The winners of the Friends Families and Travellers Awards 2020 were announced on Friday, 6th March at the Brighthelm Centre.
The evening was a beautiful celebration of the impressive and inspiring achievements of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller individuals and communities. It involved lots of food, music and joy!
Those that were shortlisted (you can see the list here) were inspiring in their spirited contributions to their own communities and wider society.
It was extremely difficult to pick the winners and it involved lots of debate, but we got there.
We’re proud of each and every single person that contributed to the Friends Families and Travellers Awards 2020. The event could not have happened without you.
These are the winners:
Inspirational Young Person Award
Winners: Maggie and Jade Smith
Twin sisters Maggie and Jade have been running a series of fundraising events in loving memory of their friend Caitlin Sharp, raising an incredible £1119.75 for the Epilepsy Society. Over 400 people came to raise money or took part in a rounders tournament held at the Malvern cricket club. In Maggie’s words, “We want to raise awareness of epilepsy so that families are less likely to experience the heartache and pain Caitlin’s family and friends have experienced. By raising over a grand for the epilepsy society we wanted to contribute to their funds pushing for support offered to sufferers and their families, so that they can have the support that they deserve. Ultimately we raised the money in Caitlin’s memory and we want to ensure she is remembered for the happy and bubbly teenager that she was!” They plan to do more fundraising this upcoming year in Caitlin’s memory and offer support to Caitlin’s family always.
Runners up: Angela Mahoney and Nathan Abdul Karim
Arts, Culture and Heritage Award
Winner: Lorraine Golding
Documenting her New Traveller community since the 1980s, Lolly has the proven talent for anything creative, from playwriting to chainsaw wood carving, whilst remaining true to her Traveller background, embracing and promoting her way of life through her art. Lolly has designed a unique Tartan design, with each colour telling a story about life on the road.
Runners up: Thomas McCarthy and Damian Le Bas
Sporting Excellence Award
Winner: Johnboy Smith
Johnboy Smith has travelled the world wheelchair racing and in just over 4 years of competing is now ranked #2 in the UK. Johnboy suffered a spinal cord injury in 2006 which left him with complete T10/T11 Paraplegia but he threw himself into sport as soon as he could, first with Wheelchair Bodybuilding through different sports until he found Wheelchair racing in 2015. Since the accident he has been vocal to help people realise there is ‘life after disability and tragedy’. In Johnboy’s own words: “If someone, whether they are from the Traveller community or not, comes to me and says I am the reason they are getting out of bed, then I have done my job.”
Runners up: Darren Parker and Phoebe Buckley
Winner: Billie-Jo Sines
Described as “one of the kindest people you will meet”, Billie-Jo is a brilliant youth worker and goes above and beyond to help any one that is in need. As a Key Worker within student support systems, Billie-Jo has played a pivotal role in developing relationships between teachers, parents and pupils. She’s delivered cultural awareness training in the South East and is committed to educational inclusion.
Runners up: Kathleen Anne Boswell and Lisa Smith
Inspiring Project Award
Winner: Traveller Pride
Tyler is a Showman and the founder of Traveller Pride, a campaign created by and for LGBT+ Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. Tyler coordinated and facilitated the first representation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities at London Pride. Tyler has also created and formed a helpline for LGBT+ Gypsies, Roma and Travellers for solidarity and support, and conducts training and workshops to ensure inclusivity within LGBT+ movements and Traveller groups. As a Traveller Pride participant said: “Going to Pride – meeting people from my own community, having official representation – was just phenomenal”.
Runners up: One Call Away and Life Changing Choices
We were so moved by one nomination that we decided to create a special category. The Courage Award was awarded to Jade Doherty, for her dedication and strong spirit during hard times.
After losing her brother Simey Doherty in 2018, Jade faced a battle with her local council after they wanted to remove flowers and tributes from her brother’s resting place. Without telling anyone, Jade took on the council and managed to gather over 5000 signatures to allow her and others to continue laying tributes. After dealing with grief, sorrow and the loss of someone so dear, Jade continued her work with the council to find a solution. She has tackled racism and discrimination head-on, whenever she has encountered it and achieved unity between Travellers and members of her local settled community, helping everyone along the way. Jade and her family are currently organising a charity run which will be held on the 8th May 2020 in memory of Simey. The run will raise money for two charities – Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) and SOBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide).
Alexander Award for Lifetime Achievement:
Winner: Betty Smith-Billington
Betty is a well-liked and highly respected individual, who is known to be warm and caring by all who meet her. She is very influential with public services in her local area and stands shoulder to shoulder with all settled and travelling communities, thanks to her strong sense of justice. Whilst chairing Kushti Bok and as a member of Dorset Inter-Agency Concern for Travellers (DIACT), Betty works to make the world a better and fairer place. She successfully campaigned to establish the Dorset Roma Holocaust Memorial Service, which commemorates Roma and Sinti lives lost during the Holocaust. A part of history “people wouldn’t know about without Betty”. Betty is known to be a great singer and loves singing karaoke – even winning competitions when she was younger!
Runners up: Josie O’Driscoll and Joe Jones
Notes for Editor
About Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)
Friends, Families and Travellers is a leading national charity that works on behalf of all Gypsies, Roma and Travellers regardless of ethnicity, culture or background.
Sami McLaren, Communications Officer
Tel: 01273 234 038 Email: [email protected]
Friends Families and Travellers. ‘Friends Families and Travellers Awards 2020: Here’s the Shortlist!’. February 2020. View page.