Annual Gala 2024

Annual Gala 2024

Last Thursday we held our Annual Gala at the Mercure Hotel in Manchester, celebrating everyone in our Creative Support community who has won an award over the last 12 months. With around 200 people in attendance, the suite was filled with pride, joy and laughter from the people we support, staff, family and friends.

Chair of the Board Joolz Casey welcomed everyone to the stunning venue and gave us a bit of history about our Annual Gala. The Gala first started in 2016, and this year marks our first year back after COVID! “Today is really about trying to celebrate and give you something for all of your hard work, and recognising the shiny people that you are,” said Joolz.

After the welcome speech, it was time for everyone to enjoy a delicious three-course lunch with their choice of menu items. Choices included prawn cocktail, salad or soup for starter, and grilled chicken breast, curry or ravioli for main, with a decadent chocolate brownie for dessert.

After lunch we celebrated the winners of Creative Stars awards, which was relaunched in 2023 and highlights the achievements of the people we support. Service Director Jenni Pearson-Butterfield and Sven, who we support in the North East helped to present the awards. Sven is a Community Champion Award winner for his dedication to fundraising for the North East Forum. “I’m pleased to have won this award. At the end of the day it’s all about the people and the people who support us, they do a tremendous job and I’d like to thank you all.”

All the Creative Stars came up to the front to have a group photo and talk about why they won their award. Cassie in Middlesbrough, winner of the Eco-Friendly award, shared her passion for wildlife preservation. “I go out and take five bags of rubbish to help the wild animals, we have so many in desperate need for help, It’s a passion I’ve had since I was a little girl.”

Joanne in Whitby won a Positivity award for making friends in her service. “I found it hard to get to know everyone where I live, and then slowly I got to know everyone and hopefully I can help people where I live.” 

“I love everybody, I love all my friends here!” said Edward in Manchester, who also won a Positivity Award.

We then had our first break for entertainment, as Carolyn in Manchester shared her wonderful poetry and inspired the audience with her words. Her poem, inspired by the film Godzilla vs Kong, expressed the need for a world with patience, peace, love and understanding.

Carolyn

Next, it was time to celebrate our wonderful We Care Award winners. Service Director Sam Priestley introduced the newly rebranded awards that focus on our six values- Welcome, Empowering, Compassionate, Aspirational, Respectful and Effective. “It is absolutely linked that Creative Support couldn’t be where it is without our staff.”

Jean Brookfield, winner of our We Care Customer Care Award, shared a few words. “I’m so proud to work for a beautiful company. We’re like one big family, and I wanted to say thank you so much for my nomination.”

Time for more entertainment! Anne-Marie from Stockton, previous winner of Creative Together’s Eurovision Song Contest last year, brought the house down with her powerful cover of Let It Go. Anne-Marie had an emotional meaning behind the song, which she shared with the audience and certainly brought tears to our eyes. “I like to sing because it makes me happy and I hope to make everyone proud at the Gala today. One in 5 people get cancer, and I want to say don’t be scared- you are a strong fighter and we’re all in this together.”

Tyler volunteers at our Creative Together in Manchester, and shared a beautiful poem titled ‘The Real Me’, read by staff member Lauren Norton. Here is an extract:

“Towards the sky it rockets, my self confidence / To recognise my capability and confidence / When in my heart it’s raining and I’m feeling low / They bring out the sunshine followed by a rainbow.”

“Ten years ago my life fell apart,” said Tyler. “I lost my sight and was diagnosed with autism and a mental health condition. I was in and out of hospital for ten years. Two and a half years ago I started volunteering with Creative Together, and it literally saved my life. Now, I’ve not been in hospital for four years.”

What an incredible achievement Tyler, thank you for vulnerability in sharing your story and your beautiful poetry with us all.

Our final awards of the night were in celebration of our Volunteer Appreciation Award winners, honouring those who devote their time to helping out at activities, services, Head Office and beyond. Joining us on the stage was Annabel Harvey and John from Manchester, and Kath from Warrington.

Kath said: “Thank you very much for this award, it’s all down to the staff as they’re beautiful.”

“I love working with staff at Head Office,” said John.

Afterwards, we had an open stage to encourage anyone to come up who had something they would like to share. From expressing what Creative Support means to them, to talking about their award, to sharing their experiences and telling us funny anecdotes, it was an honour hearing from everyone. Stevie G from Creative Together expressed how much the centre means to him, and his dedication to creating a fundraising event. “I’ve had a hard time with my mental health, but because I go to the centre, I’m with the staff members and I thank you all so much for all your support. I hope I give as much back as what you give me.”

To close out the day, Chief Executive Anna Lunts took to the stage to express what a brilliant day it had been. “I’d like to thank everyone that’s made the effort to come down and attend today. I felt really proud of the award winners, but also everyone who works so hard to provide our services day in and day out. If you were invited but unable to attend this year I hope you can attend our next gala. I really felt that the whole day represented our values and was Welcoming, Empowering, Compassionate, Aspirational, Respectful and Effective!”

It wouldn’t be a Creative Support event without a disco, where DJ Errol span the tunes while everyone boogied down on the dancefloor until home time. What a day!

 

Lauren, Marketing and Communications Manager said “What a fantastic day! It was lovely to spend time with so many members of our Creative Support community from across the country. I’m so proud, as always, of our amazing Marketing team for making this happen.”

Thank you to everyone who came along to make this day so special- from our award winners, staff helpers, entertainers, impromptu speech makers, and supportive family and friends, it was an unforgettable day. We’re counting down the days until next year!

Read some of the quotes from our guestbook and see our photo gallery below:

“Love the party!” – Jimmy, Grimsby

“Today has been brilliant, thank you Creative Support.” – Sue, Support Worker

“I am glad I’m here.” – Carol, Grimsby

“Thank you to everyone who made the Gala day happen, and well done to all for entertainment. A lot of us from CT got up on stage as it was such an encouraging environment.” – Carolyn, Manchester

“I won a positivity award, I have loved coming here on the train with my mum and my friend Christopher and my support staff. Thank you for listening to my speech, I have had the best day.” – Andrew

“I felt famous today and want to feel like that every day. I want other people to get up on stage and feel the same.” – Anne Marie, Stockton

 

Photo gallery: