Jonathan Brooks-Jones reports on the winners in last night’s IWA awards ceremony
A fascinating range of life stories and inspiring achievements were revealed last night as the IWA’s Inspire Wales awards were unveiled at a glittering ceremony in Cardiff’s City Hall. This was the second year of the awards, organised by the Institute in association with the Western Mail, and this year’s achievers demonstrated yet again a remarkable set of contributions that are being made to Welsh civic life.
The awards reward those in the fields of business, education, science, arts and media, the environment and sport, as well as seeking champions in citizenship and young achievers. The winners, in each of the categories were:
Young Achiever – Sponsored by Wales and West Utilities
18-year-old volunteer Tegan Morgan, from Cwmbran, has been working tirelessly in youth centres for the past two years. She cites the mantra “would you like the same lifestyle for your children?” as the motivation driving her work in youth centres across the country, including special needs centres. Her inspirational work this year includes encouraging young people in Torfaen to practise safe sex in a bid to tackle the county’s STI and teenage pregnancy rates. Tegan’s peer leadership has helped educate young people in schools, youth centres and at the Youth Offending Team and has helped motivate herself to be a positive community role model. She has defied her years by expertly balancing her extensive volunteering work with training to be a qualified youth worker, while at the same time trying to improve the image of Welsh education.
Environmentalist – Sponsored by Viridor
A serial energy entrepreneur, Mr Williams has dedicated 34 years of his working life to developing renewable energy technologies from their infancy. As founder and chief executive of Cardiff-based Eco2 and through his work as Generation Projects Manager for Renewables at Swalec and at Energy Power Resources (EPR), Mr Williams, from Newport, has been at the forefront of commercialising new technologies. Mr Williams’ work helped Swalec become the most successful developer of early renewable energy projects, while he helped EPR generate 12.5 per cent of all UK units before it was sold for £200m in 2004. Projects Mr Williams has helped bring to fruition have since saved three million tonnes of CO2 – 10% of the government’s 2010 emissions target. His current venture, Eco2, works on a number of wind power projects in the UK and pioneering £1bn biomass programmes that aim to revolutionise the renewables markets across Europe.
Aran Jones and Iestyn ap Dafydd
Global Wales – Sponsored by the University of Wales
In a tie result, Aran Jones and Iestyn ap Dafydd pick up the Global Wales award for their online resource for learning Welsh. Former English teacher Aran Jones and former civil engineer Iestyn ap Dafydd wanted to increase the number of Welsh-language learners across the globe – so they co-founded SaySomethinginWelsh.com, a website containing a total of 60 lessons, accessed by over 14,000 Welsh learners from all over the world. Pwllheli-based Mr Jones has overseen a thriving support forum for budding learners – which has led to an immersion course that has attracted visitors to Wales from the United States, Germany, Italy and Spain, as well as an online Eisteddfod. Mr ap Dafydd, who is responsible for the South Wales version of the lessons, he has also taken a hands-on approach to the site’s forum and has been instrumental in setting up the “Welsh bootcamps” in West Wales that has attracted an international subscription.
Citizen’s Voice – Sponsored by Working Links Wales
Having faced numerous challenges when she arrived in the UK from Cameroon in 2005, Constance Nzeneu was determined to provide support to vulnerable women in similar situations. A single mother-of-two, Ms Nzeneu founded Women Seeking Sanctuary Advocacy Group Wales in Cardiff two years ago to support women fleeing human rights abuses, persecutions, isolation, destitution, threats of deportation and other dangers. She has worked almost single-handedly to lobby decision makers, secure funding and arrange counselling and support for the women who come to her – all balanced with her family life. Her tireless work was recognised by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action when she was awarded the Wales Volunteer Award of the Year, and campaigning resulted in securing funding from Cardiff Council’s Ethnic Minorities Communities First to launch a booklet on women’s life stories in April.
Sport – Sponsored by Sport Wales
Kelly Davies is a prime example of how hard work can translate into tangible results. A former Arsenal and Liverpool Ladies player, Ms Davies gave up the professional game to establish Abergele-based social enterprise VI-Ability, which offers footballing work apprenticeships for economically-inactive people and training for those looking to work in the industry. The unique enterprise also doubles as an advisor to football clubs on how to maximise their income streams, to avoid administration, as well as reaching out to a number of vulnerable groups. The programme has grown in turnover to more than £1m, and has secured contracts to deliver programmes to a further 180 economically-inactive people in the Conwy area. Her persistence has also seen the programme adopted as a partnership by Colwyn Bay FC and Bangor FC and was recognised as the Best Social Enterprise Start-up of the Year in both Wales and the UK.
