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The Best of Darlington Awards 2019

Award Winners

Thank you for all your nominations submitted for the Best of Darlington Awards 2019. This year has seen our greatest response with over 160 nominations received.. See below for the winners of each category.

All photos by Scott Akoz Photography



Entrepreneurial Spirit

Sponsored by Invest in Darlington, Darlington Borough Council

The judges are looking to recognise those business minded individuals or groups who demonstrate a true passion for building something great from nothing and are willing to push themselves to the limits to achieve big goals. This could be creativity/innovation demonstrated in a new business product or service or innovation in an existing business.

2019 Finalists: 

Darren Carr with Saxosoul – making a success out of the revival of vinyl.

Simeon Hall with Populus Select – a fast growing research and recruitment company.

Tom Schott and Josh Grant with Schott Packaging – a rapidly expanding packaging business.

2019 Winner: Tom Schott and Josh Grant

Having noticed that his father’s business generated a lot of unused boxes, Tom put them on eBay and the rest, as they say, is history. From that humble beginning Tom and his friend Josh have grown the business to a turnover of £1 million and employ three other people. With plans for further growth, this is a shining example of brilliant entrepreneurial spirit.

Award presented by Councillor Alan Marshall



Bringing Success to Darlington

Sponsored by Darlington Building Society

The judges will award this to a business whose extraordinary achievement has been recognised on the regional, national or international stage, adding to Darlington’s reputation. This might be in an innovation or reputation in business, public service, academia or the arts that has put Darlington on the map.

2019 Finalists:

Angus Allan, David Wilson & Kat Moore, from Clive Owen, for being named top financial advisor in the region.

Simeon Hall of Populus Select a research and recruitment company with an expanding international profile.

Theatre Hullabaloo providing a world class performance space for children.

2019 Winner: Theatre Hullabaloo

Theatre Hullabaloo is a pioneering organisation that makes and promotes theatre for young audiences. It was voted Best Family Venue 2019 at the national Fantastic for Families Awards for its contribution to arts and culture for families. Executive Director, Laura Case says “We think that going to the theatre should be an unforgettable part of everyone’s childhood.” Theatre Hullabaloo is a stand out success for Darlington.

Award presented by Andrew Craddock, Darlington Building Society



Business Contribution to the Community

Sponsored by Mech-Tool Engineering

This award recognises business with a passion and commitment to giving something back. Whether it’s helping a voluntary or community organisation, fundraising for a good cause or donating time and resources to local communities.

2019 Finalist: 

Falafel Fella, Mouhyedin Al Khalil, cooking up delicious food with a strong community spirit.

Mangobean, for their Christmas spirit.

Whitehouse Funeral Service, for their relentless and varied contribution to the community.

2019 Winner: Mangobean

Whilst you and I were tucking into our Christmas dinners and falling asleep on the sofa watching the Queens speech, the kind folk from Mangobean Darlington threw open their doors on Christmas Day to give homeless people and others who were having a tough festive season providing them with a free meal and a hot drink. Christmas can be a particularly difficult and lonely time for many They are deserved winners for their generosity and selflessness.

Award presented by Colin Raine, Mech-Tool Engineering.



Contribution to the Arts

Sponsored by Darlington for Culture

This award will be given to an individual or group who has made a major contribution to the arts in Darlington either by the excellence of their own performance, commitment to organising activities or by being role models to others in their attitude to the arts.

2019 Finalists:

Darlington Operatic Society - for their excellent contribution to the cultural life of Darlington.

Lisa-Jayne Riley – For tirelessly coaching children in dance and performance.

Sarah Wilson – for her passion for creating live music events.

2019 Winner: Darlington Operatic Society

Darlington Operatic Society have presented outstanding performances at the Hippodrome for many years. The society is run entirely run by volunteers and operates with great professionalism. It has been the route for many budding singers to hone their craft. It is one of the pillars of Darlington’s cultural life.

