THREE special people were given a big surprise after scooping an unexpected award recognising them for embodying the very nature of the A Place to be Proud of Awards.

Although the trio missed out on winning the categories they had been nominated in, they were picked to receive a Judges' Special Award.

The first person to be called up to receive his accolade was John Martin, the headteacher of Castle Hill Junior School in Winklebury Way, Winklebury, Basingstoke.

During his 15 years at the helm, his impressive leadership skills have been crucial in helping to transform the school into a high-achieving establishment - one that has won scores of awards, praise from parents, and been singled out for visits from top Government education experts who have come to see the excellent work being done there.

Mr Martin, 47, said: "I was surprised to receive the award, and delighted on behalf of the school."

Artist Lin Osborn was also stunned to receive her award, which recognised her innovative photographic art.

Mrs Osborn, of Little Basing, said: "It was fantastic to get this award. I think it is good because Basingstoke does need more arts - we haven't even got an art gallery."

The final judges' award recognised the musical talent of 16-year-old Billy Phillips, of Vespasian Gardens, Rooksdown, Basingstoke, who narrowly missed out on winning the South Coast Idol competition earlier this year.

After receiving his award, Billy said: "For three years, I have worked really hard on my music career and I've travelled around the world and sat up writing songs late in the evening.

"Getting this award just means much more to me than you would believe."