The Hastings Observer series celebrated the unsung heroes of 1066 Country last night (Thursday, June 6).
The newspaper group welcomed more than 250 people to Bannatyne Hotel and Spa for its inaugural 1066 Community Awards to celebrate those worthy of recognition in our area.
The event’s headline sponsors were the CountyClean Group, with each of the award categories also generously sponsored by supportive local businesses.
Maria Hudd, chief reporter of the Hastings Observer newspaper series, said: “What an amazing night!
“Firstly, a huge thank you to our sponsors, without who we wouldn’t have been able to stage this event. And thank you to Bannatyne Hotel and Spa for providing such a lovely venue and looking after us so well.
“But most importantly, thank you so much and congratulations to each and every one of our winners and nominees who took time out of their busy lives to come and celebrate with us.
“Every guest was deserving of recognition for the extraordinary things they do in our communities, and the judges had a seriously tough time choosing the winners.
“The evening was genuinely humbling and inspiring, and we cannot say thank you enough to everyone who played a part in making it such a success.
“We’re already looking forward to next year’s event!”
For a gallery of photographs from the evening, click here. For a full list of winners, see below:
• Young Achiever of the Year (sponsored by East Sussex College Group) – Charlie Willis.
Charlie was just six years old when he cycled 25 miles in a month to raise more than £1,500 for Warming up the Homeless. Charlie’s mum said the King Offa Primary Academy pupil is always looking for ways to help the homeless and will often donate items or buy food and drinks for those in need.
• Public Service Award (sponsored by Bexhill Chamber of Commerce and Tourism) – Roger Crouch.
Roger is someone who needs little introduction in Hastings and Bexhill. He is the man behind the hugely-popular Hastings Pirate Day, which celebrates its tenth year in 2019, and organised Roaring 20s in Bexhill until 2017. He is now working on another event – the Bexhill 60s Revolution – due to take place later this year. He is also the man responsible for bringing the Red Arrows back to the skies over 1066 Country for the first time in six years.
• Sporting Star (sponsored by Just Property) – West Hill Boxing Club’s Joe Lee and John Gray.
Both men have volunteered at Hastings West Hill Boxing Club for more than 50 years apiece. They coach youngsters in the art of boxing, at the club’s gym in Whitefriars Road. At more than 70 years young, these old sparring partners have a proud record of success and a number of national champions and England internationals between them.
• Carer of the Year (sponsored by Heringtons Solicitors) – Frances Phillips.
Frances is a carer with a very big heart. She has been donating valuable items such as clothes and household goods to two important St Leonards agencies – namely The Seaview Project, a wellbeing centre for vulnerable people and rough sleepers, and Turner House, a residential home for single mothers. Frances has been visiting and bringing donations to Turner House for more than 15 years. This includes her very popular homemade marmalade. Always visiting with a smile, it is said that she brings such happiness with her - even through the difficult times in her own life. Perhaps best summed up by the words of one fellow volunteer:“Words cannot express how much we appreciate Frances - she is truly wonderful.”
• Care for Animals (sponsored by Windmill Hill Post Office and Café) – Barby Keel.
Barby Keel’s Animal Sanctuary provides a refuge for lost or rejected animals and fowl of all kinds, and will try to find permanent and loving homes for the animals, whenever possible. Barby has run her sanctuary at Freezeland Lane, Sidley, for an incredible 54 years. It all began when, at the age of 28, she bought four acres of land for £1,400, built her own home brick by brick, and then dedicated her life to caring for animals who were often dumped at her door. She is described as ”a trooper who would turn no animal away”.
• Friend of the Environment (sponsored by Hastings Borough Council) – Abigail Wheeler.
Young Abigial Wheeler has done many things to raise money for environmental charities, including a sponsored litter pick with her sister along Bexhill beach in aid of Bexhill Environmental Group. She also set herself a goal to walk 1,000 miles throughout 2017 for The Rainforest Foundation UK. She completed the challenge and raised almost £600 for the charity, which was doubled on the night by the CountyClean Group.