Award presented by Heather Carter, Darlington for Culture



Public Service Hero

Sponsored by the Blue Light Services

The judges are looking for an individual or individuals who have gone far above and beyond their duty, either as a one off exceptional incident or consistently in their line of work. Anyone working in a public service role can be nominated for this award.

2019 Finalists: 

Olivia Thompson for her calm professionalism in supporting an occupant of a burning building.

Red Watch, Darlington Fire Station for their professionalism, dedication and courage in tackling the fire on Skinnergate.

Year 5 Class at St John’s Academy, for their passionate campaigning.

2019 Winner: Red Watch, Darlington Fire Station 

Red Watch were the first crew to reach the fire on Skinnergate in May last year. Tackling the blaze involved facing hugely difficult and technical conditions including massive temperatures, fire gas ignitions and the real possibility of the building collapsing. The fire was halted by firefighters using breathing apparatus, worked in shifts when they became physically exhausted. One team risked themselves to rescue a man trapped on the first floor, minutes before the floor was engulfed by fire. Red Watch we salute you for your professionalism and bravery.

Award presented by Stuart Errington, Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service



Vocational Excellence

Sponsored by Darlington College

The judges are looking for an individual (of any age) who has engaged in vocational learning such as a course or apprenticeship that has specialised in a particular trade or discipline and whose achievement has been outstanding.

2019 Finalists:

Paige Stainthorp, for her excellent approach to learning

Rhys McCaughey-Thompson, for the drive and commitment he has shown to learning building skills.

2019 Winner: Paige Stainthorp

Paige is studying ‘Supporting Teaching and Learning at level 3. Last year she completed a level 3 Diploma in Early Years Workforce at Darlington College. Her tutors recognize her outstanding abilities and applaud what she has achieved to date. All this whilst coping with long term, painful health issues. It is no wonder that she is looked up to by her fellow students who see her as a role model.

Award presented by Kate Roe, Darlington College



Academic Excellence

Sponsored by Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College

The award will be presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement that deserves wider recognition.

2019 Finalists: Rebecca Wilson, Richard Kirkham and Thomas Nimmo

All the finalists studied at the Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College and all achieved astonishing grades at A level. The judges were impressed by these three individuals for their extra curriculum activities and the way each one generously gave back to the community or fellow students.

2019 Winner: Thomas Nimmo (Award received by members of family)

Tom was the only student to be enrolled on 5 A-level courses at the Q E, he took on a challenge which would have defeated most. Yet his final results, Further Maths A*, Maths A*, Chemistry A*, Physics A and French A, were so exceptional that he won a place at Oxford University to study Chemistry. But over and above his remarkable academic achievements, his tutors described him as ‘down-to-earth, modest and likeable.’ A worthy winner.

Award presented by Theresa Amarawansa, Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College



Exceptional Student

Sponsored by Teesside University

The judges will award this to a student who doesn’t fall into either previous categories but who deserves recognition for the extraordinary effort they have made or for remaining committed to their learning in the face of adversity.

2019 Finalists:

Daniel Butterfield for his determination to return to his studies following serious injury in a car accident.

Hannah Crawford for her excellent approach to learning and the example she sets for other students.

Laurie Nicholson for her dogged determination in the face of complex medical difficulties.

2019 Winner: Laurie Nicholson

Not only has Laurie had to contend with a range of physical difficulties related to a rare medical condition, she became the victim of bullying which resulted in her being taken out of school at the age of 14. At 16 she took the decision to enroll at Darlington College on an Art and Media course. She has persevered despite her medical conditions requiring her to sometimes work from home. She graduates this year and will be attending at her first choice higher education institution, Teesside University. She is a surely an example to us all of what can be achieved through determination in the face of adversity.

Award presented by Laura Woods, Teesside University



Performance in Sport

Sponsored by the Durham Police, Crime and Victims' Commissioner

This award will be presented to an individual or group that the judges see have excelled in their chosen sport.

2019 Finalists: 

Finn Bradon for his amazing achievements in ice hockey.

Harriet Rogers for her determination which has seen her achieve UK rankings in swimming.

