South Norfolk celebrates community champions at annual awards

South Norfolk Community Awards 2017.
South Norfolk Community Awards 2017.

A Diss fish and chip shop, a Dickleburgh fundraiser and the River Waveney Trust were among those hailed as ‘shining stars of their community’ at an awards night last week.

The annual South Norfolk Community Awards, held last Thursday evening at Dunston Hall in Norwich, recognised the achievements of community champions in the area across eight categories, which received over 60 total nominations.

Samantha Johnson, chair of the Friends of Dickleburgh Primary School, won the Community Fundraiser of the Year Award at the 2017 South Norfolk Community Awards.

Samantha Johnson, chair of the Friends of Dickleburgh Primary School, won the Community Fundraiser of the Year Award at the 2017 South Norfolk Community Awards.

For the Diss Express area, Shelfanger Road-based Baileys Fish and Chips claimed the title of Business Community Champion of the Year.

The restaurant made headlines at the end of last year when it offered free meals to every customer who visited them on Christmas Day, to ensure nobody went hungry.

Cengiz Bolat, the restaurant manager, who is originally from Turkey, told the Diss Express in December: “I think we are going to do it traditionally, each year.

“To be honest, we did things like this in Turkey normally, for days like this. It is like a culture.”

Samantha Johnson, chair of the Friends of Dickleburgh Primary School group, won the Community Fundraiser of the Year prize, after she was nominated by a fellow member.

Mrs Johnson, who is also involved with Gissing Children’s Centre, has been a part of the group’s fundraising since September 2011, which has seen thousands of pounds go to new facilities and extracurricular activities for pupils.

She said: “I was really pleased and really touched that I had been nominated. I was really shocked I had won.

“We have got a great team who help with the events. They are really important. I couldn’t do it without them.”

The River Waveney Trust won the accolade for Community Group of the Year, having grown to hundreds of volunteers in five market towns along the river, since forming in 2012.

The organisation is currently hard at work on its Frenze Beck Nature Reserve project in Diss, and it runs ‘pocket parks’ in Scole, Brockdish and Homersfield, among other sites.

Geoff Doggett, founding trustee, said: “We were absolutely delighted and it’s an award we deem to be on behalf of all our volunteers. It’s very much a celebration for all of us.”

Scole Parish Councillor Chris Brooks was named the Environmental Champion of the Year, in recognition of his work in the village, most recently helping to maintain and extend the Scole churchyard.

He said: “It was a really great moment to hear my name read out and to be recognised for doing something I really enjoy.

“But whilst I may be the ‘prime mover’ in getting things done, there is quite a band of volunteers who turn out regularly to do the many and various tasks that need doing around the village.”

BBC presenters Louise Priest and Nick Conrad hosted the event, while former Great British Bake Off contestant Kate Barmby was a guest speaker.

Garry Wheatley, South Norfolk Council chairman, said: “It is fantastic we have so many inspirational people in the district who are willing to give up their time to help others.

“With so much community spirit, it’s no surprise that South Norfolk has been named as one of the best places to live in the country.”