Educator – Sponsored by the University of Wales
In a context of high unemployment among young people in the South Wales Valleys, Ms Griffiths took the decision eight years ago to found and run a music magazine run entirely by volunteers, using her experience of more than 20 years in the media industry. As managing editor of Pontypridd-based social enterprise Plugged In, Ms Griffiths runs free workshops to tutor disadvantaged young people in the Valleys and give young people a rare chance to create a portfolio of music-related work to help land employment. Within two issues, Ms Griffiths began distributing Plugged In across Wales to more than 200 locations, and is available internationally via download. A mother of a young family herself, she juggles the responsibility of family life with involving around 50 young people in producing each issue, and must work tirelessly to secure funding for print costs for each run. Now on its 11th issue, Plugged In has reached out to more young people and expose unsigned bands in Wales –and the Welsh music industry – to the wider public.
Arts, Media & Creative Industries – Sponsored by Orchard
In a career spanning nearly 30 years, Rhondda-born Phil George has left a significant and lasting imprint on Welsh broadcasting. As a former producer and head of arts, music and features at BBC Wales and founder of his own TV production company Green Bay Media, Cardiff-based Mr George has helped create scores of Bafta-award winning shows. But he has combined this with his work as the founding chair of National Theatre Wales, which in its first year has garnered unprecedented national and international attention. The theatre has developed under his guidance and artistic direction – which set it on the path of being a 21st century theatre for Wales. He has pushed for theatre and the arts to be more accessible to a wider audience – and has steered a remarkable and unique artistic direction for the theatre, culminating in the spectacular Passion play with Michael Sheen, which took place over 72 hours and across the whole town of Port Talbot.
Professor Anthony K Campbell
Science & Technology – Sponsored by the University of Wales
In a career spanning more than 40 years, Professor Campbell has contributed a huge amount to the research field of animals and microbes that make their own light (bioluminescence) and using this for clinical diagnosis and drug research. His work has led to three major inventions, with one – the discovery of the effectiveness of flashes of light, rather than glows – leading to a method that is used in hundreds of millions of tests worldwide. His invention has brought in £20m to Wales from patent royalties, spin-out sales and grant income, and has won a slew of awards. His infectious enthusiasm has translated into eight books, more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and 40 reviews, as well as extensive lab-based genetic engineering tests in bioluminescence and how it might contribute to medicine. Prof Campbell’s inspirational teaching has also helped thousands of Cardiff University students at the School of Medicine and, from last year, at the Welsh School of Pharmacy, and his founding of the Darwin Centre in Pembrokeshire in 1993 bringing science to children across South Wales.
Business Leader – Sponsored by Leadership & Management Wales
A former military man, Mr Crofton has used his keen organisational discipline to help transform Newport-based global semiconductor firm SPP Process Technology Systems into an even more profitable company. After taking the role of chief operating officer in 2006, Mr Crofton has made it a personal challenge to instil discipline in the workforce and take painful decisions to change the company’s product portfolio and direction. With a team of 400 employees, operating across 11 countries, his collaborative approach has helped foster team spirit, and change a previously-demotivated workforce into a united one. Prioritising giving staff confidence and realising their strengths, giving them time and space to work independently and implementing a leadership development programme have all contributed to improving the company’s fortunes. The hard work put in my Mr Crofton and SPP saw the company post £39m net profits last year – the most profitable it has been for 40 years – while seeing a three-fold revenue increase to £131m, all in the wake of a recession.
Mid and West Fire and Rescue Service (Julie Owens)
Welsh at Work (large businesses) – Sponsored by CAD Centre
Mid and West Fire and Rescue Service has made Welsh a core of its approach to engaging with its staff and with the local communities it serves. As well as appointing a Welsh Language Officer in Julie Owens, it has cultivated a supportive institutional culture for Welsh speaking employees, including Welsh-language training, “Working Welsh” badges to identify Welsh-speaking employees and the issuing of a bilingual staff magazine, Calon Tan. It also provides Welsh Language Advocates, including the deputy chief fire officer, from within the organisation, which meet on a quarterly basis on a Welsh Language Forum to monitor implementation. Ms Owens has also championed the Welsh in the Workplace campaign, and incentives for employees to learn Welsh, including pioneering in-house Welsh classes – and the Service has also funded Welsh learners at home, financing materials and introducing a Welsh Learner of the Year award. It has also reached out to the public it serves by providing fire safety inspections, educational talks and materials through Welsh.
Dafydd Hardy Estate Agents
Welsh at Work (small businesses) – Sponsored by CAD Centre
From its inception in 1992, Caernarfon-based estate agent Dafydd Hardy has worked to incorporate Welsh into the heart of what it does. To ensure this, the company introduced a bilingual policy for communication with customers, tracking the policies of the Welsh Language Scheme, which allows a choice of either Welsh and English for customers, and encouraging its staff to learn or improve their Welsh language skills. It also helps support local translation services, external language tutors and engage with local bilingual suppliers to promote the everyday use of the language. Dafydd Hardy has also arranged conversational Welsh lessons for staff and promoted bilingual internal communications, a policy conceived and enacted for the last 19 years. Its Welsh-centric policies have meant that, since it has grown to have 40 employees, the vast majority of which can speak Welsh fluently.