a difference in people's lives. I was suffering from depression during the lockdowns and dancing has made the world of difference. I've made new friends too."

Child of Courage: IQVIA

Dexter Kingsnorth Page

From the nominator: "Dexter showed extreme bravery in a very stressful moment. We came across a gentleman having an epileptic fit in his car. I just shouted at him to get help, call an ambulance and all sorts of quite stressful orders for a 9 year old and he raised the alarm and support the efforts to help the gentleman and thought I was the hero! He was 100% the hero in this situation."

Holly Baxter (numerous nominations)

From the nominator: "Holly Baxter is my daughter who has been in John Radcliffe Hospital since being diagnosed with acute Myloid luekemia on 2/2/22. She’s had so many intensive chemos but is so strong, I’m proud to call her my daughter. The nurses fight to look after her . She is currently extremely poorly with severe typhlitis, colitis, sepsis and c- diff and had two stomas fitted 3 days ago - in 30 mins time she is going down for more surgery as this hasn’t worked and they need to see what is going on. She is continuing to thank all the nurses and doctors every time they come in even though she’s in agony."

Community of the Year: Hilton Reading

The Maybank Community Group

From the nominator: "On behalf of the residents of Maybank in Shinfield, we would like to nominate our cul-de-sacand its residents, who since the road was completed, have really come together as a thriving community with a real ‘team spirit’ and a supportive approach to all our
residents, which comprises of 20 houses.

An example of this would be during the pandemic, our WhatsApp group was used extensively to help with requests from isolating residents, who needed childcare essentials, food shopping etc. Since our first event in 2017, which usually happens on May Bank Holiday (to coincide with our road name), we have held a yearly street BBQ; Victory Day Street Event (which was a socially distanced BBQ and Quiz) and our yearly Christmas Lights Display, which has been featured in the local press and all over various social media platforms, which continues to go from strength to strength.

Our organising committee, which comprises of 6 residents, is always looking for innovative ways and events to bring our community together and we have been so lucky to receive Easter Bunny chocolates, delivered to our front doors; a visit by Father Christmas on Christmas Eve, handing out presents for all the children in the road and not forgetting our amazing Christmas Lights, which this year, we decided to do for two charities; Epilepsy Action and MacMillan Cancer support, mainly due to the fact two of our residents sadly had diagnosis’s of this during the latter part of 2021.

This year, the organising committee agreed to set a donations target for each charity of £500..which at the time, we thought could be a challenge, as why would people donate money to walk down our street during the month of December? Hiring a cherry-picker and the committee giving up their time to put up the lights, takes place over three very long days and last year, in the pouring rain and wind, whilst maintaining safe working practices and traffic management, we did it and everyone was overjoyed with the result. Visitors to Maybank were urged to donate via a QR code, which was displayed in the window of every house. Local Estate Agents (Dan & Neil from Avocado) also erected boards at the entrance to Maybank, with the QR Codes on. So much so, we had a few more residents asking us to help and being more than willing to donate to the charities. We also have a community Christmas Tree, which the resident help decorate and then a ‘switch-on’ ceremony with carols, mulled wine and mince pies.

When we closed the ‘just giving’ pages in January, we not only hit the goal, but massively over-achieved it. We eventually raised £879 for MacMillan Cancer and £1,375 for Epilepsy Action. With that in mind, we would like our Maybank Community to be considered for a nomination for the above award. We have worked very hard to build a cohesive community which helps each other; supports each other through tough times but also knows how to celebrate and live life to the full, which given the past few years, has really helped all of us."

Keep Caversham Tidy

From the nominator: "This group was started by Amersham Road Estate resident Jacopo Lanzoni. He started litter picking in his local community and posting a weekly picture on Facebook to raise awareness. Before long, Jacopo amassed quite the following and he now regularly has a team of 15-20 volunteers out litter picking with him. He has instilled a sense of pride in his local community and made it fun and acceptable to get involved in looking after your community. I think he's an absolute hero."

Employee of the Year: Reading Buses

Sean Whelan

From the nominator: "I am nominating Sean as Employee of the Year because he does everyone’s hair in the town! Forever putting everyone before himself and visiting all clients that are going through chemo, deaths in the family etc. Sean is a real non paid therapist as well as a great friend."

Volunteer of the Year: AB Walker

Lynne Shipton

From the nominator: "Lynne and her husband Steve are dedicated volunteers and trustees of 'Chemogiftbags', a wonderful small charity that provides care packs to women and men undergoing chemotherapy. They provide a wonderful boost to people at a difficult and frightening time of their lives."

Charity of the Year: Roc Search

Chris Gaskell

From the nominator: "At the start of the covid crisis, Chris along with his wife started up a food bank in their living room. This expanded thanks to the help of kind volunteers, a small grant and incredible donations into his garage. As covid took hold of the nation, the need for the food bank grew and Chris ended up creating a hub in Berkshire.

