IT was an emotional night as Huddersfield paid tribute to the people who make it such a special place.
And, yet again, the wonderful achievements of so many, many people from across Huddersfield shone through.
The Examiner Community Awards, now in their 12th year, were another glittering success at the Galpharm Stadium.
There were stories of courage, of selfless determination and of skill and audacious ability. But there were also moments of quiet, considered reflection – not least when it was reported that the charity for the night was the Yorkshire Regiment Benevolent Trust.
That helps the families of dead and injured solders, both serving in the current regiment and in the past.
And there was silence in the 400-strong audience as Capt Steve Jones from the 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment recalled the Huddersfield heroes who had given their lives in the Afghanistan conflict.
Evocative images were played on giant screens as the audience paid a silent tribute to Capt Lisa Head, Lance Cpl Graham Shaw, Cpl Jake Hartley, Pte Anton Frampton and Pte Daniel Wilford.
Capt Jones – himself an Afghan veteran – said: "I’m humbled to be here tonight to hear some of the stories of people who have done such wonderful things."
Those, too, were the sentiments of the evening’s Main Man.
The Achievement Award, sponsored by Cummins Turbo Technologies, fittingly was awarded in the Galpharm Stadium banqueting suite to one of the men who helped create the venue.
Entrepreneur Graham Leslie, who made his fortune through the Galpharm pharmaceutical business, was described as shrewd, philanthropic and generous.
But he too was moved by many of the stories which unfolded throughout the evening.
Mr Leslie is now the University of Huddersfield’s first visiting professor of entrepreneurship and will oversee new and exciting projects in the multi-million pound Enterprise and Innovation Centre taking shape on Firth Street. Ironically, it is less than 100 yards from the hut in which he set up his pharmaceutical company close to the town centre.
The man who has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities was genuinely moved not just by his award but by those of others throughout the night.
"It’s so humbling,’’ he said. "When you listen to what so many people have achieved – and got on with so quietly – it makes you feel so proud. So many of them don’t consider what they are doing as anything special, they just want to get on with their work or their duty. It is so moving.
"I want to do just the same, getting on with what I love doing. I have no plans to retire or take things easy. The University role they have kindly offered me is a really exciting challenge and I feel so honoured to be given the chance to work in the new centre.
"It can offer great opportunities to so many people. And the ironic thing is I have come almost full circle, having started my business just a hundred yards away, in a small hut."
Examiner editor Roy Wright, who introduced the evening, told the guests: "We have now had 12 years of awards and they just get better and better.
"We have seen Huddersfield Town achieve wonderful things, thanks in no small measure to Dean Hoyle, who is here tonight. And we now have the Diamond Jubilee, the Euro 2012 football and the Olympics and Paralympics to look forward to after these awards."
The awards were jointly hosted by ITN presenter Nina Hossain, back in her home town of Huddersfield, and Examiner Head of Content Andrew Hirst.
One17 Design Young Personality of the Year
THE judges described Mehreen Akhtar as “the absolute epitome of inspiration.’’
Although she has been blind since the age of three she has run up a stunning list of achievements.
A pupil at Moor End Academy, she is in the top 5% in the country academically, is now training to become an elite cross country runner, she’s reached national rock climbing finals in the past, is also a keen tandem bike rider and goalball player.
She loves fashion and design and has produced several hand-drawn collections of clothing.
In 2010 Mehreen was awarded the Kirklees Learner of the Year award and on June 19, she’ll be carrying the Olympic torch.
She is an extremely popular student at Moor End and always has a smile and words of encouragement for her fellow students and teachers, who admit that they have learned a lot from Mehreen and her positive attitude to life.
She said: “I didn’t expect to win, but I sorted my dress and chair out beforehand just in case!
“It was a bit embarrassing being on stage, but I am so pleased and happy to have won.
“I have won an award before, but the others in this category were so good that I wasn’t expecting it at all and it is a real honour and pleasure to be named as Huddersfield’s Young Personality of the Year.”
Her parents added that they were “so proud” of Mehreen.
The other nominees in this category, sponsored by One 17 Design, were Chloe Cunliffe and William Mullin.
Stafflex Recruitment Teacher of the Year
LINDLEY Junior School music teacher Alison North won for taking her teaching skills out of the classroom, into the community and on to national acclaim.
