Press release

New Heights community project wins Big Society Award

New Heights community project which built a community centre in Kingstanding, Birmingham, has won the Prime Minister's Big Society Award.

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

A Birmingham charity which grew from a small volunteer group to a £1.6 million project to build a community centre in Kingstanding is the latest winner of the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.

The New Heights community project was set up in 2004 by residents who were fed up of anti-social behaviour and vandalism in their area. The group successfully opened a cafe to serve as a community hub where local people could meet to do everything from build friendships, to access training and jobs. Over 100 volunteers now run the charity and the newly built community centre houses 37 providers offering a whole range of services to meet local needs including:

  • ‘silver surfers’ internet training and social clubs for the elderly 
  • positive activities to reach out to young people at risk of offending
  • health and lifestyle advice 
  • debt and legal advice
  • carers groups to support those looking after ill and disabled relatives
  • support for those suffering domestic abuse
  • Alcoholics Anonymous and substance abuse groups

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

I’m delighted to be recognising the achievements of everyone involved with the New Heights project with this Big Society Award.

By creating a space for local people to come together to get new skills, access support and socialise, New Heights has become an important part of making a community everyone can be proud of.

John McCarthy, Chairperson of New Heights said:

Since our beginnings, New Heights has grown into a vibrant community project run by local people for local people in Kingstanding (with over 100 active volunteers) who are passionate about making a difference within their local community. Our work over the last 9 years has enabled us to consult with over 4,000 local people on a range of issues and deliver a range of responsive services to meet the community needs they helped us identify.

Over £1 million of the money we raised has been through local fundraising initiatives such as charity drives, cake sales and racenights alone. This along with help we received from the Big Lottery Fund allowed us to refurbish a dilapidated Portacabin, turn a derelict shop into a thriving community cafe, and build a new community centre hosting a staff team and over 37 service providers who deliver a selection of holistic services.

Winning this prestigious award has uplifted the already positive spirit of the Kingstanding Community.

Notes to editors

About the Big Society Awards

For media enquiries and images please contact:

Laura Piscaer
Communications Manager - The Big Society Network
Tel: 020 7845 5895

John McCarthy
Chairperson - New Heights
Tel: 07778 239200

On New Heights

New Heights Community Project was initially established by a group of people from Christ the King parish in the area of Kingstanding when Father Michael White came into the area in 2003.

Big Society Awards

The Big Society Awards were set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010. The aim is to acknowledge individuals and organisations across the UK that demonstrates the Big Society in their work or activities. In so doing, the aim is also to galvanise others to follow.

The award focuses upon three specific areas:

Outstanding contribution to community

  • people, projects and organisations that enable communities to drive change themselves
  • projects and organisations that allow the community to identify solutions 
  • people, projects and organisations that inspire others to contribute to their community

Improving lives and society through innovation, collaboration and new partnerships

  • people and organisations taking new approaches to public services
  • successful collaboration and partnerships between public, private and voluntary sector - working together to benefit communities

Engaging in social action

  • people, projects and organisations taking action in their community
  • working together for social change (e.g. through creating groups, campaigns, movements)
  • generosity of time, money, skills and other resources - in support of social action

Launching the awards, the Prime Minister said:

There are some amazing projects and remarkable voluntary work going on in towns and cities up and down the country, by all kinds of organisations from large enterprises to tiny grassroots schemes and inspirational individuals.

These awards are a chance to pay tribute to those making a valuable contribution to their community, the real champions of the Big Society, but perhaps more importantly, I hope they will motivate many others to take action, get involved and drive change in their area.

Nominations come in from the general public after which there follows a process of scoring and short-listing by civil servants and a further short-listing by a panel of ministers and independent external experts. This panel makes recommendations to the Prime Minister who makes the final decisions about who should receive the award.

Twelve winners are decided each quarter meeting and then announced once a week throughout the year.

63 winners have been announced to date, including:

  • Social Media Surgeries - Nick Booth of Birmingham started up ‘social media surgeries’ to help local community groups to make the most of the internet to support their work. He developed this into a network of experts helping groups all over the country
  • Magic Breakfast - tackling child poverty, encouraging healthy living magic Breakfast is a charity dedicated to ensuring every child starts the school day with the right breakfast
  • Kendray Initiative, is a project that has transformed the community through local action on housing, crime, employment and activities for young people

For a full list of winners visit

Updates to this page

Published 12 February 2013