Preserving pens and finding fossils: The Queen's Voluntary Award


It's not a date at the forefront of many people's minds, but on 2 June each year special awards are given out by the Queen.

They're not for individual brilliance or bravery, but honour organisations as diverse as an appreciation society for pens and an entertainment magazine featuring an appraisal of Harry Styles' acting skills.

Winners get a certificate signed by the Queen, a domed glass crystal, and an invitation to a royal garden party.

BBC News looks at examples from across England from each of the 10 categories of the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.


Image copyright Lee Haynes
Image caption Is the pen mightier than the sword? When it comes to the Queen's Volunteer Award, yes it is

Did you know that almost everything written in the world during the 19th Century was done with a Birmingham-made pen? And then Laszlo Biro went and ruined it all.

For those concerned about the lasting legacy of writing implements, there's no need to fear. The Birmingham Pen Trade Heritage Association is one of 13 winners in the Heritage category.

The association runs a museum established in a former pen factory in the city's Jewellery Quarter where visitors are urged to "immerse themselves in the exciting world of pens and calligraphy".

There's a collection of more than 5,000 objects related to the Birmingham steel pen trade and the history of writing.

Friends of Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre in Dorset is also a recipient of the award. The centre provides information on fossils, fossil hunting and local coastal and marine wildlife. It was set up in 1985 to "encourage safe and sustainable collecting of Jurassic fossils from the local beaches".

Image copyright Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre
Image caption Found in 1994 by Chris Moore, this is a very rare type of fish and this specimen is fantastically preserved and complete, the centre says

The Arts

Image copyright Burwarton Show
Image caption "We've won an award from the Queen, my horsey friend"

This year there are 13 groups getting a nod in the Arts section, ranging from the urban Positive Images Festival in Coventry to the rural Burwarton and District Agricultural Society in Shropshire.

Positive Images began in 1995 as a one-day book fair and has grown to a three-week festival of music, dance, drama, literature and storytelling - and the city's very own Lady Godiva.

The Burwarton agricultural show is about to mark its 125th year. Not only will the show feature traditional attractions such as tractors, cattle and horticulture but also camel racing and some dancing diggers.

The Stanley Spencer Memorial Trust in Cookham, Berkshire, is another recipient. Dedicated to preserving the memory and work of war artist Sir Stanley Spencer, who lived locally, the trust organises lectures and craft sessions in the Stanley Spencer gallery.

Works currently on display include "lush plants and flowers, together with gardens, green spaces, landscapes and river scenes.

"Amid this rich display are paintings that directly remind us of the spiritual nature of Spencer's work: biblical happenings, emanations of cemeteries, and the emotional resonances of some of Spencer's finest double portraits."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Pictured in 1932, Stanley Spencer at work in his studio in Cookham


Image copyright Skem Men-Aces
Image caption Mike describes himself "the Goalie for the greatest team on this earth"

Recipients for the sports category enjoy a bit of word play, with Skem Men-Aces and Box Cleva two of the nine winners.

The Skem Men-Aces is a football team solely for adults with learning disabilities based in Skelmersdale, Lancashire. With a motto of "persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement", more than 40 players make up the squad, which won a "magnificent silver medal" at the Special Olympics National Games in 2013.

Box Cleva in Hertfordshire was originally set up by the county's fire and rescue service before becoming a charitable association. It's based on the sport of amateur boxing, but as it's non-contact it revolves around the training a boxer would undertake.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Box Cleva is based around the training an amateur boxer would undertake, but is non-contact

Social centre/Community

Image copyright Fixers
Image caption One of the Fixers created a leaflet to help people spot the signs of depression and how to get help

A massive 42 organisations get the award in this category, including Nine Red Presents in Luton and Hampshire-based Fixers.

Debra Knight of Nine Red started the group in 2001, after being a victim of domestic violence and rape. Debra, suffering severe social phobia, depression and anxiety was unable to work outside of the house.

So she used spoken word, dance and digital art to work through her issues. The group uses art as a means to cope and heal.

Fixers "are young people using their past to fix the future... motivated by personal experience to make positive change for themselves and those around them".

The organisation helps people to start their own projects about issues they feel strongly about - including eating disorders, drugs, offending and cyber-bullying - by helping to "produce a unique film, a leaflet or poster campaign, a website, an event or workshop".

More unusual campaigns include "Young Cumbrian women battle against pole dancing's sleazy reputation" and "Wiltshire schoolgirls on a mission to protect bees".

Image copyright Nine Red Presents
Image caption Nine Red Presents offers counselling and mental health services through art

Emergency response

Image copyright Kent Search and Rescue
Image caption They looked this happy before they knew they had an award from the Queen....

A phalanx of community responders are honoured in this category, including Kent Search and Rescue and Derbyshire-based Aquabox, which sends water filters and emergency supplies around the world.

The Kent team has been called out on more than 200 occasions over the past three years, helping to find missing people, especially vulnerable ones such as those with dementia, autism or mental illness.

Aquabox, set up by the Rotary Club of Wirksworth, has helped communities in Syria, Gambia, Philippines, Guatemala and Haiti.