Chris dedicated his time and effort everyday into the hub, and teamed up with other charities and schools helping all over Berkshire. The work he has done completely selflessly is inspiring. He motivated more and more people to volunteer and his work has helped so many people in the community.

There are countless people, from volunteers and those who needed the help, who are indebted with gratitude towards him. He is an inspiration and never shouts about his work. I think he is the perfect candidate for a Pride of Reading award. To this date the hub has fed 150,000 people, donated 300,000 meals, given away £1.2m worth of food, had 110 team members, made over 5000 food parcels. Even at Easter and Christmas he made parcels for the season so nobody went without."

Becoming Mums

From the nominator: "Becoming Mums is a mental health charity working tirelessly to support new and existing mothers in Reading. The number one cause of death for women in the first year after giving birth is suicide. Becoming Mums wants to change that by providing safe, free, accessible support hubs across Reading that any women can access at any point in their motherhood journey. They run arts programmes that provide new skills, creative inspiration and new friendships.

They do a podcast and online live discussions that people can join in with to make sure women know about services in their area and so they don't feel so alone. They manage an online community of over 800 women who share stories and support one another 24/7. They run specialist support for women at risk, and those in the care of the family support service, to make sure that the most vulnerable women have a safe, peer led space to talk and connect. Their work is literally a lifeline for a lot of women. It is run by just two mums, who set it up in 2017 to answer a very real need, and these two women work constantly, mostly as volunteers to make sure that all the women who need support can access it. They work in close partnership with the NHS, with Sport in Mind, with Dance Reading and with other local organisations to make sure that there is ongoing support and additional opportunities. They trained 6 other charity's staff in mental health first aid, to make sure that other provision is also aware and equipped to deal with needs.

This Mother's Day, they ran an online competition for the women in their care, getting donations from 10 different companies to treat the mums in their group, from Bills to Wellington Country Park. They are currently working with Reading Borough Council and with mothers who are in the care of the family support service, to produce a stunning community quilt, made with scraps of fabric from women all across the town that celebrates their motherhood stories. Bits of hospital gown, old babygros and saris are woven together to celebrate mothers as the queens they are. This will be hung in the civic centre, to celebrate publicly all the invisible work that these vulnerable mums do, and their stories and experiences. There is no other charity like this one, and no other provision for mothers in Berkshire like this. They are really special."

Entrepreneur of the Year: Macbeth Insurance

Claire Anderton-Bell

From the nominator: "Claire and her partner Jodie moved to Caversham eight years ago from Bury St Edmunds. They liked the diversity and culture of Reading, but quickly discovered that the water is very hard in this region which caused Claire and her daughter Millie’s eczema to flare up. It was then, she decided to make her own soaps. That soon led to a range of natural body and home products that she produces at her Caversham based studio.

Originally selling her products online, Claire wanted a more personal approach to sales. Realising that Caversham was crying out for a market, she set up the Caversham Artisan and Farmers’ Market and has grown it to a hugely successful and very popular, now weekly market. When the opportunity presented itself to collaborate with two other local businesses, Midrib Plants and The F Word Flower, NOOD Stores the shop was born and opened in July 2021.

It’s such a beautiful addition to RG4. The perfect place to refill your eco products, grab a gorgeous vase, plant, dried arrangement, body care product, card, and that perfect present for a lovely friend. Claire also set up a cleaning company, originally called Clean Green Living and rebranded to NOOD at home as they created all the cleaning products from off cuts of our soaps and wanted the business to reflect that. After 4 years of having the cleaning company and building an amazing team of ‘Eco Superstars’ (the job title of the cleaning team) she gave the company over to the team that had been there from the beginning, Andrea and Ashleigh.

Claire said: “They are so hardworking, loyal and did a great job. We had just opened the shop and felt it was time to concentrate on manufacturing and the shop. It felt right to pass the company over to those who had literally poured their sweat into it. It was an opportunity we could offer that would change their lives and really deserved it. It was the best decision we made, they still own the company now called Reading Eco Clean Co and doing an amazing job. Hopefully it will continue to grow and give them freedom and opportunities. We get to put our efforts into making skincare and cleaning products which we now wholesale to other cleaning companies. It’s a huge business in the county and reducing the chemicals and getting cleaning companies to use a refill station in their office or space to minimise the constant plastic bottles seems and good place to tackle a section of the environmental problem”.

One of Claire’s next steps is to get involved with schools to help children have an insight to entrepreneurial life and see that ideas can become reality and that fire in them can be their job! Something like a biz kidz club! As well as being a busy local producer, seller and market organiser, Claire is passionate about building community and working on rebranding Caversham. “We have such amazing people and businesses in Caversham, we need to be better at telling everyone about it” She is such a can do person. She see’s a need and makes it happen, all while being socially and community conscious. I think she’s a star!"


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Nominees' gallery