The Echo's Pete Barron hosts the awards, and Groundwork's proud nominees
On Friday evening, I went along to the Best of Darlington Awards at Darlington College as a guest of West Durham and Darlington Groundwork. It was a sumptuous night, and for someone who had previously only read about the results via the Echo, I found it surprisingly moving.
Categories included Contribution to the Community, Carer of the Year and Neighbour from Heaven. In catergory after category, there were life-affirming stories that made you proud to be a citizen of the Borough. Take Carer of the Year Leanne Suddes, who since the age of 18 had been the carer for her step-brother Shane after the death of their mother, went on to have a son JJ with Down's Syndrome, and then her husband suffered a serious injury at work. She has gone on to have other children, and has coped magnificently too with JJ's complex needs. Audrey Laz was the worthy winner of Contribution to the Community for her tireless role in the Bank Top Community Partnership and Growing Older Living in Darlington (GOLD). And Lynn Airey who has been a tower of strength for her next door neighbour Margaret Greenhalgh.
Time and again I thought to myself "blimey, I wouldn't have liked to have been the judges" as nominations pitted equally worthy nominees against each other. In a couple of categories, I rather felt for the runner-up - Peter Woodmansey who used to work for the Council as a litter-picker and now in retirement continues to keep the streets of Eastbourne spotless because he can't bear to see rubbish gathering. And in Academic Excellence perhaps inevitably Charlotte Clewlow from Hurworth won, with her astonishing record of 12 A*'s at GCSE, but I thought Callum Davidson's achievement was no less remarkable, as he turned round his life after a turbulent home life which led him being placed in care. Still, everyone who was nominated had reason to be justly proud.
All in all, a humbling experience, and one which I hope to repeat next year.