Monday 3 November 2014 – Media Release

Canary Wharf Group is delighted to announce the winners of its first ever ‘Community Champions’ awards which recognise and celebrate the incredible voluntary work of 10 individuals who are true champions in the local community.

An awards ceremony for the winners to celebrate their achievements and contribution to this vibrant part of London was hosted by Canary Wharf Group at its Level39 fintech accelerator on Thursday 30 October.

Zakir Khan, Head of Community Affairs at Canary Wharf Group said:

“As a company we very rightly regularly celebrate the achievements of young people but realise there are long-standing and committed members of our community that are often overlooked. The Community Champions ceremony provided an opportunity to highlight and acknowledge the contribution of these individuals and show our appreciation.”

Award recipients attended the event at Level39 in One Canada Square with friends and family which comprised a short presentation outlining their achievements, and a 3-course dinner

The ten award recipients were Shamim Azad, Rita Bensley, Shamis Dirir, Sister Christine Frost, Myra Garrett, Dolly Islam, Margaret Phillips, George Pye, Derek Spicer and Crissy Townsend. Each person was presented with a framed certificate signed by Sir George Iacobescu CBE, Canary Wharf Group’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, along with £250 to donate to a community organisation of their choice.

Awards were presented by senior members of the Canary Wharf Group and distinguished guests including Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Baroness Pola Uddin, Cllr Abdul Mukit MBE who is the Speaker of Tower Hamlets, and Commander John Ludgate, the Deputy Lieutenant for Tower Hamlets


For more information, please contact:

Canary Wharf Group press office: 020 7418 2000

Notes to Editors

Further details of the award recipients

Shamim Azad

Organisations involved in: Apples and Snakes, the largest educational poetry organisation in Britain and Poetry Society UK.

  • Published more than 30 books in two languages and is the first poet from Bangladeshi origin to ever perform at the Edinburgh Fringe.
  • Known locally for her new ideas and persistent campaign for uniting British Bangladeshis with the host community.
  • Shamim is a great advocate of sharing culture with references from history and literature; one project involving three generations of Sylhetis translated Shakespeare into Sylheti.

Award presented by Speaker of Tower Hamlets, Cllr Abdul Mukit MBE.


Rita Bensley

Organisation: Association of Island Communities (AIC), Island Friends & Trustee for the East End Community Foundation.

  • Working for the Tower Hamlets Community for over 50 years sitting on numerous boards and working groups.
  • Helped to set up and manage one of the Borough’s longest serving elders luncheon clubs at Strafford Street Friendship Club.
  • Chair of AIC for 20 years, a role which Rita still holds today.
  • Instrumental in setting up Island friends, the elders befriending service on the Isle of Dogs, a project that operates to this day, and establishing the Barkantine Estate Neighbourhood Watch, the first intercity Watch to be created.

Award presented by Camille Waxer, Chief Administrative Officer, Canary Wharf Group plc.

Shamis Dirir

Organisation: Founder and former Director of the Black Women’s Health Family Support (BWHAFS), Women’s Health & Family Services, Karin Housing Association, Somali Education Cultural Project, and the Somali Older People’s Project (Mayfield Centre).

  • Shamis recognised the vital importance of educating, empowering and equipping the Somali community as a whole, men and women, old and young people, both in Somaliland and international diaspora in all aspects of their lives.
  • Shamis  has  been a relentless campaigner against FGM and other health related issues affecting women over the past 31 years and addressing issues about women‘s health both nationally and internationally.
  • First African Woman to bravely stand against the practice of FGM in the UK and began to campaign against FGM in the early 1980’s.

Award presented by Baroness Pola Uddin.

Sister Christine Frost MBE

Organisation: SPLASH, Neighbours in Poplar, East End Community Foundation, St Matthias Conservation Trust and Governor for Holy Family and Woolmore School.

  • Sister Christine Frost has been awarded the MBE for “voluntary service to children, older adults and to the community in Poplar.”
  • She has been working in the East End for over 45 years.
  • Sister Christine launched Neighbours in Poplar charity in 1968 for older adults’ to meet their East End neighbours and enjoy outings together. It was set up after she spoke to older members of the community who said there wasn’t a community any more.
  • Known in the East End throughout Poplar, Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs for her work at Christmas when she distributes meals to the elderly and the lonely.
  • She also helps youngsters in Blackwall and Limehouse through her Splash’ organisation set up over 25 years ago, the South Poplar and Limehouse Action for Secure Housing, where teenagers meet up and enjoy summer holidays away from the East End. The SAFE project which grew from SPLASH (SPLASH Action for Employment) celebrated the 25 years of SPLASH last year by getting 25 young people into employment.

Award presented by Cormac McCrann, Executive Director of Construction, Canary Wharf Contractors.

