The 2018 Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership Awards & Annual Networking event took place on Thursday, 8th March in Whitehaven at the newly refurbished Rosehill Theatre. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Empowering Communities through Enterprise’ and the speakers and award winners this year certainly showcased some of the amazing and inspirational social enterprise organisations operating throughout the county and in particular in the west of the county.
Rob Randell, Chair of the Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership said “This year’s event was the “best ever” according to the feedback we received from our audience. The quality of applications for this year’s awards were exceptional, and the judges had an incredibly hard time in choosing the winners. I was very pleased to announce that Cumbria has been granted Social Enterprise County status by Social Enterprise UK, which is a tribute to Cumbria County Council’s long term and continued support of the county’s Social Enterprise sector. Coincidently Thursday, 8th March was also International Women’s Day and I was delighted to see more women than men in both the audience, and on stage making inspirational presentations and receiving awards.”
There were four categories in this year’s awards:
- New Social Enterprise of the Year
- Social Enterprise of the Year
- Community Enterprise of the Year
- Social Entrepreneur of the Year
The awards for the New Social Enterprise were presented by Daniel Heery of Cybermoor Services who presented the awards to the Winners, The Happy Mums Foundation CIC and also a Highly Commended Award to iCan Health & Fitness CIC.
The Happy Mums Foundation was setup in 2015 and provides local, practical and peer-led maternity mental health services across Carlisle and North Cumbria. They also offer room hire for classes, events, meetings and therapy sessions from their studios at the Coach House Centre in Aglionby. Accepting the award on behalf of Happy Mums, Founder and Director Katherine Dalgliesh said “We were totally inspired 3 years ago when we were sitting in the audience of the Social Enterprise Awards listening to the award winners, having just setup our new social enterprise and we can’t believe that today we’re up here on stage accepting this award!”
The awards for the Social Enterprise of the Year were presented by Martin Allman, Economic Programmes Manager for Cumbria County Council. The Winners were Whitehaven Community Trust and Highly Commended were Cumbria Health on Call (CHOC).
Whitehaven Community Trust was setup 28 years ago and has recently re-opened Bakewell House as a dedicated Mother and Baby unit offering safe and secure accommodation with support to vulnerable young mothers and their babies and re-opened Lowther Street once again to meet the ever growing need for supported accommodation for difficult to place homeless teenagers within our community. Kerry Maxwell OBE, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Whitehaven Community Trust said “The event was superb and the speakers were inspirational … and it was a lovely surprise for us to win.”
The Community Enterprise category proved to be a particularly very difficult category to judge this year, and Lorrainne Smythe from Action for Communities in Cumbria presented the awards to the Winning Enterprise West House and Highly Commended to People First Independent Advocacy.
West House provides care and support in West Cumbria for adults and children with learning disabilities – at home, in the community and in the workplace. It started in Allerby in 1996 with Grow West, their community garden enterprise and this was followed by Café West in Whitehaven, Café West Workington Library, Café West Keswick and their new venture setup last year is a pottery based at Westfield in Workington, which will develop opportunities not only in creative pottery skills but also in sales, marketing and finance. It now employs 36 staff and supports 73 trainees. James Cox, Chief Executive of West House said “We are delighted that everyone at West House enterprises has won this award – they more than deserve it. The staff and trainees at our cafes, garden centre and pottery, work extremely hard and not only do they deliver great services to their customers, but also make huge personal achievements every day. The award also recognises the invaluable support we receive from members of our community – our enterprises wouldn’t exist without people buying products from our pottery and garden centre, or going to our cafes, so we want to say to our customers how thankful we are for their support in being able to offer these training opportunities.”
The winner of the individual Social Entrepreneur award was Julia Clifford from iCan Health & Fitness. The award was presented by Sue Gilbertson, who manages the social enterprise contract, but who also worked with iCan as their business adviser to setup their social enterprise, funded through CSEP’s business support programme.
iCan Health & Fitness became a Community Interest Company less than a year ago and since becoming a CIC they have increased their paying membership by 54%. They operated as a private company from very small premises in Corporation Road in the centre of Carlisle from 2007 and in October 2017 relocated to Denton Holme. In the short time that they have been in their new premises, they have transformed it from a rather rundown dilapidated space into a warm, friendly and welcoming community wellbeing centre. Accepting the award, Julia said “I am overwhelmed, honoured and incredibly humbled to be given this award. It means the world to me to be recognised after 11 years of hard work, sweat and tears and I owe that all to the Social Enterprise Partnership, who literally saved my personal career and our business at iCan.”
Julia was nominated for the award by one of iCan’s members Pauline Wright and also by Andrew Shekell, Chief Executive of the Glenmore Trust who said “If you could harness Julia’s energy and enthusiasm you could run a small town!”
A Special Award was also presented to Allison Taylor from Cumbria Gateway who died suddenly in November 2017 aged 51.
Allison setup Cumbria Gateway in 2011, providing peer-led services and 4 supported housing flats … today it employs 2 project managers, 7 support staff, 1 handy person and 25 volunteers and now has 17 supported housing units.
Bill Prudham, Allison’s partner and Tom Hurst, Chair of Cumbria Gateway accepted the award on behalf of Allison.
“Allison had the driving force of 10 people and could make the impossible, possible. She will never be forgotten and her legacy will continue and grow for many years to come.”
The audience also heard from some truly inspiration speakers from West Cumbria including the hosts at Rosehill Theatre, with the story of the theatre’s history from its opening in 1959, through to its re-opening last April by Prince Charles following its £2.7m refurbishment. The theatre is a marvellous combination of a modern and contemporary venue, but has retained the original theatre described as a ‘rose-red silk lined jewel box’.
The audience were also moved by the very personal and emotional journey of Rachel Holliday who setup Time to Change in June 2013 to tackle homelessness and poverty in West Cumbria. Her vision was to build a homeless hostel but one that would make a positive difference to the community. Calderwood House staff and residents take part in many community activities and have a close working relationship with Egremont Town Council and liaise with them to find projects and community tasks. Angela Vaughan from West House gave the audience a taste of the history and some of the many enterprises run by West House. The final speaker was Dianne Richardson, Social Impact and Communications Manager for Balfour Beatty who undoubtedly demonstrated what a difference a major private business can contribute to communities when it puts its mind and effort into it.
The speakers took part in a lively panel discussion with a Q&A session from the audience.