Below is this years Outstanding Leadership finalists.

You can find out more about each finalist and the inspiring work they have done by clicking on the image below.

Vote for your finalist

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This poll has ended (since 8 months).

Andy King

"It is rare that a leader can not only inspire the organisation that they lead, but also profoundly influence and rally a whole sector at the same time. It is clear that Andy King is doing just that on multiple fronts.

Andy became CEO of Link4Life a charitable trust exclusively delivering leisure and cultural services on behalf of Rochdale Borough Council. It was financially ailing and traditional in its approach. Andy’s tenure saw it recover, innovate and re-imagine itself as Your Trust – the same entity but with a community-centric identity.

It was whilst he was undertaking that transformation that Andy became Chair of GM Active, and it is in this capacity, that saw him truly emerge and demonstrate the breadth and depth of his incomparable skills of modern leadership.

Andy is a challenger and an influencer. However, his humility and skill is in his capacity to connect, collaborate and bring together talent. He does this out of an expressed belief that change and progression is a product of harnessing the energy and value of others – the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts!

His success during his tenure as Chair of GM Active has arguably been defined by the events of the pandemic and the collective’s subsequent response.

Andy recognised himself, and through testing his beliefs with others, concluded that recovering effectively from those catastrophic events would require significant and transformational change. He recognised that ‘public sector leisure’ had lost its purpose and was insufficiently serving those sections of communities who needed it the most.
He set about having the courage of his convictions and leading an initiative that sought to re-imagine traditional services. By challenging convention and appreciating that ‘active well-being’ was simply an element that if connected with other parts of societies system could more capably contribute to population health……and in doing so it would far more likely have a deeper effect on the physical, mental and social well-being of communities.

It is the vision of shifting from leisure to health and from centres to communities, that has resonated not just within Greater Manchester but across the UK – amongst sector leaders and into the bowels of government.

Audiences listen because Andy is grounded and pragmatic but challenging and visionary, and he influences because he listens, and he refuses to be judgmental. He just wants what’s right not easy!"

Everybody Leadership Team

"In 2022 the new Everybody Leadership Team (ELT) was formed following the retirement of the previous CEO.

To enable recovery from the impact of the pandemic (financial reservices decimated, employee headcount reduced, memberships at an all-time low) a refreshed & sustainable leadership team was needed, one that could lead at pace and kickstart a period of organisational change against a backdrop of significant external change/disruption. New leadership roles were created through both internal promotions & external appointments and included a new focus on digital.

The ELT implemented a new 3-year business plan, rebrand, 8 commitments to the community & our people, and self-commissioned services (e.g. long covid rehab). Through these, the ELT re-energised teams across the business – enabling rapid but sustainable re-upscaling in our mission to recover and re-grow bigger and better.

The ELT increased collaboration; internally, improvements in data collation & analysis enabled increased transparency of performance information across teams & departments – creating awareness & understanding to help drive business results; and externally both existing & new partner organisations were developed & strengthened (e.g. CEC, Active Cheshire, and sub-regional groups, CCGs/ICSs, health networks, GPs).

Being ‘open-for-business’ with partners resulted in unexpected opportunities being grasped e.g:
• Resilience in Leisure lead organisation
• Active Kindness pilot Trust
• Substantial facility investments at 4 centres realised

Alongside enabling our core business-as-usual activities/plans to continue, there were unexpected challenges for ELT to contend with; including eleventh hour management fee negotiations, the cost-of-living crisis affecting customers & our people, and delays to the new Congleton Leisure Centre (CLC) project. Then we lost a dear colleague; our exceptional HR apprentice 19-year-old Mia Jennings who’d personally been so important in our determination to navigate a tight and challenging labour market to re-grow our teams.

Despite these challenges ELT continued to lead our ‘working as one’ culture and ultimately enabled our best performance year in 2022-23. Key achievements:
• All 8 commitments exceeded
• Highest customer survey score (8.51/10)
• More employees (>1,000) and customers (>20,000 fitness, >10,00 learn-to-swim) than pre-pandemic
• Delivered our most generous pay award to date
• Delivered self-commissioned Long Covid programme
• External awards/recognition - Cheshire and Merseyside Social Value Award, Contribution to the Community, Best Company to Work For, IIP.
• Enabled the opening of CLC – a site with two new swimming pools.
• 25%+ increase in £ turnover
• reserves replenished & at highest level in 9 years.

Ultimately ensuring our strongest organisational & financial position to secure the organisation’s future."

Glen Hall

"Glen has led Parkwood through a transformational period, both for the business and the industry, whilst retaining a focus on supporting an active nation. This has necessitated significant change in both the organisational structure and the way in which services are delivered to our local communities, learning from the disruptions during the pandemic and recognising the changes in customer needs and behaviours.

Having worked for Parkwood for more than 25 years, Glen’s career has progressed from leisure centre manager to business leader, culminating in Parkwood being named Operator of the Year in 2022 and Towcester being recognised as Centre of the Year.

