Claire Montgomery

“I’m so surprised that people nominated me as I was just trying to do something to help where I could. Having been an experienced machinist many years ago, I had just retired from Maldons Tesco clothing after 23 years working there. When Covid lockdown started we had a pregnant daughter in later stages and our son in Australia, I was worried but thought I can’t just sit here what can I do to help? The girls at Tesco had no protection so I looked up the pros and cons of cotton masks and decided to make some to give out to my girls at Tesco’s and anyone else that needed them. My thoughts were something must be better than nothing ! It all just went from there to an overwhelming display of generosity from friends and family wanting to help.

I asked for bed linen and had bags and bags turn up. I made scrubs bags, scrubs for paediatric wards from the kids bed sets. I joined Scrubs for Broomfield also. People were giving me money to buy fabric, or anything I needed; it was overwhelmingly heartwarming. I donated some of it to Scrubs for Broomfield and bought rolls of fabric to make scrubs for anyone that needed them, I even got my sister to help me as it was so busy trying to keep up with demand! I made surgical gowns too.

People wanted to donate for my masks so, after Scrubs for Broomfield had enough, I asked them to donate to my choir The Big Sing as they were struggling. I wanted to help my choir survive as I’ve belonged for Nearly 9 years. I made a lockdown quilt and raffled it and then we charged £2 a mask and donated to them. It was amazing – I think we got over £3,000! I’m very honoured to be nominated as a local girl born and bred I love Maldon and the people in it and just wanted to help.”

Claire’s Nomination* “Clare started lockdown making scrubs for Broomfield Hospital, including ones with characters on for the children’s ward. She then started making face masks & selling them to raise money for the Big Sing Choir to keep it going through the Covid 19 crisis. She also made a beautiful quilt & raffled it to raise more funds. She is still making face masks & selling them to the local community at a very fair price. Clare has sewn her way through lockdown & helped many people.”

*Claire received multiple nominations!

Emma Durrant

“Despite the early uncertainty and fear over lockdown, one certainty was to find a way to keep my choir and it’s community connected, for them and for my own wellbeing.

We shifted quickly to online singing although it was very strange as everyone except me needed to be muted due to the time delay! I never heard them singing at all through lockdown and had to imagine what they sounded like!

Despite this being better than nothing I then discovered that our virtual rehearsals were sometimes the only time singers would see other people and knowing this made me want to do more. I created a lockdown poster with singers each holding a word of “We’ll Meet Again” and set up online community sessions such as coffee mornings, comedy, music quiz, bingo and games nights.

I also developed a series of themed era sing-along’s covering the 1920’s – 90’s which included optional dress up.

Over time I persuaded singers to face their fears and record song parts at home to send in to edited all together for a Lockdown Album giving them a chance to hear themselves sing together again. Tears were shed!
In addition to activities around singing I extended the connections amongst the community to include a book club and also found people then offered general support such as shopping or medicine drop off’s or to give advice on gardening.

Finally we came together remaining distanced by staying in our cars for a sunny afternoon Drive-In choir which transmitted to car radios and had personalised choir radio jingles made.

I’m proud to be nominated in the categories “Above and Beyond” and “Creativity” as it is testament to all the choir singers who adapted, chose to ride out the storm together and refused to give up the one thing that would create distraction, raise them up and keep them positive through difficult times – singing – and more importantly – singing together.”

Emma’s Nomination*: “I nominated Emma for her true inspirational and hard working for keeping her The sound Collective choir going on-line every week. Plus doing various events like quizes! Plus theirs more Emma also asked us choir members to record our own voices to a track so we can send to her and then place all of her members together on recording track for a lock down album. Myself personally has been working for NHS throughout the coronavirus but I need something to focus on as its been really hard, Emma supported myself on a one to basis on-line learning a solo song. I’ve been a member of the choir since the very start which is over 8 years now Emma has supported myself on personal level as well as illness . So I truly appreciate Emma dedication she has keep as going! Well done emma from my heart.xx”

*Emma received multiple nominations!

