INCREDIBLE people who make a difference in Basingstoke and Deane were honoured at the annual A Place to be Proud of Awards 2014.
For the 11th awards ceremony, winners and nominees gathered at The Haymarket theatre where they were recognised and rewarded last Wednesday evening.
Before the main event, guests including sponsors, nominators and supporters, enjoyed drinks and canapés created by catering students from Basingstoke College of Technology, while listening to music from the Pan Everest Steel Band, from Everest Community Academy.
The attendees were welcomed by new Basingstoke and Deane Mayor Councillor Roger Gardiner, who said the awards were a great way to recognise the hard work and dedication of people who work behind the scenes to make a real difference.
He said: “I have come across several of the nominees tonight and been aware of the work they have been doing in Basingstoke, but often you don’t meet the individuals working behind the scenes for local groups.
“This is a really fantastic event, and it is good to see people getting the recognition they deserve.”
Guests were treated to a display of tap dancing and street dancing by local dance group Happy Feet Dance Academy before Felicity Edwards, managing director of awards organisers Destination Basingstoke, welcomed guest speaker adventurer James Ketchell to the stage.
James, from Eastrop, Basingstoke, gave a talk about his many adventures over the last few years. This year, he became the first person to have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, successfully scaled Mount Everest and cycled 18,000 miles around the world.
James was inspired to take on the challenges after suffering a serious motorcycling accident in 2007 which left him with broken legs and a severely broken and dislocated ankle.
The modest adventurer said: “I haven’t done anything special – all I have done is just carried on putting one foot in front of the other.”
Following the inspirational talk, Basingstoke Gangshow performed a dance routine inspired by synchronised swimmers, before Steven Connolly, chairman of Destination Basingstoke and centre director of Festival Place, introduced Robert Kenny, The Breeze DJ, who acted as compere for the evening.
In the seven categories, three shortlisted finalists were announced, before the winner was presented with a trophy by representatives of sponsors who backed the awards.
This year’s categories were Arts and Entertainment, Young Achiever, Health and Care, Basingstoke Ambassador, Sports Hero, Community Project and Unsung Hero. There was also a Judges’ Special Award.
Gazette Newspapers editor Mark Jones, who with Natalie Sweet, from the borough council, and Jane Stewart, from Festival Place, created the awards back in 2003, praised all of those who were up for awards.
He said: “What wonderful people you all are. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees. You are all people to be proud of.”
Click on the links below to read more about each of the award winners - and see today's Gazette for an eight-page special on the glittering event.