Maidstone harbours some of the best talent in Kent – artists, writers, singers, songwriters, poets – you name it we have it all! However, talent is not just about skill sets and creativity, talent encompasses anything someone excels at and the third annual ‘Celebrate Maidstone’ awards ceremony is being held on 14th March for the stars of Maidstone.
Held at the Kent Showground, it will be a glittering gala event with over 200 attendees.
I spoke with Neil Pattison, Celebrate Maidstone’s Chairperson, who explained: “We wanted to do something to affect the town in a good way. We came across a ceremony for unsung heroes in Sheffield and we thought ‘who is leaving a legacy in Maidstone?’” Legacy is an important theme for the awards and an important criterion for the award winners to fulfil.
Celebrate Maidstone is now in its third year and every year a different sector is concentrated on. Last year the awards were centred on the world of education – this year it is the voluntary sector.
Whittling down the nominations must be a tall task and to make the nomination process smoother there are categories to nominate within. Neil told me: “…there are now eight categories which should include nominations in the areas of business, arts, voluntary, sports, emergency services, education and Government. We go through the papers to publicise Celebrate Maidstone nominations to try to get to every house but also do publicity in the town and go through schools and we e-mailed 250 organisations through Voluntary Action Maidstone.” The award categories themselves are ‘sports and performing Arts, Clubs and Charities, Education, Next Generation (under 16’s), Wildlife and Ecology, Neighbour and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
As the awards focus is on the voluntary sector, Celebrate Maidstone approached Voluntary Action Maidstone to ensure they were reaching the right audience and people could nominate through the website or by telephone but Neil assured me the awards are not based on votes: “…it’s not about votes it’s about the reasons behind the nominations. There are a panel people who understand the town and theme and look at the shortlist and decide the winners and also those commended. With the nominations we get great stories from Maidstone. At the Gala event we invite lots of businesses and encourage people to make good decisions for the future. If people have heart and ownership of the town, decisions last into the future.”
The panel who met this year comprised of Alison Broom, CEO MBC; Mike Fitzgerald, Lifetime Achievement award winner 2014, Dennis Fowle, Editor of Downs Mail, Liz Tredget, Volunteer Centre Manager Voluntary Action Maidstone and Neil Pattison, Chairperson of Celebrate Maidstone.
The Celebrate Maidstone awards also give opportunities to everyone where possible and use the gala event to help others. An example of this is by inviting the catering to be done by Mid Kent College – who open a student led restaurant every Wednesday – they now have the opportunity to cater for this huge event. New Line Learning Academy have also been approached to provide the entertainment (last year the St. Michael’s school choir performed) and there will be a Great Gatsby 1920’s theme to the evening.
Choosing the winners is never easy but Neil says that most of the time the winner becomes obvious to them: “I think usually there is an obvious winner – the brief of leaving a legacy provides the x-factor this year. There are people doing all sorts of heroic things.”
The awards are important for Maidstone because of their positivity and Neil said: “They will hopefully evoke Maidstone residents to change their negative perceptions of the town and lead people to good decisions and encourage people to leave a legacy for the next generation. I think we can raise the profile of Maidstone. If it’s good for the town we want to support it.”
Celebrate Maidstone only scratches the surface of the positive work carried out in the Maidstone area and it is an event that Maidstone should be proud of because Maidstone should be celebrated!
Look out for the list of award winners on our website following the awards ceremony.
Look up more about the awards by clicking on the following links http://celebratemaidstone.org.uk/