India Oates for her achievements in running in the T35 category.

2019 Winner: India Oates

India is as an athlete in the category of T35. She trained hard for her preferred events of track sprints all winter which enabled her to qualify to represent England at the World Cerebral Palsy Games in Spain in August 2018. She ran the 100m and 200m in Spain and achieved the remarkable times of 16.14 seconds in the 100m and 34.98 seconds in the 200m winning her Gold Medals in both events. In her category she is currently placed 1st for 200 metres and 2nd for 100 metres in the UK. On the world rankings she is 8th for 200 metres and 9th for 100 metres. India has also been invited and accepted a place on the British Athletics Paralympic Future Academy. People who know her describe her as hard working and utterly charming.

Award presented by Steve White, on behalf of the Commissioner.



Contribution to Sport

Sponsored by the Move More Team, Darlington Borough Council

The judges are looking for groups or individuals who have made a major contribution to sport in Darlington through commitment to organising activities, volunteering or by being role models to others in their attitude to sport.

2019 Finalists:

Alan Rusk for 50 years of contribution to football in Darlington.

Andy Musgrave for the excellent support he has given to developing women’s football in Darlington.

Peter Walton for the support he has given to badminton in Darlington.

2019 Winner: Peter Walton

Peter has dedicated 46 years of service to his chosen sport. Aged 77 you will still find him every Saturday morning at the Dolphin Centre coaching for Dolphin Premier Badminton Club. He is a Badminton Level 3 Coach and Head Coach at The University of Sunderland and Farringdon Badminton Academy.

The game is truly his passion and his knowledge is often sought after. He has had the privilege to work alongside many elite coaches from all around the world to help fine tune his skills.

Peter has put in countless hours to Badminton and recently managed to help achieve a Premier Club status for Dolphin Badminton Club a club. He has helped develop many players throughout the town and has acted as a mentor and tutor for many budding coaches.

Award presented by Councillor Paul Howell

Darlington Cares Awards

Darlington Cares is an organization which brings together local employers and aligns their energies in supporting the community and is making a truly astonishing contribution to life in Darlington. Last year alone combined, the companies delivered 11,000 hours of volunteering and has pledged more than that this year. Darlington Cares currently has 31 member organisations and has big plans for the future.



Darlington Cares: The Good Egg Award

This award goes to the colleague that the employees of Darlington Cares members themselves see as just a jolly good egg.

2019 Finalists: 

Kelly Hutchinson for the passion she shows for giving back to the community.

Lorraine Bulloch for dedication to volunteering for over 40 years.

Tracy Schutt for the compassionate volunteering she undertakes helping people through bereavement and mental health problems.

2019 Winner: Lorraine Bulloch

Lorraine has volunteered through the Brownies for over 40 years. She has also brought her passion for volunteering to her work at Cummins. Lorraine is the sort of person people find it hard to say no to, which results in her being able to muster the most incredible volunteering energy. She was a driving force in the work Cummins put into Eastbourne Park last year in the Darlington Great Parks Auction. Working with the local community the park has been massively improved and the pavilion transformed into an attractive community café. A truly formidable volunteering powerhouse!

Award presented by Seth Pearson, Darlington Cares



Darlington Cares: Small Company Big Heart

2019 Finalists:

The Cornmill Shopping Centre for the support they provide to voluntary initiatives across town.

Hole in the Wall for the support they have given to the ‘Pick Pie and a Pint’ events – and the quality of their pies!

Nando’s Darlington for their commitment to volunteering across the range of Darlington Cares activities.

2019 Winner: Nando's Darlington

Nando’s Darlington has been a member of Darlington Cares for 2 years and their staff regularly volunteer for many of the projects Darlington Cares run. The Pick, Pie and a Pint is a firm favourite of theirs and staff from Nando’s have attended everyone and have collected over 100 bags of litter!

They are currently supporting Darlington Cares’ new project ‘Homework Club’ by providing food for the children whilst they do their homework!

