Balham and Tooting Community Association celebrate local heroes

Balham and Tooting’s local heroes were celebrated by their community through virtual celebration back in November. 

The Balham and Tooting Community Association (BATCA) presented 11 awards to outstanding individuals and teams for their service to the community on 26 November.

The ceremony was opened by Wandsworth’s mayor Jane Cooper, and over 100 local volunteers attended.

A special Chair’s award was made to Brian Albuquerque, 52, for his service as Tooting town centre manager from May 2015 to June 2020.

THE TOOTING TOTE: After the 5p charge for plastic bags was introduced, Albuquerque helped develop the Tooting tote bag adorned with an icon of Tooting, the Victorian lampstand. Credit: Brian Albuquerque

Albuquerque said: “I was really touched and didn’t expect it at all. It means a lot to me.

“Tooting is a really interesting place to manage with great people to work with. I’m proud of what the businesses and people do in Tooting.”

While Albuquerque was town manager, Tooting had its own chapter in the South London Cookbook and Cowick Road saw numerous street parties.

One of Albuquerque’s highlights was The Streets project, a two-year arts initiative bringing live music to London’s high streets.

PRIDE OF TOOTING: Albuquerque, pictured in front of Broadway Market’s mural Credit: Brian Albuquerque

Australian percussionist Ben Walsh played his Wheel of Drums on Tooting Broadway Tube Station’s roof and Brazilian street percussionist, Adriano Adewale accompanied him on the ground as part of The Streets’ launch.

Albuquerque said: “It was a really feel-good moment because everyone told me that I couldn’t get that done and actually, we did!”

BATCA gave Environment awards to Jean Millar as Balham’s environment champion and the Tooting Community Garden, for providing a growing and learning space for all.

Dr Irshad Hussain, a Tooting GP, volunteer imam and community leader, and Basia Klimas-Sawyer, a social and cultural leader of the Polish community for over 40 years, were awarded for Health and Wellbeing.

The Furzedown Project, a community centre supporting the elderly, also received a Health and Wellbeing award.

Dave Mauger, editor of Tooting Newsie, won an award for general community support.

BANGING ON THE ROOF: Walsh playing his Wheel of Drums on Tooting Broadway Tube Station’s roof. Credit: Brian Albuquerque

Arts awards were given to Jatinder Verma MBE, the Founder of Tara Arts Theatre, the Liberty Choir, a volunteer choir at Wandsworth Prison, and Jayson Singh and Weavie Stevie, community artists at the Scrapstore.

BATCA’s awards evening also included Q&A sessions with Jacqueline Totterdell, the chief executive of St George’s Hospital, Adil Javid, owner of Royal Mahal restaurant, and Ann Keane-Maher, interim headteacher at Ernest Bevin College.

A special round of thanks was given to the 17 individuals and teams assessed as Highly Commended.

MP Dr Rosena Allin Khan closed the event by commending the impressive community response during the initial Covid crisis and emphasised the importance of community action and support exemplified by BATCA’s heroes.

BATCA is a network of local organisations that aims to encourage closer links between all sections of the local community, drawing together faith, business, voluntary and public bodies.

You can check out their website here.

Featured image credit: Kitty Grant

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