Glen has led the development of a new Corporate Strategy and Business Plan and has championed the core values of the organisation, captured through our DNA. The organisation has a clear 3-year business plan, alongside clarity of purpose and objectives, which allow us to be at the forefront of industry innovation. Our ‘multiple bottom line’ approach recognises the role we can play in community development, environmental protection, financial sustainability and workforce development, allowing business decisions to be taken in a holistic manner, integrating with the needs of the industry.

Bringing this to life, this has resulted in significant investment in energy reduction and green energy technologies, development of ‘my healthy way’ health & wellbeing portfolio and investment in a completely new learning management system, with the aim of long-term upskilling and development of our people - this manifested in more than 60% of appointments being from internal promotion in 2022. Leading monthly departmental briefings, Glen supports and encourages employees to remain motivated and driven in line with the corporate and community objectives.

Glen’s own commitment to continuous learning is demonstrated through his participation in an externally delivered Management Coaching programme in 2022, whilst he continues to personally support both UK Active, especially their CEO, and Sport England in sector recognition and development - Parkwood has championed the role that Moving Communities can play in demonstrating the impact of our sector and, in 2022, we delivered £67.98m in social value across the estate. Our most recent average NPS score across the estate is 37 (‘great’), reflecting the positive customer-focused culture of the organisation."

Jamie Groves

"Jamie Groves became Managing Director of Denbighshire Leisure Ltd (DLL) in 2019, prior to the company’s launch in 2020. His career began at the age of 18 as a leisure attendant, and since then he has worked at virtually every level within the industry. His ambition, positivity and passion for all things leisure saw him become the youngest Head of Leisure in Wales at the age of 30, whilst working for Denbighshire County Council.

Then, Leisure was a single local authority service, and following a Wales Audit Office review, was considered to be in special measures. Fast forward fourteen years, and Jamie’s dynamism and motivational leadership has transformed that single service in need of total modernisation, into a thriving company made up of over 20 distinct brands, including ‘best in class’ adventure play areas, restaurants, tourist attractions, theatre, craft centre, leisure clubs and leisure sites. For Jamie, achieving his goal of establishing DLL was the culmination of years of hard work, and by transferring facilities from the Council to the company, stakeholders showed enormous trust and confidence in his inspirational leadership. Jamie has always led by example, and has put to excellent use the knowledge and experience he has gained throughout his career, which along with his energy and commitment, have earned him endless respect across peers and employees.

DLL is now recognised for sector-leading facilities and practices, and the development of leisure in Denbighshire has had a huge impact on the population of the county, who now access leisure provision which is a thriving example of best practice. Jamie’s ambitious programme of investments has secured jobs, generated employment and stimulated the local economy. This transformation has also acted as a catalyst for much broader, positive change. In addition to his MD role, Jamie conceived the idea for the UK Leisure Framework (famously whilst sitting on a beach in Ibiza), which is owned by DLL and operates in partnership with Alliance Leisure Ltd. The framework offers business solutions for major leisure projects including the design, refurbishment, construction and development of leisure centres, theatres, recreation facilities and sports facilities across the UK. To date, UKLF has helped deliver over 100 developments, totalling over £135 million, with the potential value of the framework over its term totalling £2 billion, which will transform UK leisure facilities over coming years, and bring opportunities to many people to become more active, more often."

Jason Fergus

"Jason Fergus is one of the most charismatic leaders in our physical activity sector, demonstrated by his outstanding leadership of Active Essex over the past 10-years. His popularity is shaped by his larger-than-life character, friendly nature, and infectious smile.

Jason’s leadership of Active Essex has seen the organisation triple in size, become an £8m+ a year operation, launch a ground-breaking 10-year strategy owned by the system, win and deliver a Sport England Local-Delivery-Pilot, run a £4m+ per-year school holiday activities/food programme, launch a first-of-its-kind £2m behaviour change campaign called Find Your Active, secure over £3m to launch a major free-bikes programme for deprived communities, and the founder/trustee of a successful physical activity charity for Essex.

His talents have been recognised by Sport England, appointed to their Board at the start of 2023. Chris Boardman, Chairman, contributed, “Jason is a born leader. He has two great characteristics – firstly, an incredibly strategic brain that sees a clear vision for the future and how to get there – secondly, strong values that demonstrate genuine compassion for everyone he works with.”

An example of Jason’s strategic thinking is bringing the prestigious mass-participation cycling event RideLondon to Essex. The event is so successful that it is secured until 2025, bringing in £millions for Active Essex to invest in community sport/physical activity, and provides a fantastic platform to promote cycling across Essex.

Essex County Council Deputy-Leader, Cllr McKinlay, commented “Jason has impressed me with his ability to develop strong and lasting relationships, leading to so many sectors and organisations backing the 10-year strategy to drive up physical activity levels across Essex, especially in our levelling-up places.”

Another key strength is his commitment to workforce development and distributed leadership. Jason is a firm believer in the power of an ‘eco-system’ rather than a ‘ego-system’. Jason is often heard saying, “Silo’s are where smart people go to do dumb things”. This typifies his total belief in continuous upskilling, and the sharing of power.

Jason has been inspired by the enormous challenge of leading one of the 12 Sport England Local-Delivery-Pilots, a large, complex programme that fully embraces system-working, place-based working, and asset-based-community-development to tackle population levels of physical inactivity.

Jason is passionate about ED&I associated with his Caribbean heritage. Jason plays a national role on diversity for the network of 43 Active Partnerships, and through his leadership, Active Essex is fully compliant with the highest standards for ED&I."

Jubilee Hall Leadership Team

"The Jubilee Hall Trust Leadership Team (L.T) has exemplified extraordinary resilience, innovation, and determination in navigating the organization through its toughest period. Formed in the aftermath of the pandemic, the L.T faced substantial staff losses and financial challenges that threatened the trust's very existence. However, their unwavering commitment and strategic acumen not only saved the charity but also transformed it into a thriving and resilient entity.

Despite encountering limited resources, they showcased their adaptability and evolution as a cohesive and dynamic commercial team. Each manager contributed a unique set of skills and competencies prioritizing the improvement of cash flow, community engagement, and fostering a positive organizational culture.

They willingly embraced additional responsibilities, diligently analysing sales trends, enhancing customer retention, promoting community engagement, and prioritizing staff well-being. They actively sought guidance and support using external mentors, while fostering a supportive environment within the team, addressing mental health concerns, and facilitating mutual growth.

To broaden the charity's impact and value, the L.T forged robust partnerships with renowned organizations such as Peloton, Speed flex, Hydrow, Precor, Stages. Through these collaborations, they secured new equipment acquisitions without incurring additional costs. Moreover, the team actively supported the development of Brawn's innovative app and successfully negotiated contract extensions with esteemed clients, including the House of Commons. Additionally, they solidified the trust's presence in the heart of London by securing a new lease in Hampstead, while also partnering with the Central YMCA to provide reciprocal gym access.

The L.T extended their efforts beyond core operations, introducing impactful initiatives such as providing free memberships for the homeless, blind yoga classes, senior fitness programs, implementing exercise referral schemes, and even pioneering Puppy Yoga to promote mental health and well-being. Furthermore, they consistently sought input from junior staff through monthly meetings to enhance the overall work environment.

Through their unwavering dedication, the L.T successfully transformed the organization from a state of decline to one of growth, proactively capitalizing on emerging opportunities. Their steadfast commitment to team cohesion, demonstrated through regular meetings and engaging team activities, fostered a sense of unity and purpose among all staff members.

Their exceptional leadership and unwavering commitment have ensured the trust's survival during its most challenging period. They have not only safeguarded the charity's existence, but their remarkable achievements make them unquestionably deserving of this prestigious award, in recognition of their team work, reliance and outstanding contributions to the local community"

Mark Sesnan, OBE

"In 2022 Ex-CEO of charitable leisure social enterprise GLL, Mark Sesnan, OBE took up a new role – as Specialist Energy Advisor.

Mark supports the wider leisure sector operators and its governing/membership bodies (including ukactive, CLUK, CIMSPA and Swim England) by putting the case for leisure’s contribution to the health and wellbeing of the nation. More active communities save the Government money, he points out.

Mark leads on GLL’s energy and carbon reduction goals – from installing pool covers to turning down thermostats to timetabling changes.

Development plans put the environment at the heart of what we do and engage staff, partners and customers in our journey towards net zero.

Energy costs have tripled since 2019 – operators now face an existential threat from this and the cost of living crisis. Paradoxically, Government won’t categorise swimming pools as intensive energy users which favours budget operators without these facilities and no community responsibility.

Mark asks staff to ‘Respect The Planet’ visiting centres and engaging at all levels to make reducing energy use a first consideration. “If it is on, does it need to be on?” applies as much to office lights in unoccupied meeting rooms as to computers left on standby. Energy use has fallen by 9% saving hundreds of tonnes of carbon and £3m so far.

His work has kept pools open. Staff and customers are communicated with to explain how later starts and early finishes on some days and turning down the temperature by a single degree can make the difference between a pool staying open or not.

This has allowed swimmers in some of the poorest neighbourhoods experiencing health inequality to remain active.

Remarkably, swimming at GLL generates over £65m in Social Value each year.

Recent initiatives include solar panels on our HQ roof in Woolwich (powering our Customer Contact Centre) and at Charlton Lido (powering the gym) https://www.gll.org/b2b/newsitems/gll-s-green-gym-is-a-first

Mark’s passion for GLL is matched only by his commitment to the wider leisure sector. This ‘Father of Social Enterprise’ is a force for good in the purposed business sector.

Obstacles are seen as challenges to overcome and his great skill is enthusing colleagues across a business of 11,000 employees about our shared responsibilities to save energy and make our business sustainable.

Competencies have been created in communications both for customer service and centres to drive the Green agenda of our new Corporate Plan forward."

Mark Tweedie

"In 2021, Mark Tweedie, tasked with establishing a LACTO driving a key ambition; deliver exceptional health and financial outcomes with agility and dynamism.
Early progress was remarkable; a new vision, strategy, business plan, establishing the leisure contract and finalising plans for £46million capital investment project.
Delivering pace within challenging macro contexts, against the backdrop of post-pandemic, local government reorganisation; Mark’s mission was to transform conventional leisure services, establish a community health and wellbeing company and deliver financially and socially sustainable outcomes.

Challenges (strategic level):
Post-covid recovery, public-sector bureaucracy, £2million budget improvement, client change, board reconfiguration, significant cultural change.
Operationally: workforce shortages, redeployment issues, compounded by historical infrastructures.

Despite the metaphorical mountain, Mark led with compassion, credibility and strategic focus.

Achievements:
• Established coaching culture through devolved leadership
• Delivered a £700k surplus against budget
• Reduced management fee by c£1million
• Full covid recovery
• Transformed community centres to wellbeing hubs, generating £200pp of social value – beyond national average of £113pp
• Introduced new LMS
• Embedded new performance management framework
• Agreed mobilisation of additional district under company brand
• Delivered 3 major capital programmes
• Achieved VERY GOOD Quest assessment
• Achieved Water Wellbeing Accreditation estate wide
• Achieved VERY GOOD Active Communities Quest

Throughout this relatively short period, Mark has justified why he is one of the most impressive leaders in our sector. He has proven his value under the conventional definition of Director but simultaneously developed his personal and professional skillset; focused on people first cultures. Mark is acutely aware he is building a plane while flying it and the stakes are high, however he consistently demonstrates his personal values through behaviours attitudes and outputs, ultimately empowering his team.

Mark is a role model, leader and mentor combined. Mark might be paid as Managing Director of Brimhams Active but he is motivated and driven by his deep rooted commitment to improving the lives of communities through physical activity and the power of movement; a purpose intrinsically woven throughout cultures at Brimhams Active and reinforced through his exemplary leadership style.

To avoid bias, I’m reminded of a quote ‘People will forget what you said and what you have done, but they will never forget how you made them feel’ (Maya Angelou). For Mark Tweedie, his words and actions have left a lasting legacy on previous organisations; the same, true for Brimhams Active. It is however Mark’s relationships that define him as an outstanding leader and justify this nomination."

Simon Lane

"The lockdown periods of 2020 and 2021 meant that like many leisure operators, Serco Leisure started last year facing down an extremely challenging financial outlook. Very few people at the start of 2022 were predicting we would reach the end of it at close to parity.

Realistically, we were hoping to put a reasonable dent into the forecasted financial deficit, but that reckoned without the inspirational leadership of Managing Director, Simon Lane, who’s only been with the business since May 2021.

Simon, in just a short period, has revolutionised how we operate not just once, but twice.

Commercially, Serco Leisure v2023 bears little resemblance to the iterations of the business that came before Simon, but he’s also brought the company forward in terms of how we communicate with colleagues at every level.

The new staff engagement initiatives Simon introduced in 2022 (Ask Simon portal, Employee Voice Committees, back to the Floor Days…) ultimately led to a set of scores on our annual pulse-check employee survey, Viewpoint, that surprised and delighted everyone.

The survey has 30 questions. For every single question, there was an increase in employee satisfaction compared to 2021. This is almost unheard of. Overall engagement was up by a huge 5%.

Colleagues now feel more listened to, more valued, better able to get their voices heard than at any other point in the company’s history. Hyperbole? Not a bit of it. The numbers don’t lie, whether that’s a company overcoming a huge financial deficit to end 2023 in the best financial position for a decade or the Viewpoint scores, Simon’s leadership approach is having an impact at every level of the business.

Simon has caused a seismic shift in the fortunes of this business, but he’s done it in a very humble, self-effacing way. He’s the first to divert praise that comes his way towards the front-line and support colleagues who are the lifeline of the company. He’s quick to praise others, very quick to reward good work, and always looking for ways to make Serco Leisure better, as an operator and as an employer.

Our performance last year, and into 2023, has been nothing short of incredible. While this has obviously been a team effort, it’s been Simon’s leadership qualities which have truly defined the past two years for Serco Leisure. He has been outstanding and would be a worthy winner of this award in 2023."

Tom Goodhand

"Tom Goodhand has dedicated over 35 years to the leisure sector, specifically Places Leisure (formerly DC Leisure). Rising from entry level to his current position reporting to the CEO as Operations Director, Tom has pioneered change throughout his career, often leading the industry. This is driven by his selflessness, humanity and an undimmed appetite constantly to learn and develop.

Tom was the driving force behind the adoption of direct debits for health and fitness memberships in the UK public sector. He guided Places Leisure as the public sector leader in Quest accreditation. He also played an instrumental role in one of the first leisure facilities being outsourced in the UK in 1984. His passion and determination now focusses on living and breathing Places Leisure’s culture, to deliver our strategy to become the UK’s leading health and wellbeing enabler.

Whilst Tom has been hugely successful in driving growth and development, his leadership has been equally impressive in crisis. This was exactingly tested during the global pandemic three years ago. As the whole country went into lockdown, Tom guided almost 100 leisure centres, 6,500 staff and tens of thousands of customers through numerous closures and restrictions. Upon reopening, we received our best ever Net Promotor Score. More recently, during the cost-of-living crisis he has driven energy savings and maintained morale, leading to a 20% reduction in consumption and a 90% engagement rate in the annual Big Colleague Survey.

