"True local hero" up for national award

An inspirational volunteer who helps broaden the horizons of young people in his area has been nominated for a national award. 

Anthony Garner has been a Notting Hill Housing tenant in Lambeth since 2010. He is one of nine candidates for Inspirational Tenant/Resident of the Year at the 2017 Housing Heroes Awards and says he is “honoured” to be one of the nominees.

It was while living at Oak Square that he realised despite living in London, young people in the area rarely ventured beyond their neighbourhoods. He set about trying to show children a different cultural perspective and organised for young people and their parents to attend a ballet at the Royal Opera House.

The first visit was such a success that Anthony went on to secure funding for a full programme of visits in 2017, including Kew Gardens, the Tate Modern and London Zoo.

Anthony visited a variety of businesses in his area seeking financial support while also working with the Community Engagement Officer at the Royal Opera House, who normally only provide discounted tickets for schools, to extend their support to youngsters on his estate.

The scheme has been so popular he’s now looking into forming a charity and taking the idea to other members of the G15 group of housing associations.

Anthony, who will turn 70 just days after the award ceremony, said: “It all started when I went to the ballet with a friend. After I left my mind turned to the people here. I see young people kicking balls against walls and little bits of anti-social behaviour and I felt it would be really good for people in Oak Square to come along.

“I wanted to see what I could do to engage people on a cultural level and see whether it would give people more pride in where they live.

“My favourite trip was Kew Gardens. I was worried our group would all clump together all day but they didn’t and as the day went on I was so delighted to see everyone smiling because they’d all discovered things that they’d never seen before.

“I have 25-30 places in mind that I’d love to arrange visits for, including the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. There is more to where you live than where you are domiciled. Once you realise that, your world expands and you realise you’re in an amazing place and London is an amazing city.”

Jackie Thomas, Business Improvement Manager at Notting Hill Housing, who nominated Anthony for the award, said: “Not only has Anthony given the youngsters a way to learn about the world and develop new skills, he is showing them the best of what their city has to offer. They are receiving a chance to build passions that would otherwise have been untapped and contribute positively to their own neighbourhood, building self-confidence in the process. For that, Anthony is a true local hero.”

The winner of the award will be announced at a ceremony in Manchester on 26 June.