The Diverse Cumbria Awards 2016 hit the town on Thursday evening at the Crown and Mitre Hotel in Carlisle City Centre.

The Awards, created by Ben Vollans, are the first of their kind in Cumbria and were set up to celebrate and award those going above and beyond in their work for Equality and Diversity. Representation from a huge number of local organisations attended the evening to celebrate the winners of the 5 categories, and where a special Lifetime Achievement Award was announced.

The guests were greeted with a glass of prosecco on arrival, kindly supplied by Foundry Thirty Four from Penrith, and a red carpet laid out to show off their finest Black Tie and Ball gown attire. Canapes and a beautifully laid out room then greeted them in the stunning Ball Room at the Crown and Mitre Hotel, where an hours networking event took place before the awards took place.

To kick the proceedings off, compare and creator Ben Vollans told the crowd a bit about why he had set the awards up: “I have had the privilege of working with a lot of you in this room over the last four years within my charity work, and I thought it was about time you were all recognised and awarded for all the hard work and effort you put in to make Cumbria a more Diverse county.” 

He then introduced Mr Richard Rhodes, Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner on stage to present the awards to the first three categories, Community Volunteer of the Year Award,Community Group or Organisation Champion of the Year and Business Champion of the Year. Mr Rhodes said a little bit about each one of the shortlists in each category before opening a golden envelope to announce the winners. The Police and Crime Commissioner was also one of the Sponsors for the evening and expressed on stage he was very proud to be a part of such an event.

Ben then introduced Lynn Marsland from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, another sponsor of the event, to award the next two categories. Public Sector of the Year and Positive Role Model of the Year, where she followed in Mr Rhodes footsteps to say a bit about each shortlist nominee and announce the winners. A Special Mention Certificate was giving out to Carl Molyneux from the Well in Barrow in Furness as the judges felt he really did deserve some recognition for the personal struggles he has overcome to help others.

A short break took place before the Lifetime Achievement Award was announced and presented by Sellafield Ltd, the main sponsor of the Awards. The Award was presented to a very shocked and surprised Richard Kavanagh from Outreach Cumbria, who got a standing ovation while walking to the stage. Richard, who the audience found out had managed to carry the charity on his own back for the good part of 20 years, most of it unpaid, was delighted to accept the award and said it was “amazing to have his work recognised.”

The winners of the other categories were:

  • David Gale, Trailblazers - Community Volunteer of the Year
  • Prism Arts - Community Group or Organisation Champion of the Year
  • Eden Flood Volunteers - Business Champion of the Year
  • Cockermouth School - Public Sector Champion of the Year
  • Julie Dodd - Positive Role Model of the Year
  • Richard Kavanagh - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Carl Molyneux - Special Mention Certificate

The independent judging panel, which consisted of Samantha Parker from ITV , Lynn Marsland from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Roy Ledingham from Cumbria Police and Adam Mather from the University of Cumbria, who met on the 17th February to decide on the shortlists and winners had a tough time with the amount of worthy people and organisations that had been nominated.