Tom leads with humility, care and respect. He is a firm believer in collaborative working, recognising that no one person has all the answers, but he also unflinchingly carries his accountability to deliver for our communities. The affection in which he is held is summed up in this quote from a colleague, “Not only is Tom my mentor, but he is also a great friend, and I am sure there are many others in the organisation that feel exactly the same.”

For his efforts, Tom has been recognised in the past, winning the FIA FLAME Centre of the Year award in 1998. In the same year he was a finalist for Manager of the Year. However, these do not fully recognise the sheer dedication, inspirational leadership and steadying hand that Tom Goodhand has provided over an exemplary career. He richly deserves this recognition which he would be astonished to receive."

Below is this years Physical Activity Hero finalists.

You can find out more about each finalist and the inspiring work they have done by clicking on the image below.

Vote for your finalist

Please note: you can only vote once per IP address/VPN. This means that organisations with multiple members of staff wishing to vote will need to do so either via their mobile data or alternative wifi connections.

This poll has ended (since 8 months).

Diane Friday

"Diane Friday is the ideal candidate for ukactive’s Physical Activity Hero Award. Throughout her career with Mytime Active, Diane has consistently demonstrated her dedication to promoting physical activity and transforming lives. Her story showcases her unwavering commitment to using physical activity as a means to improve health, happiness and overall well-being.

Starting as a fitness instructor at Mytime Active in 2002, Diane became an Exercise Specialist and subsequently Active Lifestyles Coordinator. Her extensive experience and passion led to her current position as Active Lifestyles Programme Manager.

Diane has been instrumental in the programme's growth and contributed significantly to the development of her team. Her continuous professionalism, numerous qualifications and exceptional teaching abilities have enhanced the quality and effectiveness of the programme.

Diane's impact can be witnessed through the programme’s impressive statistics, which consistently surpass national averages and meet the rigorous criteria set by the Integrated Care Board; 70% of programme completers have experienced at least a five-point improvement in their general health scores, and 60% continue to engage in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. With over 20 years of longevity and a remarkable 30,000 participants, the programme's success is a testament to her leadership and expertise.

Diane's impact is further evident through the testimonials of participants, whose lives she has positively influenced. Their stories speak of improved health, increased confidence and a transformed outlook on life. Her ability to connect with individuals and empower them to embrace physical activity is truly inspiring.

Diane actively engages in community outreach, delivering workshops to broaden the programme's reach. Her dedication is highlighted by her innovative approach, securing funding to support additional conditions, such as intermittent claudication. These initiatives address specific community needs and demonstrate Diane's commitment to ensuring physical activity is accessible to all, further contributing to the programme's impact. By continuously adapting and expanding offerings to support those who suffer from long-term conditions and do not have funding streams available to them, she has effectively addressed community issues and ensured the programme remains relevant and effective.

The result is a growing number of Health Memberships, which continues to rise from 80 members pre-COVID to 1200 currently. This showcases the tremendous influence Diane has in attracting individuals and demonstrating the transformative power of physical activity.

Diane’s outstanding contributions, extensive track record and unwavering dedication to improving lives make her a deserving candidate for the Physical Activity Hero Award."

Donna Whetlor

"Donna works for Fusion Lifestyle as a Stroke Rehabilitation Coordinator in Bedford and has been in her role for 9 years, helping 389 people so far.

Donna is dedicated to providing additional support to stroke and exercise on referral patients and embodies in the UK active mission in many ways:
- Donna provides an invaluable service that directly impacts patient recovery from serious health conditions
- she ensures that patients who complete the stroke programme are signposted to gym memberships as well as alternative stroke specific exercise opportunities to continue their recovery and help them go on to live healthy, active lives
- she goes above and beyond on a regular basis, often working with new and existing patients out of hours to ensure they get the support they need, when they need it
- Donna not only collaborates with the patients themselves but regularly works closely with carers and family members who play a key role in recovery and rehabilitation
- Donna has gone out of her way to provide alternative exercise opportunities such as badminton and group exercise to further support those in her care

Donna’s biggest achievement is the environment that she has created around both the Stroke Scheme and Exercise on Referral. Donna has created a friendly, accessible, community and can be regularly seen conversing with patients and family members alike away from the gym over a coffee. The community she has built now goes beyond Donna herself. Patients who have previously not known each other are now firm friends and large groups of Stroke and Exercise on Referral clients can regularly be seen gathering in the cafe long after their exercise sessions.

Donna should win the award in recognition of the passion she has for helping others. Working with stroke victims can be both mentally and emotionally draining, but this does not hinder Donna’s ability to approach each day and each client with the same energy and compassion."

Elaine Hutton

"Elaine’s story will be relatable to many. Not so long ago she was overweight and unhappy with how she looked, but was too self-conscious to do anything about it. It took a lot of courage for her to even walk into the Leisure Centre to try an aerobics class. But, once she saw the that the people in the class were friendly and welcoming, she was hooked.

Fast forward a few years and Elaine decides to quit her job in the city and volunteer at Bangor Aurora. Her goal was to qualify as Fitness Instructor so she could share what she’d learned on her journey, and hopefully motivate and inspire others within her community.

