It has been a heartbreaking week. But the I Love Hackney Mayor’s Civic Awards at the town hall tonight were something to smile about: community champions, nominated by you, were celebrated for the incredible service they’ve given to Hackney. James Pitman spoke to the winners.
The woman known as Mama Hackney, a reformed gang member with a book deal, and a volunteer who’s spent 14 years looking after the homeless were set to be honoured with Hackney’s top community awards last night.
The second annual I Love Hackney Mayor’s Civic Awards were due to be dished out to veteran youth worker Janette Collins of The Crib in De Beauvoir, Hackney Wick FC founder Bobby Kasanga, and Felicia Ogunleye of the borough’s befriending service.
Their gongs were set to be handed out by Mayor Phil Glanville at a town hall ceremony as part of the I Love Hackney civic pride campaign – launched in 2006 in retaliation against a Channel 4 property programme that labelled Hackney “the worst place to live in the UK”.
Mr Glanville said: “Hackney is the great place it is today thanks to the hard work of those who go the extra mile for their community.
“These awards will hopefully inspire more people to get involved and make a lasting difference to the Hackney community.”
Mr Glanville chaired a judging panel that included A&E registrar Dr Ronke Ikharia (see p20), Colette Allen of youth charity Hackney Quest (profiled on our “Who’s Who” page two weeks ago) and Gazette editor Ramzy Alwakeel.
Colette said: “The three winners stood out as having come a long way from where they began and done so much for the community. They are all exceptional and amazing in their own separate way.”
It’s Mr Glanville’s first civic awards: he took over from former mayor Jules Pipe in September, a few months after the first set of winners were honoured.
But it was only after getting into conversation with some footballers in the park that Bobby, of Amhurst Road, knew where to channel his energy. He realised there hadn’t been a semi-professional team in Hackney since the original Leyton Orient upped sticks 80 years ago.
That was when the idea for Hackney Wick FC was born. Bobby has devoted himself to the club ever since, even working night shifts so he could concentrate on the club in the day.
Putting community first is part of the Wickers’ ethos. Each player dedicates two hours a week to the borough volunteering for events like the Hackney Half Marathon.
Free training delivered to Hackney Women’s Institute led to the formation of the women’s team, and now the Wickers typically run eight sides across all age ranges during a weekend.
Things haven’t gone that badly for the Wickers on the pitch, either. Since finishing last in their first season, they’ve gone up to sixth this season, won the first-ever Fairtrade Cup, been finalists at the Pride of Sport Awards, and picked up Team of the Year at the Hackney Sport Awards.
Bobby doesn’t work nights any more, but that doesn’t mean he’s been able to catch up on his sleep. He’s planning to set up an anti-knife charity, and perhaps even finish the third instalment of his novel – The Life I Live, Not The Life I Chose was published in 2014 and 2015.
Updated 20:23 - 5 Jun 2017 by Bobby Kasanga