Bedford Independent Everyday Heroes Awards: Raising the Profile of the Town nominees


Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve looked at all the categories for the Bedford Independent Everyday Heroes Awards, in partnership with The Harpur Trust, except one.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the nominees for our most entered category, Raising the Profile of the Town.

There is often a lot of talk across social media and other publications about the negative aspects of our borough. But, the number of entries to this category show that there are some exceptional Bedfordians.

The winners will be announced on 25 March 2021 at 7:30 pm on our websiteFacebook Page and YouTube channel.

For now, here are all the nominees and a brief look at what they do to make Bedford Brilliant.

It’s a long list but it makes for a wonderful read that will truly make you proud of Bedford.

Raising the Profile of the Town – sponsored by The Quarry Theatre at St. Lukes

Carlton Neita

Since 1979 Carlton has provided Bedford with music and entertainment services.

Mainly working with the Caribbean community, Carlton and his friends created “Cultural Roots”. 2020 marks 40 years of The Cultural Roots Sound System.

A fantastic achievement from a man who created this from his home in Queens Park. Carlton together with his team, have put Bedford firmly on the map with continued performances all over the UK.

Carlton has become a very important person to the Bedford community and is considered an absolute master at his work of playing music. He’s a respected mentor/advisor and has attended schools to talk to youngsters about his work.

Dawn Terry

After years of hard work, resolve and perseverance, 2019 has seen Dawn flying the flag for Bedford by becoming a published author.

Securing a publishing contract is nigh in impossible for unestablished authors these days, but Dawn has achieved it. Having a publishing house behind her means her book is in international distribution and showing what a Bedfordian can do.

Despite the offer of many notable venues, she chose Bedford’s beautiful Embankment Hotel for her book launch. It was a huge success, and a range of stunning photos and favourable stories featuring the hotel and Bedford’s fabulous Embankment (and River Great Ouse) have been shared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter across the country, and internationally.

Bedford is Dawn’s home town. She still lives in Bedford, is very proud of her town and promotes it wherever she goes. Her work ethic, tenacity and dedication, plus her loyalty and love of Bedford is why we feel Dawn deserves recognition.

Eat Feast

Eat Feast is a new business venture, launched in Bedford in 2019 and continuing to bring a monthly event to the local community in 2020.

Eat Feast is run by a local businesswoman called Natalie and her mum Elaine. “They work so hard to ensure the event is a success every month, in particular ensuring a variety of food vendors for the people that attend,” said their nominator.

Eat Feast is a community event aimed at everyone, it brings to Bedford town an array of international cuisine, is child friendly, always has veggie/gluten-free/vegan options too.

Mark Draper

Mark Draper’s company MCD Events have two events based in the centre of Bedford.

They give a lot back to the community through the Bedford Running Festival supporting local businesses and charities.

They have Charity Partnerships, which helps charities to raise money, as well as the event promoting, supporting awareness and providing a market throughout the wider community.

They also support local businesses by giving them an opportunity and platform to present at the event.

They attract thousands of people from outside of Bedfordshire to come and visit their events.

Forty-five per cent of runners had never visited Bedford before the event and ninety-five per cent said they would return. They attracted approximately seven-thousand runners over the event weekend and ten-thousand-five-hundred spectators.

They also hold a race called the Mini Miles, which allows children and families to get involved, offering local schools free places to run in the event, helping schools to promote fitness to their own students and families.

Mark Harrison

Mark has worked tirelessly and selflessly to create and stage Bedford Park Concerts in Bedford Park. 2020 sees him celebrate Bedford Park Proms 25th Year.

His intention was to help put Bedford on the map by bringing some of the top music stars in the music industry to play in Bedford Park.

His contacts and sheer hard work has meant that Bedford has enjoyed concerts by the likes of Sir Tom Jones, Dizzee Rascal, UB40, Kaiser Chiefs, Jess Glynne, Michael Ball, Feeder, Basement Jaxx, Tom Walker, Tom Oddell, Cafe Mambe and countless more.