• Fundraiser of the Year (sponsored by the White Rock Theatre) – Summer and Shaun Finlay (winners), John Pulfer (highly commended).
John has been tirelessly fundraising for the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat since 2011. He has raised funds for a new second boathouse and restored the old one, and he has raised funds for two new boats and two launch vehicles too. As of April 2019, he had raised an astonishing £153,314.53 – and doesn’t plan on stopping there.
Summer and Shaun Finlay are a dad and daughter who raise funds for Charity for Kids. Summer has Hydrocephalous and Spina Bifida and has been supported by the charity. In return, her efforts - along with dad’s – to give something back, have been truly amazing. This year, Summer became the first person to complete the Eastbourne Half Marathon in a wheelchair and to date, have raised more than £15,000 through their various fundraising efforts. Shaun said: “She is such a happy, bubbly little girl and she has always been a fighter. Every challenge we give her she excels at and we are so proud of her.“
• Charity of the Year (sponsored by PCM Estate Agents) – Pit-Stop Youth Trust (winners), Little Gate Farm (highly commended), Safehaven Women (highly commended).
Little Gate Farm was born out of a vision to enrich the lives of learning disabled, autistic, and vulnerable children and adults, equipping them with skills to improve their wellbeing and better their future. This team provide work training and supported employment to help adults with learning disabilities into paid work. The team go above and beyond supporting those who attend Little Gate Farm, creating an environment that is calm welcoming and a safe place.
Safehaven Women is a charity that runs a support group for vulnerable women in Hastings. Every Thursday during school term time from 12.30 to 2.30pm, Safehaven opens its doors to vulnerable women on our streets, offering a cosy, comfortable space to relax, with food, tea and coffee, nail bar, craft sessions and a clothes bank. This safe place is a chance for women to come together and hang out, to chat and to be listened to over a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Invaluable.
Pit-Stop Youth Trust is a small, independent organisation that has been running for nine years. Based in Bexhill, it supports and works with young people from Hastings to Eastbourne. Activities include three mechanical workshops, which offer various skilled and non-skilled based projects to help develop interpersonal skills. The charity also runs a craft club, a confidential HIV+ support group called Pier 2 Pier, and a free group called Spark for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and non-binary (LGBT+) young people aged from 13 to 26. The Pit-Stop Youth Trust also provides an emergency young person’s grant fund. In 2017 the charity started fundraising for a community beach hut that would be of benefit to those with young people wishing to have a free short respite break. After just one week more than £22,000 was raised to fund the new purchase of the beach hut.
• Business in the Community (sponsored by Bannatyne Hotel and Spa) – Netherfield Stores
The volume of nominations received for this business speaks for itself. Comments included: “Smiles, a chat, with exceptional service. The perfect antidote to indifference and the ‘how long will this take?’ syndrome. This is a ‘oh my goodness, where did the time go’ shop. Probably the best village shop in the world! Provides just what’s required, including a café and post office, plus incredibly friendly and helpful staff. A very special place. This is a great store, it has everything you need in this shop, great staff with great customer service. And the locally-sourced food in the café is second to none (outstanding and more). And so the plaudits continued... Whether it’s for fundraising for local charities or just being open on a wet Wednesday, this is a shop worth its weight in gold.
• Health Worker Award (sponsored by Spectrum) – Roger Nuttall
Roger Nuttall is the manager of the St John Ambulance Hastings Homeless Service and works tirelessly to help rebuild the lives of the most vulnerable people living on the streets of our community. He does this with compassion, kindness, and endless caring - all carried out in a non-judgmental manner. He never expects any other reward than to see people back on the road to recovery and a better way of life. He is totally trusted by the community he serves, and has been tirelessly doing this work for 15 years; an incredible achievement. He was honoured for his work with an invitation to be invested into the Order of St John.
• Best Community Organisation (sponsored by Barracloughs The Opticians) – Hastings Tornado Twirl-Stars.
