Blackbelt Gillian's a community hero

Basingstoke Gazette: Gillian Watts with her Churchill award Gillian Watts with her Churchill award

A 73-year-old woman has been honoured for her devotion to her local karate club.

Gillian Watts from North Baddesley who was one of three people voted by listeners of Hampshire-based radio station Wave 105 as their ‘local heroes’.

A large number of nominations were received for the Local Heroes category of the 2013 Churchill Awards for over-65 achievers, judged by broadcaster, Esther Rantzen and CBI chairman, Sir Roger Carr, among others .

Martial expert Gillian runs Chandler’s Ford Karate Club and was nominated by one of her pupils, George White.

Modest Gillian said on receiving her glass trophy: “I think the others did more than I did to get the award.”

Gillian has been running the club for 15 years. She took over from Robin Lomax, when he moved from the area.

“I joined the club when I was 50 and it was something that I always wanted to do. I saw an advert in the Baddesley Beadle, so I went for it,” said Gillian, who also enjoys sewing.

Black belt Gillian said she was “shocked” when she learned she had been put forward for the award.

“You don’t expect something like this. After one of the classes, George called me to one side and asked if she could have a quick word with me. She told me that I had been selected for the award. I was very surprised,” said Gillian.

George, who earned her first black belt last year, said she could think of no-one more deserving than Gillian.

“Her commitment and dedication to the club is incredible,” said George, who has been a member for six years.

“She supported me from white belt to black belt and this is replicated across the club. Gillian does the administration, insurance, Christmas events, and all things behind the scenes, plus a significant amount of teaching. She’s passing on her passion for karate to others.

“It would be really easy for her to sit back and enjoy retirement, but she is inspiring the next generation of karate class students. Between classes, she goes to the gym to keep fit, so that she can carry on teaching karate and if she left tomorrow we wouldn’t have a club.” Award winners received their trophies at a special dinner at The Shard, in London.

Besides Gillian, Ted Taylor, of Bournemouth and Ron Hall, from Bognor Regis, received awards for their contributions to their communities.

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