News story

East of England’s first Big Society Award winner

Christine Gibson from Bedford is the latest winner of the Prime Minister's Big Society Award.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Not only is Christine the first individual person to be presented with the award (winners to date are groups or organisations), she is also the very first Big Society Award winner from the region.

Christine has brought together people from her community and worked with the housing association where she lives to make a real difference to her fellow residents.

One of her greatest achievements is mobilising local people and galvanising support to turn nearby unused land into a garden for local residents and families, many of whom didn’t have their own outdoor space, to enjoy.

Christine successfully brought her neighbours together and encouraged them to get involved and take a stake in the project, from deciding how they would like to use the land to designing the new space themselves and volunteering to plant the garden. She also gained the support of her housing association (bpha) and Borough Council to secure the necessary funding.

The end result saw a space where neighbours can relax, take children to play, meet other residents and hold social events, fostering a true community spirit.

The Prime Minister said:

Congratulations to Christine. Not only has she given up her own time to make a real difference to her neighbourhood, but, perhaps even more importantly, she has shown how the energy and drive of just one person can inspire, motivate and empower many others to come together and build a stronger community.

As one of her nominators puts it, she epitomises the Big Society.

 On receiving the award, Christine Gibson said:

I’m passionate about my community and really just wanted to create an area that people wanted to visit, to relax in.  The garden has given us a lovely area in which to socialise, as proven by our recent Royal Wedding Day community party, and we all feel so much prouder of where we live as a result.

One of the people to nominate Christine was Jim Playle, from Christine’s housing association.

Jim Playle, Community Development Officer at bpha said:

Christine saw a problem in her neighbourhood and decided to take positive action to address it by working with us and her neighbours. She has been a delight to work with and this Award recognises not only her achievement on this project, but the other voluntary work she does as well. She is a real inspiration and an amazing community champion.

Published 23 May 2011