Image copyright Aquabox
Image caption Aquabox sent supplies to Haiti after an earthquake rocked the island in 2010

Environment and regeneration

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dozens of swimmers take part in a New Year's Day dip at Clevedon Marine lake. Timid dogs aren't compulsory

Kepple Lane Park Trust and Marine Lake Enthusiasts are two of the 10 award-winners in this category.

The Marine Lake Enthusiasts - or Marlens - are all about Clevedon Marine Lake in North Somerset.

It's a body of water made by enclosing part of Salthouse Bay and was first documented in meeting records as far back as 1896.

It opened in 1929, becoming popular with fashionable bathers. It's equipped with changing cubicles, deckchairs, a diving platform and a pavilion.

The Kepple Lane gang turned an area of wasteland in Garstang, Lancashire into an award-winning park, complete with a toddler playground, two sensory gardens, an outdoor gym, a community orchard and vegetable bed, a performance stage, a bog garden, tranquil seating areas, a youth shelter and a willow walkway.

Image copyright Kepple Lane Park Trust
Image caption Passers-by are encouraged to help themselves from the vegetable plot, so long as they only take what they will personally eat


Image copyright The Ticker Club
Image caption Having a heart-to-heart at the Ticker Club

There are 23 award-winners in the health category.

The Ticker Club is an association of ex-patients who have undergone some form of open-heart surgery or other cardiac procedures at the North West Heart Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital.

It gives practical advice and moral support to patients, before and after surgery - and also raises funds through charity golf days, raffles and sponsored events.

The Princess Alice Hospice Bereavement Service offers support to people after the death of a loved one.

The hospice, in Esher, Surrey has a team of trained volunteers to help families through the stages of grief. They've also set up a special "man shed" for a group the team describes as "the missing men".

"They can be bereaved husbands and partners who are feeling lost without their 'other half'.

"Or male patients who are attempting to deal with their terminal illness and are now being cared for themselves.

"Or they can be men whose wife or partner is dying and whose role in life is now to be their carer."

It's not a metaphorical shed - it's to be kitted out with everything from tools to tea mugs, and the campaign was launched with the help of sports presenter John Inverdale.

Image copyright PAH
Image caption John Inverdale helped the Princess Alice Hospice 'Man Shed' campaign

Playscheme and Youth

Image copyright Xplode
Image caption Xplode Magazine was set up to "combat negative stereotypes of young people"

There were six recipients in this category.

Xplode magazine in Bolton gives young people a voice and the chance to develop skills needed for employment. It came about in September 2011, when a group of friends got together "to help combat negative stereotypes of young people".

Articles include "5 times Little Mix spoke their mind and inspired us all" and "Niall Horan talks about Harry Styles' acting…"

Eastleigh Youth and Community Trust in Hampshire provides "educational, social and recreational activities for children, young people and the residents of Eastleigh".

The trust set up a community building called Pavilion on the Park, which is a youth and community building sited on the borough's urban country park. It also runs a project for more than 500 disabled people who can use a fleet of adapted cycles designed for varying disabilities, and a not-for-profit community coffee shop, The Blackbird Cafe.

Image copyright Pavilion on the Park
Image caption The Blackbird Cafe is a not-for-profit community coffee shop. With union jacks

Self help/Support

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption People with aphasia have difficulty with speech after sustaining injury to the language section of the brain, although intelligence is not affected

Coffee Tots in Coventry and Speakeasy in Bury are two of 11 recipients in the Self help/Support category.

Coffee Tots was set up and run by parents who "know how challenging and sometimes lonely it can be raising children".

There's a community cafe and the group runs a variety of courses to "help improve family life", such as family cookery, money management and IT skills.

Speakeasy is for people with aphasia, a communication difficulty which can happen after damage to the language parts of the brain.

The group says the condition is different for each person.

"Some people can have severe difficulties and can feel locked inside their head unable to make sense of what other people are saying to them and unable to express simple messages.

"Other people have problems with spelling, reading single words or long sentences. Many people with aphasia have problems in finding the word they want to say - like having something on the tip of their tongue all the time."

Image copyright Coffee Tots
Image caption Coffee Tots supports mums and dads who might feel "the job of parenting is the job they are least prepared for in life"

Social preventative scheme

Image copyright Tower Hamlets Air Cadets
Image caption The squadron received a civic award in recognition of the contribution it makes to the local community

There were five recipients in this category, including Tower Hamlets Air Cadets and the Good Shepherd Ministry in Wolverhampton.

The squadron was formed in the wake of the 2011 riots and is open to 13 to 20 year olds providing training and recognised qualifications, "as well as instilling the principles of self-discipline, self-confidence and good citizenship" - as well as giving them the chance to learn to fly.

The Good Shepherd Ministry assists the homeless "and others in need", providing practical assistance in the form of food, clothing, bedding and toiletries.

The ministry was begun in 1972 by a Roman Catholic religious order of Brothers, The Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, which has projects to help the poor in many countries on all continents.

Image caption The Good Shepherd Ministry provides practical help, such as food and toiletries


Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Braille IT teaches blind and visually impaired people Braille

Ten groups get an award in the Education category - Braille IT in East Lancashire is one of them and Citizens Advice Guernsey is another.

Braille IT offers free tuition in Braille to blind or visually impaired people, their parents and carers; as well as a service transcribing print into Braille.

Citizens Advice Guernsey has earned the award for its "outstanding voluntary work within its field".

Image copyright CAB

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