On arrival it became clear very quickly that this was going to be a very special night. I am a big fan of ‘shiny moments’ as the little lights in our lives that make us smile. I knew, instinctively, that this was going to be an evening of shiny moments thanks to STV’s RBS – Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes awards. My first footsteps on a red carpet did, however, feel less than shiny as I skipped across it as fast as possible. One couldn’t help thinking that that was no place for Scottish island mum. With lovely smiling faces to meet and greet the shining had begun as I was led upstairs to a champagne reception. A little group of fellow bloggers were already there ready to capture every moment in words to share with their readers. I like bloggers as they are always interesting people. Bloggers make the world their personal study and you can see that in their eyes.
Researching for this assignment had really thrown up some delights. I was covering two categories – Community Champion and Environmental Project. If it had been up to me I would have made them all winners and I very much suspected that would be the emerging theme for the evening. I was right.
Sitting in the auditorium waiting for Carol Smillie to arrive a quick glance captured lots of shiny moments. The atmosphere was charged with expectation and when Carol walked out (in a particularly shiny dress) we were ready to go. There was lots of clapping from the off and as the first category was Community Champion it was time to focus. The three nominees had something in common as they were all incredibly determined souls. Whether individually or as part of a team these community champions had clearly invented the word ‘giving.’ Each of them gave so much of themselves in making sure others had the support they needed and it was the start of a series of deeply moving stories.
First up was Margaret Gibb who responded to a community need almost 40 years ago and is still going strong today. Finding a positive place for children to spend time was uppermost in her ambitions as a housing estate grew up and young children tumbled out of the doors. Margaret was on it and set up a play scheme where these children could come together and have lots of fun. As with all good ideas this first scheme expanded into groups and holiday clubs and so a whole network of children’s provision was established. The people of Bellshill have Margaret to thank for this and the applause must have told her that we were all very impressed. I am not, however sure Margaret would care whether we were impressed or not. She doesn’t do what she does to impress others. She does it for the children and their families and that was a particular shiny moment that shone very brightly for me.
Next up was the very adorable Street Pastors of Bathgate. The ‘granny squad,’ as they are sometimes referred to, walk the streets late into the night offering support to anyone who needs it. Not put off by drunken behaviour they are there for a chat, cup of tea or even a pair of flip flops to aid sore feet. This was the moment when I thought ‘I couldn’t do that’ and you instantly understand why these people are special.
Last in the nominees was another lady who knows how to give – Jackie McIntosh. Jackie took over the running of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Therapy Centre four years ago and, in that time, has established it as a living life-line for all who use it. Not fazed by her own diagnosis of MS she set about making the centre a place for support, therapy and, above all, laughter. I was not surprised that Jackie was nominated as I had managed a quick chat with her before the ceremony got underway. There are some people who are put on this planet to become drivers and Jackie is one of these people. I don’t imagine Jackie accepts failure and I don’t expect there are any limits on what Jackie can achieve. If she has to throw herself off a great height using a zipline to help raise the £140,000 a year (that is needed to run the centre) that is what she will do.
As the winner was announced the cheers and tears began as Margaret Gibb took her place on the stage. She was an incredibly worthy winner and I will be blogging about Margaret in much more detail in a subsequent post. This woman is truly one in a million and her story will touch your hearts.
My second category was Environment Project and this was very dear to my heart and I know many of you reading this. Treading lightly on the planet we all call home is a bit of a personal motto so I was delighted to be shedding my own light on these remarkable projects and the people behind them.
First up was the Killi Can Cycle project that trades tin can waste in for parts to refurbish bikes to then sell in the community for affordable prices. I loved this idea the minute I connected with it. It is the type of project that all communities should have as it ticks so many boxes. It recycles, reuses and upcycles while making a positive impact on both the environment and people’s health. Quite a list of accolades and very worthy nominees. Once again it is the people that make a project like this work and this group are not short of ideas, skills and wonderful community spirit. You just want to bottle the entire project and pass it round so we can all have an enriching sip.
Second up were two gentlemen that I have quite decided to carry around in my heart forever and one of my favourite shiny moments of the entire evening. Bob Brown and Sandy Adams wanted to help Mother Nature reclaim some old industrial land and they wanted to build a woodland path that could be enjoyed by all. Sounds simple doesn’t it? I doubt very much whether it was and what I am absolutely sure about is that it took a huge amount of time and physical effort. Slowly, but very surely, Saltburn Woodland Walk began to emerge and with every metre built more and more possibilities were being opened up for Mother Nature to reclaim. The gents gave her a helping hand by asking the local community to bring plants to plant at edges of the footpath and they did just that. I am not sure personal legacy gets much better than that and I felt blessed to have met them and chatted with them about their project.
Next was a community environmental scheme to reclaim from landfill sites and make a place where people could bring unwanted but perfectly useful things. From kitchen sinks, to wooden pallets and flooring just about anything that is useful to others has been saved. With an army of volunteers this Yooze Recycling and Reuse project has grown from strength to strength. It fills a need and it helps to reduce landfill so it is right up there in the best ideas category.
When the winner was announced I shed the first tear of the night. The two gents won and I will take enormous pleasure from blogging about them in much more detail in a future post.
After a while the evening became a blur of shiny moments but each one seemed to understand its place in the scheme of things. Heroes is a difficult word but one that we all use and recognise. There was no doubt that everyone that stepped on that stage was a hero and I felt incredibly privileged to be part of their shiny moment. They all understood the importance of thinking beyond their own needs and that bound them together and set them apart both at the same time. In a world that is increasingly complex and impersonal these people had found a way to simplify and personalise and they are all champions at their craft.
Ultimately the ceremony recognised one winner above them all as the RBS Hero of the Year. Unsurprisingly this was awarded to Margaret Gibb in recognition of her decades in the service of others. With her now established cheeky charm she took to the stage once more as applause lingered and lingered. More on that part of the story to follow.
Celebrities are used to shiny moments but I loved the way they stepped aside recognising that the person standing next to them was outshining them. It was a great community evening and Scottish island mum was truly blessed to be invited. There is nothing better than a good story and these good stories starred some very good people. Trust me, in the detail that is to come we all have much to gain as we come together to delve under the surface of what it really means to be a hero.