Inspirational night honours our finest
Reporter: BEATRIZ AYALA, ALEX CAREY & LUCY KENDERDINE
Date published: 16 November 2015
A GLITTERING gala honoured the unsung heroes of Oldham who had their amazing feats and courageous deeds recognised during Friday’s spectacular Pride in Oldham Awards 2015.
Now in their 14th year, the awards celebrate those who go above and beyond to make a difference in their community without ever expecting any reward.
From heroic life savers and fabulous fundraisers to kind-hearted carers and committed community members, the worthy finalists from each of the 12 categories took to the stage and had their moment of recognition.
During the moving ceremony, hosted by broadcasting veteran Marjorie Stephinson MBE, the 300-plus guests heard inspirational tales of strength, selflessness and determination from ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
She said: “This is the fourth year I’ve been host and I’m really humbled.
“In front of me is a range of people who have given so much time, energy, love and devotion for things they didn’t have to do, and have done them well, which is why they are finalists.
“I hope they inspire others and get the message across that there is tremendous enjoyment in doing good for the town.”
One person sorely missed from proceedings was veteran Labour MP and staunch supporter of the Pride in Oldham awards Michael Meacher who died last month.
The 75-year-old, who represented his constituency of Oldham East and Royton since 1970, had been a keen advocate of the community awards since their launch and regularly took to the stage to present deserving Oldhamers with their winning trophies.
Local dignitaries including council leader Jim McMahon and Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, had earlier in the day attended Mr Meacher’s funeral in London before rushing back to Oldham to play their part in the awards.
As a mark of respect, the packed audience in the Queen Elizabeth II hall paid tribute to one of Oldham’s most popular politicians by standing and observing a minute’s silence under an image of the smiling MP.
And in recognition of his many years of service to the borough, the Oldham Ambassador Award was renamed the Freeman Meacher Ambassador Award.
This was presented by Jim McMahon to a stunned Shelley Rahman, the inspirational female boxing coach.
The guests earlier sat down to a sumptuous three-course meal before the awards began in earnest and every deserving finalist proudly took to the stage for their moment in the spotlight.
Each of the finalists was given a commemorative Chronicle front page marking their achievement with each category winner also collecting a stylish curved glass trophy.
Alderman David Jones, who stood in for Mayor of Oldham councillor Ateeque Ur-Rehman, presented the Education Worker category. He said: “I’ve been coming to the Pride in Oldham awards for the past 10 years.
“It is always a privilege to recognise people in Oldham that give so much time and effort when they don’t have to.”
Heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery were given to Education Worker finalist Eric Crompton who was unable to attend as he was recovering from an operation.
In three of the categories — voluntary, group and schools — sponsors the Rotary Club of Oldham Metro gave a cash prize to further the work of the recipients.
Surprises on the night included the “Love Where You Live”, which was presented by Oldham Council executive director Emma Alexander to community stalwart Caroline Lawson, and a special recognition award from the Sports Awards steering group for Oldham RLFC, who received a big cheer from the audience.
The Reader’s Choice award, voted by over 2,500 Chronicle readers, went to the rather stunned members of Chadderton Park Cerebral Palsy Team who were back on stage waving their football scarf for a second time after scooping the Group Award earlier on.
A sparkling indoor firework display accompanied the Heather Small anthem “Proud” in a finale that signalled the end of a fabulous and memorable evening.
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that there is a lot to be proud of in Oldham.
Oldham Chronicle managing editor David Whaley thanked all the people who had contributed to a spectacular evening.
He said: “A lot of work goes into making this event happen but to see the joy on the faces of those who get to go on the stage and to hear their stories makes it all worthwhile.
“It is important to recognise the support we receive from the sponsors and with events like this, the sports awards and the business awards, we can rightly celebrate so much good in Oldham.
“Fourteen years we have been doing this and it gets better and better.
“Take a bow Oldham — you’re amazing.”