COMMUNITY STARS: It was an extraordinary night

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It was a starry, starry night when people across the area were honoured for their achievements at the Observer Community Awards.

The stage at Chichester Festival Theatre was aglow with shining stars including voluntary groups, teachers and sportspeople.

The inspirational evening included performances from the Theatre Workshop children’s choir, who sang rousing versions of Take That track The Flood and a Motown medley, and back for a second time was the St Wilfrid’s Hospice Ukulele Band, made up of staff members who led everyone in a festive sing-along.

Among the winners were the Sussex Snowdrop Trust, which supports children with life-limiting illnesses and their families. It won the Best Carer category. The charity’s co-founder Diana Levantine collected the award with another winner, Nicola Stubbs and her mum Sue.

Richard Baldwin picked up the award for Biggest Contribution to Arts in the Community on behalf of the Rox Festival. Richard has been a volunteer for around four years and is involved with Shakespeare readings across Bognor Regis.

The last award of the evening was the Observer Award for Special Achievement, chosen by a panel of judges, which went to lifetime Lavant resident Tony Bleach for his dedication to the village over the years.

He said: “I think I am one of those people who don’t know when to stop – someone’s got to tell me!

“I feel very privileged to be here with so many special people. I was nominated a couple of years ago and I felt very humbled, I thought what am I doing here? There are so many people out there. When you see all the people and what they do, it’s just fantastic.”

Observer editor Colin Channon, who started the awards four years ago, said: “It was a wonderful evening and a real celebration of all that’s good in our community – it was a real feel-good evening with some wonderful stories.

“Both the winners and those nominated really deserved their place in the limelight, and without events like these we just would not get to hear about these amazing people.”

The full list of winners:

- Best shopkeeper: Mac Patel of Rose Green Post Office

- Best neighbour: Tillington Local Care (TLC)

- Sports Team of the Year: Bognor Rugby U9s

- Shirley Henry Award for Best Volunteer: Paul Collins

- Best coach/manager: Candi Gilroy of Dragonflies Dance Group

- Best Teacher: Gemma Jones of Rose Green Infant School

- Biggest Contribution to Arts in the Community: Rox Festival

- Best School: St Anthony’s School, Chichester

- Best Community Person: Debbie Marsh, of the Wonder Girls Pom Pom Troupe

- Health Hero: Bersted FC

- Best Youth: Nicola Stubbs

- Best Sports Person: Isobel Brown

- Helping the Environment: Chichester Canal Trust

- Outstanding Bravery: Luke Sharp

- Best Carer: Sussex Snowdrop Trust

- Most Inspirational Person: Lorraine Webb

- Special Recognition: Apuldram Centre

- Observer Award for Special Achievement: Tony Bleach