On Friday 1st March Witney Town Council held its annual Civic Reception for specially invited guests at which Mayor, Councillor Brenda Churchill, presented the Citizen of the Year awards.
The awards celebrate the shining lights in our community from the past year; those that go above and beyond and give just that little bit more to the benefit of the town. Witney is fortunate to have so many people quietly undertaking all this incredible work. The winners are people that are often so unassuming they seem unaware of the extent of their achievement or the positive impact their actions have on others.
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by 93 year old Dennis, an accomplished amateur pianist who is self taught, having been told by his music teacher that he would never master the piano! Air Cadets from 2120 (Witney) squadron assisted guests and organisers throughout the event to ensure that it all went without a hitch.
Photographs from the evening can be seen on our Facebook page or with each winner’s story below
Here are the details of the winners of this year’s awards
Peter Brading – Outstanding Service to Community Peter founded Witney Talking News, for the visually impaired in 1978 having organised the fundraising of £4,500 to purchase the recording equipment. About to celebrate its 40th anniversary, Peter has served as chairman and volunteer during this time.
The weekly service provides an hour of spoken news to 80 people living in and around Witney. Listeners appreciate the familiar voices and the friendly tone and can be assured that if they encounter any problems with the play back equipment Peter will pop in and sort it out for them. It is the unanimous opinion of the committee members of Talking News that Peter’s public spirited devotion, his continued enthusiasm and energy deserves
Janet Currah – Valued Contribution to Education Janet and Jacqueline have been nominated together for contributions ‘well beyond the school walls’ alongside excelling in their professional roles.
Janet spent a good number of years at Henry Box responsible for the liaison with primary schools ensuring that transition from primary to secondary education for every child was safe and secure. She demonstrated great understanding of the needs of everyone. A sponsor said, ‘It is said that by the time a child started at Henry Box School, they could be sure that at least one teacher knew their name and face, their family and their history- and that is Ms Currah!’ Janet has also helped generations of teachers in her role as a specialist in behavioural support. She is rightly regarded as a model of good teaching and high professionalism across the town.
Jacqueline Mainwaring – Valued Contribution to Education
Janet and Jacqueline have been nominated together for contributions ‘well beyond the school walls’ alongside excelling in their professional roles. Jacqueline’s efforts alongside colleagues and a supportive head were
instrumental in turning Henry Box School into a successful Languages
Specialist school. Not only did she achieve tremendous results with her
students there but she also provided language lessons in primary schools and in the wider community. Her passion for languages was infectious. Her version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar in French was a particular favourite with many children. A sponsor remarked that ‘ she is without doubt one of the most inspirational and enthusiastic teachers I have had the pleasure to observe in action’.
Dianne Parkes – Mayor’s Special Award
Dianne, along with her husband Nigel is a founding trustee of the charity Joss Searchlight. Set up, following the tragic loss of their son to cancer in 2011, the charity has helped countless other children and their families, offering physical and emotional support while also devising an education programme in schools to ease the return of young cancer patients to the classroom.
In 2018 Dianne organised the first ever 6 week long Witney Wonderland
festival which raised money for the charity and St Mary’s church. The event brought the community together to enjoy a number of festive elements including a Christmas Tree festival, gin and wine bars, a photograph exhibition, live music and celebrity poetry and of course, Father Christmas. We hear plans are already underway for this year’s Wonderland.
Windrush Bike Project – Outstanding Commitment to Community
This community project helps volunteers gain skills and confidence through
rescuing and refurbishing abandoned bikes alongside trained mechanics. The social enterprise has taught hundreds of schoolchildren and disadvantaged young adults in West Oxfordshire since forming in March 2017. Many of the repaired cycles are offered for sale to fund the workshop sessions. Others are donated to low income families.
The project offers membership to people from all walks of life.
The group of volunteers are passionate about the role of cycling in helping to clean up air pollution and give their time willingly to inspire others to indulge in some healthy cycling.
One sponsor said, ‘The stringent safeguarding and friendly inclusivity is very reassuring for those of us with vulnerable family members.
YOUNG CITIZEN OF THE YEAR 2018 Yasmin Digweed
As chair of the Witney Youth Council Yasmin has demonstrated great enthusiasm in establishing the group despite the obvious difficulty in getting groups of young people together at the same time with their rather busy timetables and social lives!
During her tenure she has provided a mature and calm presence and successfully steered the group meetings. She has applied continuity through agenda items and followed up on actions and decisions taken at meetings.
The Youth Council undertook a successful consultation and fundraising exercise at Witney Town Carnival, led by Yasmin and has identified a number of different projects and activities for the town that the group would like to fund from their small budget.
Yasmin has recruited new members and continued to promote membership of the Youth Council as a positive and worthwhile experience and works hard to ensure that things move forward. She is a great advocate for young democracy.
CITIZEN OF THE YEAR 2018 Linda & Graeme Young
This year’s Citizen of the Year Award is actually a joint award. It goes to a husband and wife team who have demonstrated the qualities of drive and determination combined with what has been described as endless commitment and enthusiasm.
Linda & Graeme founded Witney Day Centre which caters for people over the age of 60. Every Thursday up to 40 members attend and are treated to a seated exercise session by Linda, a two course lunch and entertainment including arts & crafts sessions and live music. Singing and dancing is encouraged and inclusivity being the aim, even those with disability walker frames are enabled to join in with the aid of volunteer helpers gently ensuring they are confident and safe.
Not only do Linda and Graeme ensure that each member is well cared for and entertained while attending but they also support, encourage and offer guidance to their volunteers to help them achieve new goals.
For some of the members this is the only social contact and companionship they may have on a weekly basis and is crucial in combatting feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Having identified the need for provision of this kind of service, Linda and Graeme found and secured the venue and then negotiated donations of furniture and food. Finally, along with the help of some special volunteers they were able to get the service up and running.
Many members are delivered by family or taxi but there are those for whom attending would not be possible without transport specially laid on. This comes via a minibus that was purchased as the result of some intensive fund raising all of which is incredibly time intensive. Graeme drives the minibus all around Witney, sometimes making two journeys to ensure that all who want to attend are able to get there. The minibus is also used to take members on occasional outings to events such as Remembrance Day and Christmas Lights switch on.
Although the centre is open between 10am and 3pm, the time devoted to the day to day business of running it extends far beyond this and Linda and Graeme certainly put in the hours collecting food from the supermarket donations organising entertainment and even visiting members who are unwell in their homes or in hospital.
The service is just over a year old now and we hope that it will continue to thrive and provide such a welcoming and nurturing service.