Award presented by Seth Pearson, Darlington Cares



Exceptional Care

Sponsored by Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group

This category recognises teams in Darlington who have provided care in a way that has made a real difference to your life or someone you care for and the people of Darlington.It might well be a team whose work doesn’t normally have a high profile but who should be recognised for the great care they provide.

2019 Finalists: 

All Carers at Mayflower Court for the compassionate and considerate care they give to their residents.

Greta Jones creating a caring and compassionate environment for her patients.

Humankind Darlington Young Carers Service for the work they do in supporting carers to develop their resilience.

2019 Winner: Humankind Darlington Young Carers Service

The Darlington Young Carers Service supports young carers and their families through a range of family work, to reduce or remove their caring role and also increase their knowledge, understanding and resilience. They offer a wide range of respite activities such as Stories with Santa for the 5-8 year olds and Escape Rooms for 15- 25 year olds.

This service which provides much needed support for young people with a lot on their shoulders is hugely appreciated by the people it helps. 

Award presented by Nicola Bailey, Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group



Contribution to the Environment

Sponsored by Groundwork North East

The judges are looking for an individual, community group or a business that is having a positive impact on the environment through projects or particular initiatives such as improving wildlife habitats, reducing carbon footprint or improving open spaces.

2019 Finalists: 

Friends of Rockwell Nature Reserve for the dedication and passion they display in caring for the nature reserve.

Margie Thompson for her commitment to the environment of Sadberge.

Stephen Hopper for his quiet and constant volunteering.

2019 Winner: Stephen Hopper

Stephen has been a volunteer for well over 20 years but doesn’t feel the need to shout about it. Stephen goes out every day in all weathers silently working hard to maintain the green spaces of Darlington.

Along with this Stephen volunteers for the orienteering federation, supporting children and young people who attend cadets, cubs, scouts and brownies.

Stephen not only makes an outstanding contribution to the environment of Darlington but passes that passion on to future generations.

Award presented by Lucy Chapman, Groundwork North East



Exceptional Volunteer

Sponsored by Tees Valley Rural Action

The judges award this to an individual or group who has shown outstanding commitment in their voluntary field without expectation of reward or recognition. This might be the length of time someone has volunteered, the breadth of responsibility that they have taken or the sacrifice they made in order to volunteer.

2019 Finalists: 

The Breakfast Club in Eastbourne Park for creating a much valued asset for their community.

Food for Thought for the selfless energy they put into addressing food waste and food poverty.

Team JJ at Café JJ for their commitment and enthusiasm in running their café.

2019 Winner: Team JJ at Café JJ

Café JJ first opened in October 2007 with two learning disabled young men as volunteers. Now, over eleven years later, 12 learning disabled people volunteer for five hours every Monday and five hours every Tuesday to prepare food and serve customers from the local community

All the work hard to gain catering and waiting on skills. They come to their volunteer jobs full of enthusiasm and keen to do all they can to serve customers in the local community.

In 2016, Team JJ were awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service Through their dedication to volunteering, the twelve members of Team JJ have demonstrated what learning disabled people are capable of when given a chance.

Award presented by Rita Lawson, Tees Valley Rural Action



Exceptional Young Volunteer

Sponsored by The Children and Young People's Plan

The judges will award this to a young person (under the age of 18) or group of young people who have shown outstanding commitment in their voluntary field without expectation of reward or recognition. This might be the length of time someone has volunteered, the breadth of responsibility that they have taken or the sacrifice they made in order to volunteer.

2019 Finalists: 

Abbie Wishart for her selfless commitment to making life better for others.

Charlie McGregor & Alexcia Vairy for the effort and energy they have put into the Youth Project at Firthmoor Community Centre.

Hermione Johnson for her determination to make a positive contribution.

2019 Winner: Abbie Wishart

Abbie gives back to the community in a wide variety of ways: She is a Fire Cadet, but also works to raise funds for local charities and provides practical support in the community where she can. For instance she spent her weekends last winter helping to clear snow for elderly residents and shopping for them. In whatever spare time she has Abbie also works for charities including Education for Down’s syndrome Children and St Teresa’s Hospice. Her nominee describes her as unfailingly upbeat yet humble and modest.

