Our Sunshine Ball is a night for unsung heroes

The Baybeat band at Morecambe Carnival. The organising committee of the carnival have been nominated for a Sunshine award.
The Baybeat band at Morecambe Carnival. The organising committee of the carnival have been nominated for a Sunshine award.

GREG LAMBERT writes...The Sunshine Awards were established in 2010 because we felt Morecambe needed a community awards night.

Our vision was to create an occasion where the ordinary folk of Morecambe could get a public pat on the back for their achievements and have a big night out into the bargain.

Mark Woodhead in action for Morecambe Cricket Club who have been nominated for the Sport award.

Mark Woodhead in action for Morecambe Cricket Club who have been nominated for the Sport award.

The first Sunshine Ball was a huge success so we kept it going, year after year. Now this Friday we host our seventh Ball. How time flies!

The Midland Hotel has been the perfect setting for the Ball with its shimmering art deco glamour and views across the bay. It is a real thrill each year to see everybody arriving at the Midland in their best bib and tucker, a real highlight of the Morecambe social calendar.

We have a saying that “the sun always comes out for the Sunshine Ball” and it’s true. Every single year as guests arrive in their finery, the weather has been kind.

It’s almost as if the man who brought us sunshine, Eric Morecambe himself, is smiling down on us!

The Friends of the Winter Gardens have been nominated in the Community Group category.

The Friends of the Winter Gardens have been nominated in the Community Group category.

Over the years the Sunshine Ball has played host to some magic moments.

Paul Hayes has been an absolute star of the ball. The recipient of our first ever Ambassador Award in 2011, his sheer charisma and energy has lit up the event on several occasions whether he’s been auctioneering in his inimitable style or singing with his rock ‘n’ roll band The Paul Hayes Collection.

Cedric Robinson MBE was a worthy winner of the Ambassador Award in 2013. The Queen’s Guide to the Sands brought the house down with his acceptance speech and it was also a pleasure to have his friend, the TV presenter Gordon Burns, attend to present the honour.

We were also delighted to welcome Gail Stuart, daughter of Eric Morecambe, to accept the Ambassador award on behalf of her dad in 2014.

The opening of the Morecambe Heritage Centre in 2015. Volunteers Morecambe Heritage have been shortlisted for the Community Group award.

The opening of the Morecambe Heritage Centre in 2015. Volunteers Morecambe Heritage have been shortlisted for the Community Group award.

But what really makes the Sunshine Ball special, is seeing how much the awards have come to mean to the winners.

When retired lollipop lady Barbara Mortensen took the Unsung Hero award in 2015, it was extremely moving because Barbara is exactly the kind of person the awards aim to recognise – a hard worker who makes a difference to people’s lives in our 
community. And there have been so many other winners over the years who fit that description.

We also couldn’t put on the event without all our award sponsors. Thank you so much to Wright and Lord, the Arndale Centre, the Ship at Caton, Specsavers, Costain, the Arndale Morecambe Bay and the Cumberland Building Society.

And a huge thank you too to our entertainers on the night, Stuart Michaels and Howard Haigh.

As for this year’s nominees in our Sunshine Award reader categories, once again The Visitor readers have picked a deserving list of hopefuls and have voted in their thousands to decide the winners.

The nominees are:

UNSUNG HERO sponsored by Specsavers

Christine Stebbing and Debbie Cain

“They both do a lot for the carnival and always volunteer as stewards for everything.”

Linda Hartley

“This year is Linda’s 40th year of teaching at Morecambe Community High School. Eight years ago Linda awoke unable to move her legs and without warning, was paralysed. Since then she has continued to teach and raised money for spinal charities.”

Gary Butler

“Despite recently undergoing major hip surgery, Gary will embark on a charity walk of the Great Wall of China later this year to raise money for St John’s Hospice.”

COMMUNITY GROUP sponsored by Costain

Morecambe Carnival Committee

“Organisers of the annual Morecambe Carnival which has been a roaring success since its comeback in 2014.”

Morecambe Heritage

“They played a central role in an important, national profile archaelogical dig, run two very good exhibitions and are bringing in socially excluded groups for heritage-based activities.”

Friends of the Winter Gardens

“This year is their 30th anniversary and they have done a marvellous job keeping the Winter Gardens theatre alive.”

SPORT sponsored by Cumberland Building Society

Dave Chisnall

“Last year he reached the semi-finals of the PDC Darts Premier League, hit a televised nine-dart finish and in 2016 he reached the Masters Final, all while still playing darts locally when time allows.”

Morecambe Cricket Club first team

“For winning the Northern League, a fantastic achievement by the club and all the players in what is a very talented and competitive league.”

Thomas Neill

“Thomas is aged 15 and races go karts. In his first year he won 12 first place trophies, seven second places and numerous thirds. He puts all of his spare money towards new tyres, fuel, spare parts and entry fees.”

ENTERTAINMENT 
sponsored by The Ship at Caton

Ashleigh Wood

“Ashleigh is a local singer who in 2015 recorded a version of the classic Morecambe and Wise signature tune ‘Bring Me Sunshine’.”

Nice ‘n’ Sleazy festival

“Twice winners of the Sunshine Entertainment award, Ivan Harrison and his team at the punk festival continue year-after-year to organise an excellent event keeping the spirit of punk music alive in Morecambe.”

Holly Johnstone

“Since completing a degree in circus arts she has appeared on BBC show Tumble with H from Steps and is currently teaching, inspiring and passing on skills to lots of local kids.”

BUSINESS sponsored by the Arndale Morecambe Bay

The Exchange pub

“Rob and Debbie Ellershaw built up a successful business at the Ranch House and had to leave it to make way for the new Brewers Fayre so they bought the Imperial and have turned it into one of the best pubs in town.”

Bathtime North West

“This year they surpassed the milestone of 10 years in business. In those 10 years they have sold around 20,000 bathroom suites around the country and also do their bit for local charities.”

Intec UK

“Heysham-based recruitment firm established in 1983 who specialise in engineering.”

The winners in these categories will be announced on Friday night at the Ball.

As compere, I am extremely excited to once again make the announcements and see the look of delight on people’s faces as they discover they have won.

That is what drives us to continue to put on the Sunshine Ball every year. We are proud of Morecambe and proud of the people who live here and we believe they and their achievements should be celebrated.

There are still a few tickets left for Friday night’s Sunshine Ball if you would like to join us. They cost £49. The awards night includes a three-course meal and live music from Stuart Michaels. To book please call 01253 361844.

The ball starts at 7pm.