Ruth & Simon Houlding

We offer our sincere thanks for the nomination and recognition of creativity in the Maldon district during the pandemic. Our amazing NHS workers who do a wonderful job on a daily basis went to another level when faced with COVID-19. When it was reported that PPE was desperately short we decided to set our sewing machines to work.

We devised a simple reversible stitch that could be sewn quickly to make scrubs (instructions for which can be found on our blog). The first nine sets of scrubs were donated to an amazing NHS team who look after the mental health of our homeless people in London, we appreciate feedback from all our work but the photos and thanks we received will always be special.

We would like to give a special mention to our amazing curtain girls, Tina Berry and Dawn Pepper who donated their own time to help make patterns and sew scrubs and masks for the NHS and local care homes. There is an army of sewing enthusiasts in our local area who really made a difference and we applaud them all!

Ruth & Simon’s Nomination: “Ruth and Simon Houlding Ruth and Simon produced a full wardrobe of clinical scrubs for our mental health team to wear during Coronavirus. The scrubs arrived in the first week of lockdown and have been used by the doctors, nurses and social workers in our team throughout the lockdown. They used their skills to take apart one uniform and then make up 15 uniforms.

The best bit was that the uniforms came with a little handwritten note that fell out when we tried them on for the first time. Brilliant!

We have since had uniforms provided by the NHS, but these scrubs were essential wear for the first few weeks. Thank you very much to Ruth and Simon Houlding of Simon Houlding Upholstery – who dropped stitching upholstery and switched to stitching scrubs immediately. They are based in the Maldon District and I live in the Maldon district – but work just outside. This was an example of local people supporting local people who were working in a national setting.”

Mary Ellen Ryan

“Thank you very much for your letter regarding me being shortlisted for an award… I am so proud and honoured to have been shortlisted, thank you.

At the start of March when I was told I was regarded as being in the Extremely Clinically Vulnerable category and needed to isolate, to keep me busy and not get bored while being forced to isolate indoors, my daughter Catherine suggested I think about making the family some masks. 

Making these masks for the family snowballed into doing some for friends and the neighbours, then I thought I’d put some in a basket in the village community shop as well. I did this and started to put a bundle of them in the basket every Monday and Friday afternoons. I am still doing this every week. There is,and never has been, any charge for these masks, if I’m asked “what do I owe you”, I suggest a little donation in a charity box would be lovely.

I enjoy sourcing the material required for the outsides – pretty pastels, dark colours , fun and quirky patterns, also some suitable for children. I get it all from various internet sites as well as getting white cotton single sheets for the inner layer (one sheet makes 92 inside pieces). Rolls of 100 yds elastic (black and white), 18 gauge wire for the nose bands and resealable plastic snack bags for each mask. It takes over 1/2 hour to make each one, and there is an aperture in the back to insert a tissue or filter. At the moment I have made between 500 – 600 masks (I stopped noting them down at 450) .

I do enjoy my little “hobby” and am glad that the villagers find the masks to their liking, snapping them all up every week. While there is a demand I will continue making them, and I feel that it’s my little bit of help to furthering our local community spirit, being over 82 yrs, realistically there isn’t that many areas of help I can give. 

Thank you again for considering my nomination, it means so much to think my small contribution to our community efforts is worth a mention.”

Eileen’s Nomination: “My Mum, Eileen Ryan, is 82 years old and was advised to shield for medical reasons. Since March, she has been making beautiful, washable masks for our community. Eileen’s masks are available in our local Community Shop in Bradwell Village and have also been sent to family and friends.

The masks are free; people are donating to charity where they can afford to. Eileen doesn’t know how much has been donated as this is left to people’s personal circumstances.

Having exhausted her supplies of left-over material, Eileen now buys offcuts online, she gets very excited when a new parcel of material arrives!
To date, she has made over 500 masks and is still going strong!

Each mask comes in its own little bag for hygiene, with an advice slip about how to wear it safely. They have pockets for filters and wire to ensure a good fit around the nose.”


View the Winners Video Presentations