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Islington honours its unsung heroes at 2016 Civic Awards

Islington residents who have made an exceptional contribution to local life were last night recognised with the 2016 Mayor’s Civic Awards and the Ben Kinsella Award.

Award winners include an inspirational disabled student; a vicar in Finsbury Park; a community charity team in Canonbury; a pub landlady in Finsbury; and two ambassadors for the rights of disabled residents.

The Mayor of Islington, Cllr Richard Greening, last night (Tuesday, 15 March) presented the awards at Islington Assembly Hall, honouring the winners for their dedication to the community and the many positive effects their efforts have had.

Debbie Kinsella spoke at the event before the Ben Kinsella award was presented to Filsan Hassan. The Ben Kinsella award is given in memory of her son, teenager Ben Kinsella, who was tragically murdered in 2008. It honours a young person whose actions have made a positive mark in Islington.

Filsan Hassan suffers from Williams Syndrome, which affects her heart and general development, and has achieved a great deal as an ambassador for young people with learning disabilities and as someone trying to help others by sharing her own experiences.

The Mayor of Islington and the editor of the Islington Gazette, Ramzy Alwakeel, presented civic awards to a wide range of members of the community including:

- Canon David Bird: Canon Bird is not just a busy vicar of three churches in Tollington and Finsbury Park, he has also helped secure the future of the Finsbury Park Community Hub. By agreeing to become chair of the charity that runs the Hub, Canon Bird has secured an orderly transition to new management and led the organisation to a secure future. The Hub is home to really busy community centres and provides a home to Help on Your Doorstep and to three small local organisations as well.

- Canonbury Help on Your Doorstep: this team of charity workers were nominated for going above and beyond their normal work duties to make a difference to the lives of residents. Among other instances, they opened the Walter Sickert Community Centre to provide a shelter for residents after a gas leak, and provided reassurance to residents after a fatal stabbing in the area last June.

- Christopher Cooper: Chris is an inspiring ambassador for young people with autism, as one of the first and most active volunteers on the myVoice Project run by Ambitious about Autism, among several charities he has worked with, promoting the opportunities for involvement to other young people in the area with autism. Chris has worked incredibly hard to turn his experiences into a positive outcome and to help other people achieve their potential.

- Philomena Curtain: as the landlady of the White Lion in Finsbury for 18 years, Philomena turned her pub into the heart and hub of the local area, a centre for local people, for charity fundraising and for social opportunities for elderly people. Philomena, despite her humility and self-deprecation, is actually a really devoted campaigner for the interests of her community, working with local partners to drive the regeneration of the area to the benefit of residents.

- Sandy Marks: the co-chair of the ground-breaking Islington Making it Real Board as well as Disability Action in Islington and the Islington Personal Budgets Network, Sandy is an extraordinary campaigner for disability rights and inclusion. She has been tireless in her efforts to secure and promote the voice of disabled people in shaping the services that are vital for their wellbeing, as well as in challenging unfair treatment and attitudes in society.

Cllr Greening said: “It was a great honour to meet these unsung heroes of our community. They have all made outstanding contributions to local life and are very worthy winners. This year’s nominations have a real focus on champions for disabled residents, which is a very important group to highlight in this way.

“I’d like to thank Debbie Kinsella for presenting the Ben Kinsella award to Filsan Hassan. The award recognises the inspirational influence young people like Filsan have on our community.”

Ramzy Alwakeel said: “It a really tough job choosing the winners from such a variety of exceptional nominees.

“These inspirational people make this borough the special place it is to live and work, and the Gazette is beyond proud to be supporting the event again this year.”

Civic award and Ben Kinsella Award winners were nominated by members of the public, local councillors and staff, with the winners selected by a panel comprising the Mayor of Islington; the Deputy Lieutenant Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes, and the Islington Gazette.  The Mayor and Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Children & Families, chose the winner for the Ben Kinsella Award.

The awards are sponsored by the Islington Gazette.