25 June 2010
Only the stoniest of hearts could have failed to be moved by the stories of courage, tenacity, selflessness and philanthropy we heard when Inspiration were invited to perform for the second time at the annual Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards lunch at the Royal Armouries, Leeds, on June 27.
Now in its 24th year, the awards are organised and hosted by Sue Ryder Care in aid of Wheatfields Hospice. A cast of hundreds was assembled from all walks of life in a hall that was beautifully dressed in silver and lilac, topped off with giant purple satin bows, and silver and purple balloons.
Inspiration’s dear friend and BBC Radio Leeds presenter Liz Green compered the ceremony with her customary style and aplomb. While nominees and other guests enjoyed their lunch, more than 200 members of Inspiration assembled outside the venue for warm-ups and a brief impromptu performance for appreciative passers-by.
We quietly filed into the back of the venue once lunch was over, and from our vantage point were able to enjoy the inspiring stories of the stunning women who were given awards in different categories.
They included details of philanthropic work done by an alcoholic turned multimillionaire businesswoman, 32 years’ service to Sue Ryder Care by another winner, and the moving choice of overall Woman of Achievement to Kitty McGeever, the blind actress who plays irrepressible Lizzie Lakely in ITV’s popular drama ‘Emmerdale’.
Her story of triumph over adversity, which encompasses not only her own disability but the loss of a dear sister in childhood and her own precious 15-month-old little boy to fatal illness touched every heart and justifiably brought the crowd to their feet.
Touchingly, Kitty was overwhelmed and seemed truly humbled by the recognition. No-one can have left this amazing occasion without vowing to be more stoical in the face of whatever life might throw at them.
Inspiration sang the highly appropriate ‘Climb Every Mountain’ and ‘Candle On The Water’, and with the emotions of so many in the audience already very close to the surface, it was no surprise that we spotted more than a few wet faces around us. We felt truly inspired and could have sung all night!
By Sheena Hastings