The Twirl-Stars are a majorette troupe based in Hastings, who take part free of charge in dozens of events across the area, entertaining the local community. They perform for local nursing homes such as the Lauriston, St Michael’s Hospice and many more. They were involved in the grand reopening of Hastings Pier, and a fundraising event for Conquest Hospital and Charity For Kids. The group is made up of 45 members ranging from just four year to 32 years of age. All members give up their weekends in the summer to help the local community.
• Volunteer of the Year (sponsored by Hastings Direct) – Steve Johnson
Steve, who hails from Bexhill, has been a listening volunteer at the Hastings and Rother Samaritans for five years and currently acts as the charity’s treasurer. In April he embarked on a 1,600-mile fundraising bike ride from the Hastings branch to the charity’s most northern branch, Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. He stopped off at 29 Samaritan branches on the way. The 65-year-old carried out his challenge on his 35-year-old Raleigh Classic Tourer, which he has had since new. Steve is an active member of the branch and has played a key role in the refurbishment of its training facilities.
• Local Hero Award (sponsored by M&W Property) – Gerald Carpenter
Gerald is the main driver for Dial-a-Ride – or the “chuckle bus” as it has become known. He is caring and supportive and looks after his passengers like no other. His kindness regularly extends to giving up his Saturdays, taking passengers out to lunch to avoid any of them enduring a lonely weekend. He volunteers for Dial-a-Ride five days a week, and goes way beyond the call of duty. Gerald is said to be the kindest, most helpful, most generous person. His passengers say he puts himself out all the time, getting shopping if they are ill, and having cake and flowers on birthdays.
• Special Recognition (sponsored by R&R Kitchens and Bedrooms) – (joint winners) Harry Wiseman and Pete Prescott
Harry Wiseman is a man who battled blizzards, boulders and bouts of extreme sickness to cycle 10,000 miles across 20 countries in memory of his brother. He set off from our town in March last year, and returned almost a year later, having cycled through France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Laos.
He did so in memory of his brother Tom, who died in 2011 at the age of 21 after accidentally overdosing on heroin. Harry also wanted to raise awareness and money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). The 24-year-old said: “Tom struggled with his own mental health issues but hid them with drugs, he rarely spoke about his feelings and struggled with how to deal with them. Ironically for five years after Tom’s death I used substances to mask my emotions and thoughts, instead of facing the reality of my situation I smothered it with drugs. It took one more year of heavy drug use until I realised that this lifestyle wasn’t sustainable - I was living from weekend to weekend, with no aspirations and nothing to look forward too. I decided to go sober and cut everything completely, and with the support of the legends that are my mum and friends I’ve been sober for three years.
“From these experiences in my short life I’ve realised the importance of mental health and support in a crisis. CALM provides outstanding support to the men who truly need it, this is why I’m going to do all I can to raise awareness and funds for this cause.”
Beatles Day has carved itself into the history books of 1066 Country and it was created and organised by local singer Pete Prescott. Since its inception in 2000, Beatles Day has gone on to raise more than £275,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support and other charities in East Sussex. Beatles Day is now held in the White Rock Theatre and is an annual part of the Hastings music calendar. Pete is stepping down this year and he also leaves behind him a generation of inspired young musicians.
• Observer Achievement Award (sponsored by the Hastings Observer series) – Hannah Richards
Last year, Hannah Richards won the ITV Pride of Britain Fundraiser of the Year award – and a very worthy winner she was. For this year and last year, she has taken on a number of tough, physical challenges to raise money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and to raise awareness of male suicide. Those challenges have included running the Brighton Marathon twice, completing Tough Mudder twice and jumping from an aeroplane. Later this year, she will also cycle from London to Paris and climb 24 peaks in 24 hours in the Lake District.
She has done all this in memory of her brother Sam, who tragically took his own life on his 20th birthday, in 2017. Last year, she raised more than £8,000 for charity and already this year, her fundraising total is almost £3,000. As well as raising money, Hannah also wants to spread the message that it is okay to not be okay, and there are people for young men to talk to about their mental health.
• Overall Achiever (sponsored by the CountyClean Group) – Harry Wiseman.