Award presented by Councillor Paul Crudass

Contribution to the Community

Sponsored by Darlington Borough Council

The judges are looking for an individual or group who are involved in activities aimed at improving where they live.

2019 Finalists: 

Francis Humble for his energetic campaigning for those less fortunate in his role of Youth MP

Haughton Historical Society for their dedication effort and achievement in commemorating Haughton’s fallen soldiers of World War One.

King’s Church Foodbank, for their tireless compassion in ensuring people have food on their table.

QE Interact Group, for the myriad of ways the students of QE support our local charities.

2019 Winner: King's Church Foodbank

The difference King’s Church Foodbank makes to the Darlington community is huge. The workers and volunteers toil with extraordinary energy to gather food and distribute it to those in need. Without judgement they give practical support, advice and companionship to people who are going through some of the toughest times imaginable. Their contribution to the community is perhaps less visible than that of others but it is hugely important.

Award presented by Councillor Lorraine Tostevin

Chairman's Special Award

As is customary, the chairman makes awards to individuals whose nomination doesn't fit neatly into any other category or who has made a contribution to Darlington that deserves recognition. Two Chairman's Special Awards were handed out in 2019.

2019 Winner: Haughton Historical Society

The Haughton Remembers project honoured and remembered the 32 men from Haughton, Barmpton and Great Burdon who lost their lives.

Co-ordinated by Carol Atkinson from Haughton Historical Society and with the help of numerous volunteers, the centrepiece was a 4-day exhibition at Haughton Methodist Chapel, attended by many hundreds of people from across the town. Visitors were greeted by over a thousand knitted poppies draped down the building – inside there were pictures, stories and memorabilia about each of the men, carefully curated. There were also accounts about some of the survivors.

Some of the most moving and poignant exhibits were pictures created by Yr. 10 students from Haughton Academy. The Mayor, the Lord Lieutenant and the town’s MP came to the exhibition.

Graves of the fallen buried in St Andrew’s Churchyard were lovingly restored, and volunteers spent many hours on the war memorial outside the church. The 3 stone poppies around the memorial were repaired, and flowers in the shape of the Union Flag were planted, creating a memorable scene.

Award presented by Worshipful the Mayor, Councillor Nick Wallis, on behalf of Alasdair MacConachie, Chairman of One Darlington Partnership.



2019 Winner: David Allaway

David Allaway has supported the Best of Darlington for many years. He is in truest sense of the word a master of ceremonies. He has decided it’s time to swap his chauffeur’s cap for a golf cap. 

Award presented by Worshipful the Mayor, Councillor Nick Wallis, on behalf of Alasdair MacConachie, Chairman of One Darlington Partnership.



Citizen of the Year 2019

Sponsored by Darlington Borough Council

All the nominations for Best of Darlington are considered for this prestigious title and will represent Darlington during 2019. The winner receive a trophy and a cheque for £100 to be presented to the charity of their choosing, donated from the Mayor's Charity Fund. This year we had nominations for some absolutely inspirational individuals. The judges had a tough time trying to decide who should be the category winner. Often there have been individuals whose dedication and selfless commitment has stood out. 

2019 Winner: Stephen Hopper

For his decades of devoted volunteering.

Award presented by Worshipful the Mayor of Darlington, Councillor Nick Wallis



Young Citizen of the Year 2019

Sponsored by Darlington Rotary Club

All the young nominees for Best of Darlington are considered for this prestigious title and will represent Darlington during 2019. The winner receive a trophy and a cheque for £100 to be presented to the charity of their choosing, donated from the Mayor's Charity Fund. 

2019 Winner: Francis Humble

For the thoughtfulness and passion he has shown and for the relentless campaigning for those less fortunate.

Award presented by Sue Campbell, Darlington Rotary Club

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