Celebrating Pride of Stratford

By IH Wednesday 06 February 2013 Updated: 08/02 08:23

THE PRIDE of Stratford gathered to celebrate all that's good about the town.

The second annual Touch FM-organised Pride of Stratford Awards were held at the Stratford Manor Hotel on Friday (February 1).

Finalists for the awards - a mix of business and community awards - attended a red-carpet event where they were given the opportunity to have a photograph with the Barclay's Premier League trophy and Midland's footballing legend Cyrille Regis.

And there was also the opportunity to pose next to a brand new McLaren – complete with Jensen Button lookalike.

Guest speakers included Nadhim Zahawi MP and TV personality Quentin Wilson.

The winners -were chosen by a panel of four judges, which included Shakespeare Birthplace Trust CEO Diana Owen, Stratford District Council Chairman Neville Beamer, Tom Horton from Barclay's, and Touch FM CEO Steve Orchard.

Ben Day, Touch FM's Director of Regional Events, said: “Touch FM's Pride of Stratford Awards has become one of the stand-out events in the Stratford calendar. 450 guests came together for a sparkling celebration of everything that makes our town such a wonderful place to work, place to live and place to do business.

“The guest list read like a ‘who’s who’ of Stratford – but of course the real VIPs on the night were our finalists. Their stories were truly inspirational and it was an honour to bring them together and give them a platform upon which they could really shine."

The winners were:

Business of the Year - Bright Assessing - Judges said the firm, specialising in delivering assessor, verifier and teacher training, was a simple idea executed with passion, determination and vision. The business has demonstrated an impressive rate of growth in a competitive market and generated many new jobs in the district. Set-up in 2009 by Krissy Charles-Jones, it now employs over 50 staff.

Small Business of the Year - Grants Bakeries - The small artisan bakery located in the town centre was started by Craig Blackman in 2011. Judges saw a clear passion about the product, a commitment to using local suppliers and training apprentices in their artisan production methods was commendable, while they had also filled a niche in Stratford.

Green Business of the Year - Lilliput - The shop sells quality as-new baby equipment and toys, giving customers the opportunity to turn their unwanted items into cash and preventing waste by encouraging the recycling of goods. Judges were impressed with the firm's excellent green credentials.

Town Centre Outlet of the Year – Sew Me Something - Based in the Minories, the business boasts an old-fashioned fabric and haberdashery shop together with a studio offering workshops. Judges said it was a unique concept that appealled to all ages, and was a ‘destination’ store that drew people to the town centre.

Hospitality Business of the Year – Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Spa & Golf Club - Set within a private estate of 157 acres, it is acknowledged as one of the leading luxury country house hotels in the Midlands. The hotel recently underwent a £2.2 million refurbishment programme. Judges commented it was an asset to the town, going the extra mile to impress guests and investing heavily to exceed visitor expectations.

Team of the Year – Stratford Civic Hall team - Each member of the team involved in the running of the Civic Hall play their own vital role in ensuring the community arts venue’s events run without a hitch. Judges felt the Civic Hall team's clear and unflappable enthusiasm was essential to the success of the venue.

Customer Care Award – The One Elm - A well-loved pub renowned for serving locally brewed ales and good old fashioned home cooked favourites. Judges said that the One Elm took an almost fanatical approach to customer care and made sure they went the extra mile in an intensely competitive environment.

Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year – Adam Taylor and Lexi Tamasan - PetShopBowl.co.uk came to life and has experienced rapid growth. Judges said Adam and Lexi had grown PetShopBowl.co.uk from a start-up company to a successful business. With Princes Trust backing they had braved tough economic times and demonstrated a commitment to the local community by providing apprenticeship opportunities.

Large Business Entrepreneur of the Year – Denys Shortt OBE - Denys is a serial entrepreneur with several businesses based in Stratford. From humble beginnings in 1994, Denys has sold over £1 billion worth of health, beauty and household brands. Denys was awarded an OBE in the New Years Honours list for his significant contribution to business and the economy. The judges felt Denys' contribution to the Stratford economy and community was outstanding.

