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Pride of Waltham Forest

Celebrating the pride of Waltham Forest

Published: 7 December 2022
Filed under: Stories of the Forest

The people and groups that go above and beyond to give something back to the Waltham Forest community were celebrated at the council’s Pride of Waltham Forest awards – the first to take place since 2018.

You can watch our winners video over on YouTube. 

Hosted at Chingford Assembly Hall on Thursday 1 December, the glittering ceremony was compèred by local legend Alessandro Babalola (Soho Theatre and star of Netflix’s Top Boy) and saw awards given out in 11 categories. All nominations were made entirely by residents of Waltham Forest, with the winners chosen by a panel including Grace Williams, Leader of the Council, and Martin Esom, Chief Executive.

Cllr Grace Williams, Leader of the Council, said: “After the turbulence of the last few years, it’s a real pleasure to be able to celebrate those in our communities who have done so much to support friends and neighbours during difficult times. We received over 1,000 nominations from you for this year’s Pride of Waltham Forest awards and picking winners was a really tough job. We could have doubled the number of categories and still not be able to give everyone the recognition they deserve.

“Each and every winner should be very pleased with what they have achieved and how much the community values their work. I am so proud to serve this remarkable borough and its incredible people.”

Winners and their guests enjoyed entertainment from local organisation Leaders Community Dance Group and Youth Choir throughout the evening.

Alessandro Babalola said: “As a lifelong Waltham Forest resident, and as Soho Theatre Walthamstow’s artist-in-residence and co-chair, I was honoured to be hosting this year’s Pride of Waltham Forest awards. Soho Theatre was a proud beneficiary of the Leader’s Business Award in 2015, so it was amazing to see so many nominations for the awards that recognise the brilliant community work that takes place in the borough every day. It was fantastic to meet all the winners in person at this year’s ceremony, who make our diverse and vibrant borough such a great place to live and work.”

The winners in each category were:

Waltham Forest for All Award: Waltham Forest Women's Network, a volunteer-led women's organisation with over 90 per cent of women on the committee from diverse backgrounds. The organisation has been running for 18 years and has worked across the borough to improve the wellbeing of women of different age groups, ethnicities, and abilities.

Stronger Waltham Forest Award: The Together Space offers a much-needed inclusive space for children who are often excluded during everyday life, catering especially to parents of children with special needs. A positive social enterprise bringing the community together on neurodiversity topics and breaking down barriers.

Community Culture Award: Aga Wood runs Everyone on Boards, a group dedicated to empowering girls through skateboarding and other board sports. A large part of skateboarding culture is about the community and about art, music, design, photography, and video. Aga recently arranged a skateboarding exhibition in Winns Gallery, Lloyd Park.

Community Sports Club of the Year: Leyton Orient Walking Football Club provides both social and competitive walking football sessions, with a focus on providing a fun and supportive environment. A significant number of members were deemed vulnerable either from past health conditions or through age. The Club is run and managed wholly by volunteers.

Health and Wellbeing Champion of the Year: The Community Farm Kitchen, which twice a week has volunteers take cooked food to local people who cannot get out to shop and cook for themselves.

Local Business of the Year: Stone Mini Market is 11 years old and is owned by Adrienne Alher, a woman who cares about her craft. Adrienne cares about the environment and always provides the community with interesting and new opportunities and products.

Climate Champion: Friends of Queens Road Cemetery, who have helped transform the cemetery from a desert into a thriving wildflower and insect wilderness. This has been achieved by the dedication and hard work of a group of local volunteers, week in and week out. They have turned the cemetery into a place of contemplation and reflection for the local community and for those involved in the study of biodiversity and insects.

Volunteer of the Year: Gosia Jones, who with her friends established the Friends of Ukraine appeal, and has worked tireless to raise funds for vans, trucks, and aid. Gosia never stops fundraising and finding new ways to get support into Ukraine.

Voluntary and Community Sector Organisation of the Year: Cann Hall Deen & Education Trust, which holds weekly food banks, feeds the homeless, ensures that local school children are fed and cared for, hosts health initiatives and vaccine drives, makes individual donations to people in need, runs youth and education clubs, and engages in a wide array of charity and fundraising activities.

Mayor's Public Service Hero: Mehmet Hassan, a senior ranking officer in the Metropolitan Special Constabulary. Having risen through the ranks in the borough, Mehmet leads the Special Constables in Waltham Forest. His dedication to duty and to the borough is faultless.

Special Chief Inspector Mehmet Hassan said: “Having been nominated for this award was both a surprise and an honour. I am truly grateful to those who did put my name forward and will continue to provide the best service I can to the residents of Waltham Forest.”

There were three separate winners in the Leader's Civic Award category: Anna Alcock champions the learning disability community, working with groups including Mencap and LDX, to highlight their value and diversity, encouraging wider acceptance in the community and inclusivity for all; Julie Pell works tirelessly for the community in multiple roles, displaying endless strength and leadership whilst working with individuals on the verge of destitution or fleeing dangerous situation; Project Zero fosters lasting relationships between all ages and sectors of the community and this October was honoured with a visit from HM King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, a testament to the work it does for the community.

You can watch our celebration video over on YouTube.