Upon qualifying she was instantly recruited at Aurora due to her outstanding work as a volunteer. Within her first year she qualified in GP Referral, chair-based exercise, pre- and post-natal and CanRehab. We have had the most successful GP Referral scheme in the region for many years - this is due to, in no uncertain terms, Elaine’s passion for helping others.

That same year, Elaine devised and delivered Aurora’s first ‘Weight Management Programme’, with the goal of breaking down barriers such as ‘I’m not fit enough to do classes’ or ‘I don’t have time to prepare food/go to the gym’. Due to the success of the programme, it was subsequently rolled out across more Serco Leisure sites.
Even during Covid she was livestreaming chair-based sessions every week. This year, she arranged Dementia Friendly Workshops for all Council and Leisure staff in the Borough to attend. Our facilities are now ‘Dementia Friendly’. Furthermore, she used ‘Dementia Action Week’ to launch a first of its kind Dementia-friendly class - ‘Keep Moving Together’.

She does several ‘Active Ageing’ classes across the Borough, hosts seminars for multiple user groups (including people with wide ranging illnesses/disabilities) and is the best advocate of physical activity we could ever ask for.

Lynda Williams, Alzheimer’s Society NI:
“Elaine epitomises what it means to support and encourage people to care for themselves. She is not only approachable and caring, but she has a way of making people feel they can achieve their goals.

“Elaine is an absolute star who makes the world a little brighter and is a pleasure to work with thanks to her enthusiasm, and her encouraging and determined nature. I can't think of anyone who is a better ambassador in her field.”

Helen Tite

"Founder of iCareiMove, Helen Tite, was 19 when her dad suffered a massive stroke. Left paralysed on one side and hospitalised for 18 months he survived for another 28 years but with further, serious health challenges.

Some of the poor healthcare Helen’s dad received, prompted Helen to become an exercise specialist, helping people with enduring health conditions to be more active. Helen’s team supports people to move more and age better, this is at the heart of everything they do.

When Covid-19 struck, Helen was delivering a community Falls Management Programme for Cornwall council called ‘MoveMore’ (based on the FaME model). The average age of the participants was 78 years old, a cohort advised to stay indoors. Helen worked tirelessly with her team to successfully create and transfer the entire programme to a digital model, the UK’s first, moving almost everyone online. The refined model has regularly been commissioned since the digital transformation, across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

iCareiMove are wellbeing providers and trainers specialising in falls prevention, female midlife health, dementia, and neurological conditions. Helen provides specialist training, championing marginalised groups, to seek ways to increase physical activity that leads to healthier outcomes. Her work with community groups, Public Health and NHSE helps to embed cultural change and develop education programmes across a wide range of topics such as menopause, resilience, and stress management alongside business coaching to create a healthy ageing workforce.

Helen’s Fall’s clients report increased confidence and independence, enabling them to drive, push grandchildren’s prams, losing their fear of being knocked over so they can dance at their daughter’s wedding, even developing wrist strength to open wine bottles! Most importantly, they are strong enough to get up safely if they fall at home alone.

Increased physical activity through attending Helen’s online classes reduces the impact on the NHS, enables parent/child relationships rather than parent/carer, and removes barriers for clients to access a fulfilling social network.

Helen has championed healthy ageing and prevention through physical activity for over 30 years. She has supported thousands of people living with chronic health conditions to move more and move better. From Nordic Walking pilot schemes for clients living with COPD, which are still running 20 years later, to the more recent digitals Falls Management. Her specialty is working with marginalised client groups, filling them with an enthusiasm to embrace life through improved physical activity and quality of life."

Jane Charlton

"We would like to nominate Jane Charlton, specialist instructor at Brimhams Active. Jane lives in Ripon, delivering classes across Ripon, Harrogate, and Knaresborough.

An instructor for Harrogate Borough Council’s Sport and Leisure service, and now Brimhams Active, for over twelve years. Jane has taught aquafit, adult weight management, exercise for Parkinson’s Disease, osteoarthritis, cancer, and the over-65’s. She leads on our exercise referral and falls prevention programmes and is also the lead for physical activity interventions for people with mental health issues.
Jane is down-to-earth, unfailingly kind, friendly, and empathetic, and always with a lovely smile on her face.

Having taken lifelong learning to heart, Jane is always undertaking CPD; studying in her own time, to improve her knowledge and skills, always with the aim to help more people, or help people more.

When Covid struck, Jane drove getting a lot of our classes online, many of which she delivered. This included setting up classes for Harrogate Council colleagues confined at home and struggling with the effects of lockdown.

Jane is a UK Athletics Run Leader and started a running group in Ripon, where she has helped so many people take-up, and enjoy running. One such lady, who came to Jane three years ago on two sticks due to osteoarthritis, ran the virtual London Marathon this year, with Jane at her side every step of the way.

Jane works mainly with people who might otherwise not take up physical activity; those with long-term health conditions, introducing them to the benefits of regular exercise, so that they are able to improve their quality of life. She welcomes, and supports them through their first classes, encouraging them to try other classes once their confidence grows. Most of these people have become full members – something they would never dreamed of doing before meeting Jane.