The Concerts bring in thousands of people to our town and in turn, local businesses benefit.

Local employment is also increased, with a largely local crew being employed to make sure the concerts work efficiently.

Mark’s community efforts are also apparent with a local charity benefitting from the concerts, which for the last few years have been the MS Therapy Centre.

Martin Keys

My nomination is for Martin at Gallones Ice Cream Parlour. Why? Amongst other things…

It’s such a welcoming place to go and meet up with friends. You are always greeted courteously, given excellent service with crafted coffees and biscuit. Best prices in Bedford, £1 for any hot drink.

It’s also a gathering point, on Thursday afternoons, for Knit-and-Natter, to encourage the enthusiastic knitters of Bedford to provide woollen scarves, hats, blankets etc. for the refugees.

Every Friday evening, at closing time, Martin provides all the homeless sleepers on the streets in Bedford town with steaming hot coffee and light refreshments. Lately, it’s been Wednesdays as well, because of the intense cold.

Martin makes it his business to know all his customers; he has an excellent memory for names, likes and dislikes. It’s a perfect place to meet up with friends and have a very affordable cup of coffee, available to all purses.

Queen’s Park Community Orchard

Queen’s Park Community Orchard encourages local people of all ages, faiths and genders to come together to care for their environment by appreciating and using their public open spaces, and to develop an understanding in each other cultures to develop tolerance and mutual respect which is even more needed in today’s society.

It was the first organisation in Bedfordshire to be shortlisted for the National Diversity Awards 2019.

Over 28,000 nominations and votes were submitted this year, with the Queen’s Park team making it to an impressive shortlist of just 124 nominees recognised for their various achievements nationwide.

Queen’s Park community orchard is one of eight in their category.

Rachel Atkinson

Rachel’s work with Made in Bedford Artisan Fairs has made Bedford a destination for people to come shopping, and spend money on products by local artists and makers.

Being one of the stallholders since the beginning of the project, footfall has grown and makers are always vying for a table at the Artisan Fairs, which has gained a reputation for being a high-quality event.

In 2019 Rachel has continued this hard work while also opening the new Made in Bedford at Number 13 café and shop, bringing together artists from the fair to work collaboratively to open a permanent brick and mortar shop.

Rachel’s savvy decision to be Bedford’s first vegan café resulted in customers coming from Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Luton specifically to eat there.

Rachel’s core aims have helped show Bedford has high-quality shopping and eating options that compete with those on offer in bigger towns.

Sam Laycock

Sam is Centre Manager at The Harpur Centre and is a passionate evangelist for Bedford and all that it offers.

In her day job, she makes many outreach initiatives; recently she hosted two pupils from Brickhill Primary School to come in for ‘work experience’.

In the social media, she is responsible for, she takes every opportunity to link this to the wider community and to promote Bedford to the wider world.

She is the current chair of Bedford’s Business Improvement District (BID) and led its win of a fourth term. The impact on Bedford from her work here – and the associated Love Bedford organisation – have been effective and represent authentic hope for a positive future for Bedford, its sustainability and its profile in the wider world.

Her enthusiasm is infectious, her energy and generosity are inspiring.

Sharon De Leonardis

If you ask anyone who has had the pleasure of knowing and working with Sharon to describe her, they would more than likely use the following words ‘inspirational’, ‘motivational’, ‘determined’ and a ‘powerhouse of energy’.

Sharon proved that she is all of these things when in 2019 she launched Spectacularts.

The organisation is formed of skilled volunteers from the local community that Sharon brought together from her extensive contacts within the community.

This unique event focused on the arts, harnessed the skills of the local community. It was an inclusive event for the people of Bedford, created by the people of Bedford.

The event was even attended by and received congratulations from HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire Helen Nellis.

None of this would have been possible without Sharon’s vision, determination and energy.

Soaring Falcon Accountancy

Soaring Falcon Accountancy was launched in 2015 and founded by Alex Falcon Huerta FCCA. SFA is 100% digital, cloud and paperless. Miles away from the perception of an accountancy firm, it uses over forty apps to run the firms and clients.