She’s made singing cool both in the school and in the wider Lindley community.
Alison set up the amazingly successful Lindley Junior School Choir and its Training Choir in 1999, followed by the 120-strong Boys’ Choir and last year the adult Lindley Community Choir.
Lindley Junior School Choir has since developed a national reputation, winning the BBC Songs of Praise Choir of the Year in 2008 and reaching the semi-finals again last month.
A delighted Alison said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have won this award.
“I never expected it. The night was so wonderful and winning the award has just made it that little bit more amazing.
“I think the children will be really excited and so very proud.
“It was great to see so many choir members in the crowd – there were two ex-choir members in the string quartet and another girl who I taught was part of the netball team which won Sports Team of the Year.
“I feel so honoured to be part of this among some real unsung heroes.
“The whole night has just been incredible and I have had such a fantastic time.”
The other nominees in this category, sponsored by Stafflex, were Amelia Oldham and Adrienne Dewhirst.
Chadwick Lawrence Emergency Services Personality
THE judges said Pc Newsome’s personality is the reason why she is so successful in tackling the issues that concern many people from anti-social behaviour to truancy while forging relationships with young people, their parents and the wider community.
She is based within Newsome High School and Sports College where she has become a firm favourite among the pupils and has forged a reputation as someone they can talk to and trust.
As a result she’s managed to forge excellent working relationships with parents to tackle behaviour issues. Her early intervention has prevented some crimes and anti-social behaviour from happening in Newsome.
Pc Newsome has also organised a group of students to transform a patch of wasteland into a community garden on Edale Avenue.
She said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won the award.
“It is a job I love doing and I can’t really believe I have been given an award for it. I am very lucky.
“I can’t wait to get to school tomorrow and show everyone. It’s amazing.
“Billy and I used to be partnered together and I know most of the paramedics from work.
“I am thrilled I won but I would have been delighted if any of us had got the award.
“They are all deserving winners.
“It was such a fantastic night and the company has been incredible.”
The other nominees in this category, sponsored by Chadwick Lawrence, were Pc Billy Pringle and Huddersfield Ambulance Station.
David Brown Community Project of the Year
THE judges were overwhelmed at the spirit shown by Mike Hardy and Bill Magee who carried on battling the might of the British legal system to protect part of their community’s heritage when most would have given up long ago – and they did it while both suffering from cancer.
They have saved a well-known and much-loved area of community land in Edgerton called Clayton Fields from developers and, thanks to them, it now has village green status.
This battle took them 16 years of hard work along with a grim determination and not a little amount of courage to win – and at times it must have seemed that eventual victory was against all odds.
Clayton Fields Action Group has now grown to 400 members and they host big community events on the fields.
They said: “We never envisaged this kind of thing. We were so shocked when we received the phone call from the Examiner.
“There is enormous pride in us receiving this award tonight in recognition of the hard work that has gone into saving Clayton Fields.
“Lots of people have commented on how safe they feel now to go walking around the area.
Bill said: “We have even had some campers down here and when they were told that we didn’t object but they must tidy up after themselves they definitely agreed.”
The other nominees in this category, sponsored by David Brown, were Bradley TRA and The Motherhub.
Pearson Funeral Directors Community Event of the Year
THE judges praised the organiser behind the Concert On The Hill, David Roebuck, for his foresight in bringing Huddersfield’s finest musicians together to provide an outdoor concert for the people while raising thousands of pounds for charity – and all in spectacular style.
David’s idea for the annual event at Salendine Nook came after he went to a big outdoor musical event at Harewood House, Leeds, and thought it lacked atmosphere and so he decided to set up his own.
That was 12 years ago and since then the concert, which features Huddersfield’s excellent brass bands, brilliant male voice choirs and great amateur dramatics, has raised thousands of pounds for the Forget Me Not Trust Children’s Hospice, the oncology unit at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary after David lost his wife to breast cancer and for the Holly Bank Trust.
It was described at the awards as “the very essence of a community event.’’
David said: “It is six months of extremely hard work to make this event possible. We do rely on our sponsors and thank them very much for their kindness.
“I still think it’s amazing that amateurs can get up and perform in front of the crowd of 1,500 people.”