Jane has successfully developed new classes to meet the needs of her participants for progression routes, particularly within falls prevention.

Last year, Jane completed Swim England’s Aquatic Activity for Health course, so that she can now help those with long-term health conditions reap the significant benefits of water-based physical activity.

On her day off, Jane leads sessions for patients on Harrogate NHS’ award-winning Active Against Cancer service.

Jane is such an inspiring example to both her colleagues and participants alike, and so deserves to be recognised for making such a huge difference to so many lives."

Jonathan Michael

"Jonathan Michael joined GLL with 20 years’ experience of motivating teams to connect with the transformative power of physical activity. He leads a highly respected team of sporting and health professionals, connecting with stakeholders to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of communities across Belfast.

His vision and outstanding ability to inspire others has resulted in huge increases in membership (92%) and user visits (75% to 3.5m), making Belfast the 2nd largest GLL UK partnership.

Outside of work, Jonathan is a volunteer junior football coach. He is responsible for the introduction of Futsal to Northern Ireland, growing the sport from grassroots level to becoming head coach of the national team.

Under his leadership, GLL now offers a diverse range of community sport and health initiatives, ensuring harder to reach and vulnerable groups are provided for alongside mainstream members. He oversees a health intervention programme which, in 2022, supported over 1,000 participants with underlying health issues avail of tailored group exercise.

His belief in letting people try sport resulted in new programmes for Pickleball, Tennis, Diving, Climbing and Gymnastics, attracting participants aged 11-78 and adding 11 new coaches. In 2022, 1,000 more children learned to swim with us. Jonathan rolled out “Active Mornings” where seniors get involved in activities that not only encourage them to be active but also tackle social isolation. He reintroduced the holiday scheme programme giving 1,800 children the chance to try new activities and make friends in a safe environment.

He established a very successful student placement programme with Ulster University. Both students gained 4 additional qualifications. They continue to work with us as swimming teachers, gymnastics coaches and activity coaches.

Jonathan delivers a talented athlete programme in Belfast. 125 athletes receive financial, training and medical support. Jonathan is passionate about seeing our sporting talent excel on a national and global level and has encouraged a number of minority sports to avail of this programme.

Jonathan and his teams have an unwavering commitment to deliver programmes and services that have a positive impact on Belfast’s citizens. He motivates and develops his colleagues to ensure that goals and targets are achieved whilst offering an exemplary service. He thrives on breaking down barriers to participation, creating fun environments to learn and achieve, while adapting to the needs of customers and community pressures. Jonathan has an amazing passion for physical activity and continues to serve the community with renewed energy."

Karen Edmond

"Karen, has spent 34 years in the leisure industry, starting way back in 1989 as a leisure assistant. She progressed through a number of roles including, Fitness Instructor, before in 1994 taking a fulltime PE Degree. Still finding the time to work casually in the leisure sector. On graduating in 1997, she moved to Cornwall to start a career in Recreation & Sport Development, and made Cornwall her home. Her vocation was, and is still, to support people and communities, and to use physical activity to help improve health, happiness and wellbeing.

2021, coming out of Covid, people’s lives had been turned upside down, increased isolation, loneliness, and inactivity. Karen was the key instigator, working hard to have a transformational impact in improving the lives of local people who lived in areas of rurality and deprivation. Facing challenges but having the persistence to find solutions to overcome these and enable people to access activities.

She proved an important person driving the development and set up of Better Years Clubs, across a network of 5 leisure centre providers, through a partnership with Active Cornwall. All shared a vision to create opportunities for older adults to become active. The reach of this programme covered over 2184 unique attendances by adults with whom would not normally have engaged within activity. One attendee quoted saying, “My best Tuesday morning in a very long time. I was very sceptical and wasn’t going to come, now though I am really, really glad I did as I have had a brilliant morning.”
Her incredible ability to connect with people, understand the anxieties some individuals have to exercise, helped to build the concept of multi-activity sessions. Her exuberant personality, infectious and encouraging.

Going that extra mile, Karen engaged providers, communities, and participants, not just bringing people together, but delivered sessions herself to allay people’s apprehension and cautiousness about starting or returning to activity post Covid. She provided a listening ear to those struggling with other health issues, providing that empathy and understanding to putting their minds at ease, and giving them the confidence to change behaviour.

Without Karen’s go-getting energy, passion, enthusiasm, and her ability to connect people, the programme and current activities would not be continuing today.
Karen should win this award because she is passionate, motivated, inspirational to others, and still has the commitment to change people’s lives through physical activity, as she did 34 years ago."

Laura Gligan

"Laura Gligan is an exceptional individual who has dedicated her life to promoting physical activity and inspiring others to lead active and healthy lifestyles. She has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to encouraging people of all ages and abilities to embrace the benefits of regular physical activity as the key to unlock improved community wellness.

Key Achievements
Leading successful community fitness programs positively impacting the lives of hundreds of individuals. Like the ‘Match Fit Program’ – an innovative and inventive approach to targeting physically inactive in Manchester. In collaboration with MCFC, MCRactive and Five Oaks Family Practice, the sessions created and delivered by Laura left 90.9% of participants stated feeling better and the end of the session and 86.4% noticed improvements in their health since taking part.