SFA has grown businesses around the town and globally. SFA works with clients to become digitalised and to automate processes. This enables customers to have an awesome experience and business owners to focus on what they love.

Alex received ‘Outstanding Achievement of the Year’ by Wenta. She was awarded ACCA’s ‘Most Outstanding Contribution’ for her advocacy work.

SFA has been recognised as a pacesetter and one of the most innovative firms in the UK. Brands such as Xero push the SFA profile with articles and videos.

Being a true Bedfordian, Alex is someone who received funding from The Harpur Trust as a child.

She studied ‘Young Enterprise’ at school which spurred her on to become an entrepreneur. Her time is given back by being a Trustee of a local charity and an advocate of ACCA where she is part of their UK and International Assembly and Soupfest.


Spectacularts is formed of local members of the community to achieve the following goals.

  • To showcase the diversity and talents in the town through the arts
  • To promote an increased understanding of the cultural traditions of the various communities
  • To ‘Shine a Light’ on the great activities already being undertaken by individuals and groups within Bedford and to help promote new ideas
  • To bring together people from the many different cultures and communities in Bedford by involving them in creating a joyful event
  • To deliver an event that lays the foundations for similar performances that will promote local cohesion and friendship in years to come
  • To raise money for our charity partner DKMS and to encourage greater knowledge of stem cell donation
  • To raise Bedford’s profile on the national stage

All goals were achieved in 2019 by the team. Without any grants or financial support from the Borough. Funding was generated by hosting events, collaborating with partners and personal contributions.

Bedford’s rich and diverse population is reflected by the team of volunteers who form Spectacularts.

During 2019 Spectacularts supported various community events, such as celebrating Holi with the Hindu Society Bedford and supporting the Italian Festival.

Spectacularts’ biggest achievement was the Spectacularts Street Arts Festival on 7 September in Bedford Park. This event attracted over 5,000 visitors from the local community and beyond and generated over £40,000 for the local community.

Taste Bedford

TASTE Bedford began in 2017, bringing an independently run, food and music festival to the town. It went down a storm, attracting 7-8000 visitors in its first year, and a loyal following on social media.

Traders were keen to return, choosing Bedford’s food festival over other larger events in surrounding counties. So it ran again in the summers of 2018 and 2019, with bigger and better content each year.

2020 saw TASTE contributing to Bedford’s River Festival: regenerating the entertainment in a collaboration with the council and providing two stages: blender music at St Mary’s Gardens and Taste food theatre on Mill Meadows.

Visitors and locals enjoy a family day out on our beautiful Embankment, bringing life back to the Victorian bandstand.

The festival infrastructure also uses local suppliers, keeping money in the local economy.

Tim Pain

Tim purchased Bedford Heights in 2014. Over a six-year period, Tim and the Verve team transformed Bedford Heights to its former glory and beyond, going the extra mile to refurbish the building to benefit resident businesses.

A Texan theme runs throughout the building in honour of the Texas Instruments workforce and their achievements.

Not only has Tim poured significant time and effort into rejuvenating Bedford Heights, but he has also worked tirelessly to integrate Bedford Heights more fully into the community, by getting to know local organisations and individuals, supporting them with time and financial assistance, and by offering up Bedford Heights to these groups to help further their aims.

Tim gives up his time to meet with local charities, individuals, businesses and community groups and will support them where possible.

He has sponsored and supported various local events including the River Festival, SpectaculArts, Taste, SoupFest and individuals. He also mentors and supports local students, giving them his time for free.

In May 2019, Tim funded a reunion for former employees of Texas Instruments, which brought together over 300 people for a celebratory event. A Time Capsule was also buried and Tim is planning a year of celebrations in 2021 for the 60th Anniversary.

You can find out who has been awarded the Bedford Independent Everyday Heroes – Covid Hero Award on 25 March 2021 at 7:30 pm on our websiteFacebook Page and YouTube channel.