Tourism Initiative of the Year – Olympic Opening Ceremony Big Screen Event - More than 1,000 Stratford district residents and tourists from around the world converged to watch the London 2012 opening ceremony live in The Bancroft Gardens on July 27. The 32 square metre screen beamed the breathtaking ceremony of the Olympics from Stratford in London to its namesake in Warwickshire. Judges were impressed the event welcomed both locals and tourists.

Arts Organisation of the Year – Orchestra of the Swan - The Orchestra has its home in Stratford but is a regional, national and international Cultural Ambassador for the town. The orchestra performs at major concert venues and festivals in the UK and also commissions some of the UK’s leading composers. The judges said it was a world renowned orchestra who made classical music accessible to everyone, and also went to great lengths to engage with the local community.

Citizen of the Year – Martin Gorick and Francis Prentice

Francis is an altruistic, energetic man who has used his vision and enthusiasm to the benefit of the town. He was the founder and original chair of the local Rotary Club’s Shakespeare Marathon which raises approximately £50,000 annually for local causes. He founded The Shakespeare Hospice Trust in 1990 and served as chair for 13 years.

Judges said It was no exaggeration to say that without Francis’ commitment to improving quality of life for people in Stratford district, The Shakespeare Hospice would not exist today.

Judges chose Francis because of his outstanding commitment to the Stratford community through his work with both the Shakespeare Hospice and the Lions Club.

Martin has been chaplain to the RSC and Vicar for Stratford, celebrating not only the special qualities of Holy Trinity, but also providing a warm and welcoming church and ministry to everyone who wanted to be a part of it.

Judges chose Martin because he has been at the centre of life in Stratford for over a decade.

Carer of the Year – Kevin Regester - Kevin has worked on behalf of Heart of England Mencap for three years. He has worked tirelessly with one customer in particular to improve their life and as a result the customer has been able to participate in social environments where he could have been excluded previously.

Judges were inspired by Kevin’s story in his very powerful nomination. They said it was clear that Kevin had found his vocation in caring and always went the ‘extra mile’ to care for others.

Educator of the Year – Juliet Short - Juliet has worked in the educational sector for over 35 years - from working in schools teaching through to owning her own locally-renowned dance school Mezzoforte. Her drive to inspire young people to believe in themselves and aim high was outstanding.

Judges said she had inspired young people from across Stratford district to believe that they could do more, and her commitment to her students was simply outstanding.

Young Achiever of the Year – Verney Cull - At just 16 years-old, Verney has overcome a number of challenges through hard work and determination to succeed. Verney has won several school awards for his continued academic success, has represented the town at the Shakespeare Birthday celebrations as well as meeting the Queen at the official opening of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Judges said that Verney demonstrated outstanding achievements in a very short time - winning awards both in school and through his work at the RSC. Verney has also recently set up his own business providing magic at corporate events and weddings.

Stratford Pride Award – Marion Morgan - Marion has been involved at every level of the arts in the town since she started her involvement in the Shakespeare Birthday celebrations five years ago. She has worked for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (Events Programmer) and Stratforward (Project Manager - events), set up Stratford Fringe Festival, Stratford Folk Club and is a Trustee of Escape Community Art in Action.

Judges said Marion’s commitment to Stratford was outstanding and her contribution to the area is huge, referring to her as a creative genius who brought huge ambition and personality to events.

Special Award – In Memory of Mat Davis - When Mat Davis was diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous brain tumour in 2009, he was just 20 years-old. Mat had already supported his mum through breast cancer and his grandmother through both lung cancer and skin cancer. When he received his diagnosis, Mat was determined to support Cancer Research UK. He arranged bingo nights, had his legs waxed and began an attempt to cycle from Land's End to John O’Groats. Mat suffered a seizure in Manchester and was unable to finish his cycle ride but raised thousands of pounds for the charity. Mat lost his battle on November 3 last year at Myton Hospice in Warwick.

Mat’s family accepted a special award in his memory.

Special Award – The Lewis Family - On February 9, 2011, Private Conrad Lewis from Claverdon became the 353rd British soldier to be killed in Afghanistan. Since his death, his family have set up 353 – a not-for-profit organization which raises thousands of pounds for a variety of troop charities. Tony, Sandy, Jordan and Siobhan are an inspirational family and accepted a special award for their efforts.

Special Award – James Roe MBE and Nick Skelton OBE - For their well-publicised gold-medal successes in the Paralympics and Olympics.

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