Collaborating with private care home facilities in the North West providing crucial intervention services for the young residents (YR). Through specialised training, mentoring, and support, significant improvements were reported in the YRs overall mood, self-confidence, academic commitment, and wider engagement. Through the physical activity the YRs also found a positive outlet for their stressors and frustrations and have learned valuable life skills in how to manage these.

Using her personal life story of overcoming the devastating loss of both parents to cancer, Laura has become a relatable role model, showing others that physical activity can be a powerful tool for managing mental health and dealing with life’s stressors.

Embodying the UKactive mission

Inclusivity: Engaging with diverse communities and proactively reaching out to individuals who may face limited access to traditional fitness facilities or resources.

Education: Sharing not only the physical benefits but also the mental, emotional, and social well-being that physical activity can bring. Paying it forward for the next generation by personally funding fitness qualifications for local disadvantaged youths.

Improved physical health and mental well-being: Helping individuals achieve significant improvements in their overall physical and mental health, hereby playing a crucial role in preventing and managing chronic diseases associated with sedentary lifestyles.

Laura Gligan deserves to win this award due to her unwavering dedication, exceptional achievements, and profound impact on individuals' lives. She has made physical activity accessible and enjoyable for all, going above and beyond for the last 20 years. Her inclusive approach, advocacy efforts, and commitment to education have significantly contributed to the UKActive mission. Laura is a true physical activity hero, and her outstanding contributions make her a deserving candidate for this prestigious award."

Sue Robinson

"Sue’s 26 year career in leisure spans humble work experience to her current role as organiser of the largest community competitive sports event for the over 55s in the industry – The BETTER Club Games.

Her key achievements include supporting GLL’s many sports campaigns including ‘Back The Bid’ for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

As Community Sports Manager she brings her passion for activating older people to an important but overlooked demographic.
Sue inaugurated the BETTER Club Games at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in 2005. Since then it has grown to attract 900+ annual participants from 23 boroughs in London and the South East.

Sue makes a difference by enabling local communities to access affordable physical activity and by reducing isolation amongst older people. She brings her wealth of experience to support her colleagues to do the same, while managing the community, sport and health agenda in Camden.

Sue uses her determination, engaging personality, humour and exceptional planning skills to overcome all logistical and financial challenges - a leader who inspires the best in others.

12,000 over 55s have now taken part in the BETTER Club Games which returns in 2023 after a Covid hiatus to its home at The London Aquatics Centre and Copper Box Arena in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Through bringing older people together in a friendly environment to play competitive sport and mix with all ages and cultures, improvement is seen in physical, mental and social health - active ageing to make more people, more active, more often.

Through her innovation, she has expanded the games to a two-day annual competition including walking sports. One 69 year old participant Said: “I think it’s an amazing event, it brings lot of people together. Not only am I getting fitter but I have made some new friends who have the same interests as me.”

To include customers in other regions, she brought out the BETTER Regional Games in 2016 providing further sporting opportunities for older people from the Thames Valley, Oxford and latterly, Belfast.

The success of the BETTER Club Games and Regional Games is also down to Sue managing her delivery team with skill and passion - she is very much respected by all her peers.

A dedicated, inspiring but modest individual, Sue is an ‘unsung hero’ and champion of community sport. This award would finally give her the recognition she thoroughly deserves."

Vicki Watson

"We would like to nominate Vicki Watson, specialist instructor at Brimhams Active.
Having worked for Harrogate Borough Council’s Sport and Leisure service, and now Brimhams Active, for almost twenty-five years. Vicki is a very highly qualified and experienced instructor, leading our stroke rehabilitation programme, and exercise for neurological conditions, which accepts participants with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, dementia, and brain trauma injuries.

Vicki always does everything she possibly can for her participants, with fantastic relationships with both them and their carers. She is absolutely dedicated and passionate about improving her participants’ mobility and functional capability, producing personalised programmes for everyone.

During the Covid pandemic, Vicki ran all of her classes online to ensure her participants maintained the functional improvements they had achieved.

Vicki’s classes have made such a difference to those either recovering from a stroke or living with Parkinson’s, that the attendance at these classes is very high, so much so that it has necessitated the introduction of an assistant instructor at all classes, and an additional stroke class.

Vicki always strives to improve her knowledge and expertise, undertaking further study, participating in advisory group meetings with Parkinson’s UK, joining webinars and seminars with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, and regularly meeting with our NHS community stroke team.

Vicki also organised with her participants to undertake a sponsored cycle at a local supermarket, where they raised the money to purchase an electrically assisted cycle and hand cycle. This equipment has allowed activation of stroke-affected muscles, further advanced rehabilitation.

Vicki has such experience, expertise, and an excellent reputation in helping people with neurological conditions, or recovering from stroke, that people from quite far away seek out and attend her classes.

Vicki’s dedication, empathy, and caring nature is so expiring to both her colleagues and participants alike, and she is so deserving of recognition for making such a huge difference, to so many people, over so many years."