The other nominees in this category were Shepley Spring Festival and Holmfirth Film Festival and it was sponsored by Pearson Funeral Directors.
Sandal BMW & Mini Sports Personality of the Year
REBECCA has won world titles in her sport but is now using her skills and personality to help other people turn their lives around … and she’s still only 27.
She is an expert in Filipino martial arts which include versions of boxing, kick-boxing and stick fighting and she has racked up an amazing number of successes at the highest level which include five world titles, two European titles and 10 British number ones. She also has a place in the exclusive USA Black Belt Hall of Fame.
As if that’s not enough, she’s danced since the age of six – recently competing at the World Irish Dance Championships – and in just 25 days she will be one of the people chosen to carry the Olympic torch through Huddersfield.
In 2005 Rebecca opened the Kane Academy at Perseverance Mills in Lockwood where she trains people of all ages and backgrounds in the finer points of martial arts and the self-discipline and the respect which accompanies them.
Rebecca said: “I was shocked that I won after hearing all the other stories – it is totally inspiring.
“I think it would be nice if I can team up with some of the people I have met tonight to do some charity events.
“It has been a really good evening and an eye opener. We are all in our own little bubbles, but there is so much going on in Huddersfield.”
The other nominees in this category, sponsored by Sandal BMW and Mini, were Jack Sykes and Andrew Whitworth.
V&A Bell Brown Courage Award
A CYCLING accident robbed Andrew of his sight 42 years ago when he was just 10, but he has shown immense courage ever since to make the most of life and help a charity at the same time.
He is a keen swimmer and walker and is always raising money for his favourite charity, the Society for the Blind, never missing turning out as a fundraiser on its annual flag day and has even taken part in the Great North Run.
He’s always cheerful and meets every challenge with a smile and ‘have a go’ attitude. When his mother was taken ill, Andrew learned to walk the 20-minute route unaided. After her death last November, he showed tremendous courage as rehabilitation staff helped him to learn cooking, cleaning and generally how to look after himself.
Andrew said: “Well, I am so surprised that I won the award.
“I heard all the other stories and the other two people were just amazing.
“I had the most wonderful night but never expected that it would be me going up on stage.
“I go to a centre in Batley very near my home and I will look forward to showing everybody there the award.
“I think they will be proud of me but they will probably be surprised too.”
The other nominees in this category were John Bower and Rachel Booth and it was sponsored by V&A Bell Brown.
Ramsdens Solicitors Arts Award
THE judges said that Thom Meredith has played a vital role in making sure Huddersfield’s rich musical heritage will long continue by inspiring thousands of young people to get involved while helping several charities at the same time.
Thom, who has been Principal of Kirklees Music School for eight years, is renowned as an inspirational musical leader in Kirklees and he’ll be leading the biggest music event Huddersfield has ever seen – the huge Stadium Spectacular concert at the Galpharm on June 29.
On this day Thom will be conducting a 4,500-strong choir in a music and dance event featuring 116 Kirklees schools.
Thom – who has led Colne Valley Male Voice Choir for 23 years and more recently established its Boys Choir – set up Kirklees Youth Orchestra which has forged a national reputation and goes on tour every two years.
Over the years he has used music concerts to raise thousands of pounds for charities, especially the West Yorkshire Forget me Not Trust and Kirkwood Hospice.
He said: “I am delighted to win. It is a bit embarrassing, but the lovely thing is celebrating all the musical things that are going on in Huddersfield and Kirklees. We moved here so that our son could be a part of it.
“The evening has been very enjoyable and really well run. It is very humbling and a great way of bringing people together, it helps to build a community and understanding. Everybody nominated is celebrated.”
The other nominees were Jamie Smith and St Mark's Players and the category was sponsored by Ramsdens Solicitors.
Longley Park Kia Friend of the Year
NANCY Whitwam won for the sheer scope of her community work.
She puts in a full day's graft, week in week out, as a volunteer for Agewell and spends countless hours talking to and supporting elderly people while also helping to run day care at Birkby Croft sheltered housing where she is chairman of the management committee.
She is also involved with the Fartown Village Hall committee, is chairman of her local Neighbourhood Watch and a member of the new Community First panel in Ashbrow, which tries to attract funding to the area.
