Islington honours its inspirational unsung heroes

Unsung heroes in Islington have been honoured for the immense contribution they have made to the borough.

At a ceremony last night, Mayor of Islington, Cllr Theresa Debono presented civic awards, freedom of the borough and the Ben Kinsella award, recognising the winners for their dedication to the community and the many positive effects their efforts have had.

Award winners include an inspirational student; the founder of a community garden pit project; the owner of a local boxing club and a diverse group of 12 disabled people, service users and carers in Islington who work to help make services more personalised, efficient and better quality.

George Kinsella presented the Ben Kinsella award to Keeley Timms. The Ben Kinsella award is given in memory of his son, teenager Ben Kinsella, who was tragically murdered in 2008. It honours a young person whose actions have made a positive mark in Islington.

Keeley progressed greatly during her time at the City of London Academy and her influence and impact upon younger students has been inspirational, especially those who might initially struggle during the transition from primary to secondary school. She played a huge part in helping the transition to the academy of one of their physically disabled students.

The Mayor of Islington and the Community Editor of the Islington Gazette, Aimee Brannen awarded civic awards to a wide range of members of the community including:

- Gemma Bell. Gemma has raised over £17,000 for the work of Urban Hope, a youth and community project in Islington, and has been one of the most consistent and committed volunteers over the past 15 years.
- Graham Coult. Graham is the founding member of The Highbury Grange and Taverner & Peckett Square Community Gardening Project. Since its formation in 2012, the group have transformed tree pits along Highbury Grange and a patch of wasteland at the entrance to Taverner Square with plants, raised beds and herbs & vegetables, to encourage wildlife such as butterflies and bees.
- David Dade. David re-introduced the Poppy Appeal back in Islington in 2014 on behalf of the Islington Veterans’ Association, taking on the organiser’s role. He negotiated and implemented collections in the N1 Centre and at Nags Head to raise much needed funds, collecting a staggering £12,000 in the first year.
- Lenny Hagland. Lenny started off at the Islington Boxing Club when it began in 1974. He is always in the gym, working hard to keep the club going to give young people from all over the borough the chance to learn how to box and help them to stay off the street, showing them discipline and teaching camaraderie.
- Dennis Kleinberg. Dennis has led the Whitbread Tenant Management Organisation for the past 40 years standing up for, protecting and defending all residents - particularly the vulnerable, elderly and disabled on his estate. He’s been at the forefront of changes on the estate and on Whitecross Street to ensure the residents and community needs are protected.
- Making it Real, Experts by Experience. The Experts by Experience are a diverse group of 12 disabled people, service users and carers in Islington. They volunteer their time to work in partnership with Islington Council, the NHS and voluntary sector partner organisations to help make services more personalised, efficient and of a better quality.
- Stephanie Smith. Stephanie has made a tremendous contribution in helping to regenerate Archway. She initiated the ‘Archway with Words’ literary festival that showcases many well-loved authors who live nearby, and runs a twice-weekly market in the area.

Cllr Debono said, “I am delighted to recognise these community heroes. They have all made outstanding contributions to local life and are very worthy winners. This year the nominations were very impressive and all the winners should be very proud.

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

Aimee Brannen said, “It was 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.”

The evening’s ceremony also saw the award of Freedom of the borough to George Durack and the Islington Veterans’ Association. The Freedom of the borough is the highest award the borough can bestow. Today it is a ceremonial award, but when it was first introduced it allowed the recipient the right to vote in elections and drive sheep down main thoroughfares.

George was born in Islington and throughout his life has campaigned for improvements in working conditions. Later in his life, he became greatly involved with the pensioner movement chairing the Islington Pensioners’ Forum. In his 90th year, he continues to lead and support campaigns that affect older people.

The Islington Veterans’ Association was set up in 2008 to support ex-servicemen. It works to look after veterans, working in any way that commemorates the contribution and sacrifice of those who have served together and their families. They play a leading role in events in Islington on Armistice Day.

Civic award and Ben Kinsella Award winners were nominated by members of the public, with the winners selected by a panel comprising of the Mayor of Islington; the Borough Commander, Gerry Campbell; the Deputy Lieutenant Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes and Aimee Brannen.

Freedom of the borough was proposed and passed by full council at Islington Town Hall.

Notes to editors:

- The Ben Kinsella award honours a young person whose actions have made a positive mark in Islington, and is given in memory of teenager Ben Kinsella, who was murdered in 2008.

- The awards are sponsored by the Islington Gazette

Contact information

If you are a member of the public with a general question about the council please view the contact information on our website or call 020 7527 2000.