Myra Garrett

Organisation: Social Action for Health (SAfH), Friends of St Clements, Bow Haven, Kingsley Hall, and the Maternity Services Liaison Services (MSLS), which became Women’s Health and Family Services in 1994.

  • Has been at the forefront of public health campaigns in the borough since she arrived in the 70’s, including leading on the Tower Hamlets Health Enquiry (1986), and more recently the Save our Surgeries (SOS) campaign.
  • Myra Garrett has spent over 30 years of working and campaigning addressing inequalities in healthcare issues in Tower Hamlets.
  • Also involved in direct action against nuclear weapons campaigns.

Award presented by Commander John Ludgate.

Dolly Islam

Organisation: Kollun

  • Dolly founded a number of primary schools in Gandaria, one of Dhaka’s slum areas. She lived through the war and, following liberation, founded a secondary school, Gandaria Girls’ School, where she worked as the head teacher for five years.
  • When she moved to the UK in 1975 she felt the need to contribute to society and, given the growing Bangladeshi community in London, decided to establish networks and to share her knowledge. Through teaching she began to meet Bengali children and work with them to develop their cultural balance and education.
  • In 2002 she set up Kollon to assist people from Bangladesh with settling in to their new home. The project identifies three communities of need among the women it works with, older Bengali women unable to socialise; women aged 24 to 44 with training in languages, IT and textiles as a route into FE colleges and university and girls aged 16 to 23 to inspire.

Award presented by Matt Maer, Group Security & Business Continuity, Canary Wharf Group plc.

Margaret Phillips

Organisation: Chair of St Johns Tenants and Residents Association, Trustee for the East End Community Foundation, Trustee for Mudchute Farm, Trustee for Docklands Sailing Centre, Member Secretary for Association of Island Communities.

  • Representing the community in Crossharbour for over 25 years, Maggie consulted with the LDDC to raise funds to rebuild St Johns Park and include a kitchen in St Johns Community Hall. She also worked hard to ensure gardens were included with homes on her estate.
  • She works closely with the landlord on her estate to solve the housing problems of the local community.
  • Has helped to secure funding for 3 Community projects at the TRA, Football Training for Boys 8-18 years, Health and Awareness and Keep Fit for over 50’s and Ballet and Modern Dance for Girls 5-8 years.

Award presented by Howard Dawber, Strategic Advisor, Canary Wharf Group plc.

George Pye

Organisation: Association of Island Communities, St Johns Tenants & Residents Association, Millwall Youth FC, Mudchute Farm and Friends of Island History Trust

  • Has been involved with sport and helping youth on the Isle of Dogs since 1953. George first played for Alpha Albion and later went on to run, as Secretary, Millwall Youth Football Club, which he is still involved in today.
  • Holds the post of Voluntary Warden at St Johns Community Centre.
  • Was fundamental in setting up the Friends of Island History Trust after the closure of the Island History Trust itself.

Award presented by John Garwood, Group Company Secretary, Canary Wharf Group plc.

Derek Spicer

Organisation: Member of St George’s Day Society, Treasurer and Fund Raiser for Stairway to Heaven and Coach at Arbour Youth Academy.

  • A local football legend whose coaching skills have seen the sporting development of thousands of local young people over the forty years he has been volunteering his time in the community, one of the most well-known faces within the football world of East London.
  • At Mulberry Youth Centre he began work with minority groups beginning a long and successful partnership with the Bangladesh Youth Movement. He went on to coach a team that toured Bangladesh in the 1990’s which was such a success that on his return the best Bangladeshi players formed the successful local team Sporting Bengal.
  • He has for the past 10 years run a programme for the ‘hard to reach’ young people who are at risk of exclusion.
  • He is currently the Head Coach at Arbour Youth Academy based in Stepney, and can be seen every Friday come rain or shine doing what he loves best, coaching at Mile End Stadium

Award presented by Zakir Khan, Head of Community Affairs, Canary Wharf Group plc.

Crissy Townsend

Organisation: Teviot Action group

  • Crissy is a community worker and campaigner. In 1998, she established the Teviot Action group as a campaigning group in order to bring together resident of the Teviot Estate in Poplar so that they can address challenging local issues.
  • She led a local campaign that successfully brought public transport on the Teviot Estate in order to tackle head on the sense of isolation from the mainstream East London life. Transport for London brought in and rerouted number 309 to serve the estate, it did not stop there she campaigned for a DLR station, now Langdon park
  • She also successfully campaigned for the installation of CCTV cameras within the Teviot estate in order to monitor and deter anti-social behaviour and the selling of drugs.
  • Teviot Action Group has grown into community based advice, advocacy and training centre which provides a range of services to Teviot residents.

Award presented by Jim Fitzpatrick MP.