She is currently involved in trailblazing inter-generational work linking the elderly with pupils at North Huddersfield Trust School in Fartown.
A delighted Nancy said: “I couldn’t believe that I had been nominated. I am totally gobsmacked that I have won.
“I get more out of my voluntary work than I put in. I really enjoy helping others.
“Only on Tuesday I took 19 people to Junction 32 for a day out, all on public transport.
“It must be my Christian upbringing that has made me want to help others. I have been doing this for about 12 years now and do everything from organising to being treasurer.”
The other nominees in this category, sponsored by Longley Park Kia, were Shirley Simmonds, John Brooke and John Battye.
KSDL Ltd Sports Team of the Year
THE judges were impressed with the way these girls from Huddersfield Giants Netball Under 16 Team put so much time and effort back into their club to keep it going and inspire the younger players.
They have reached the England Netball national finals for the third year running and have only lost one match all season and that was to current national champions Leeds.
One of the girls, 16-year-old Lydia Walker has been selected for the England under 17 squad, while four others – Georgia Hamilton, Emily Hollingworth, Lia Liburd and Hollie Joyce – are all involved with the England development squads and pushing for selection.
Coach Lynda Fluskey has previously won the National Grassroots Coach title from England Netball.
But these girls and their parents put their heart and soul into the club and give a lot back.
Many of the girls volunteer to assist with coaching the younger players, umpiring games and helping with the administration and fundraising.
Team member Libby Cuttell said: “We are over the moon to win, especially as the other sports teams were really good. There was some really tough competition.
“Netball doesn’t win much, so it was great to win and hopefully it will raise the profile of the sport.
Coach Lynda added: “The parents have been brilliant as well.”
The other nominees in this category, sponsored by Kirklees Stadium Development Limited, were Meltham All Blacks Under 16s rugby team and Armitage Bridge Cricket Club.
Myers Group Services to the Community Award
SUE Starr has been doing voluntary work in Golcar for more than 30 years and was described as “indefatigable.’’
She started school visits to the Colne Valley Museum in the early 1980s and now leads the Life Long Learning team there, hosting school pupils who visit in Victorian costume.
She is one of the founding members of the highly successful Golcar Lily Day which is now in its seventh year and has become a firm favourite on Huddersfield’s annual calendar of events, rejuvenating community interest in the village.
She was the first treasurer for the By and Buy charity shop – set up 14 years ago on Sycamore Avenue in Golcar – and is still a keen voluntary worker there today and also helped establish the neighbouring Drop By community resource centre.
She has also written light-hearted plays at St John’s Church, Golcar, for the last 10 years.
An emotional Sue said she was delighted to win but she was quick to say that the others were just as good as her.
She said: “So many people do good things. Most do them quietly but I do them very noisily.”
Sue has been a very active member of the community of Golcar and really enjoys doing all that she does. She gives many hours of her time to helping the good causes that she has supported.
The other nominees in this category, sponsored by the Myers Group, were Jean Margetts and Beryl Robinson.
Rose & Crown Services to Charity Award
MANDY Barwick's bubbly personality, formidable fundraising skills and never-ending desire to help as many charities as she possibly can won her the trophy.
She spent four years as a dedicated voluntary fundraiser for the Forget Me Not Trust Children’s Hospice despite working full-time and since 2008 has provided inspirational support to any charity that has turned to her for help.
It’s impossible to calculate how many tens of thousands she has helped to generate.
Last July Mandy was diagnosed with Grade 2 breast cancer, but it just spurred her to step up her charity work and despite several operations, she set out to achieve a personal dream to establish The Charity Angels – a group of individuals and businesses committed to supporting worthwhile charities by giving skill, will and expertise to those who need it most.
She is now fondly known as the Archangel.
Mandy said: “I don’t feel worthy of the award. They are all heroes here and there are many unsung heroes out there as well. I hope it will inspire many other people.
“My diagnosis changed my life, but I am glad it happened to me and not somebody else.”
The other nominees in this category, sponsored by the Rose And Crown pub and restaurant at Cop Hill in Slaithwaite, were Kirkwood Hospice volunteers and the Friends Support Group for the Forget Me Not Trust Children’s Hospice.