Meet the 2023 Judges

A warm welcome to our judging panel for the Ely Hero Awards 2023.
Gill Prangnell, Former judge of the Ely Standard Business Awards

Gill’s varied career included 10 years teaching Business Studies and a similar period of time at Cambridgeshire County Council in a diverse range of roles. Gill also worked for the Careers Service and for a short time on a Cambridge University research project that involved interviewing people in the Ely area.

Gill’s last role was as Policy Adviser at Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce which included supporting the work of the Ely Chamber of Commerce and acting as an independent judge for the Ely Standard Business Awards.

Jo Evans, Millrose

Jo has lived in the Ely area for nearly 40 years and is an active member of the Ely Chamber of Commerce and also a Board Director for Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce. When not working in the family business, data network installation company, Millrose, Jo is a keen community volunteer and wildlife enthusiast. She volunteered for 14 years as a Wildlife Trust Watch Leader running Ely Wildlife Watch, a monthly group giving children opportunities to discover local wildlife and take part in practical activities including environmentally inspired artwork, waste recycling, insect surveys and pond dipping.

Jo often volunteers her time to local schools, mentoring for interview and CV skills to Year 11’s and Sixth Formers. She is also regularly involved in careers shows and skills events at Ely Cathedral, Ely College, Littleport and East Cambridgeshire Academy, and Witchford Village College demonstrating data cabling and fibre optic technology, talking to students about STEM careers in data engineering, and promoting apprenticeships. 

As a former Ely Hero Award winner and a judge for the past five Ely Hero Award ceremonies, Jo has experience of the judging process from both sides and is delighted to be a judge again this year.

Lis Every, Councillor and Ex-Mayor

I am absolutely delighted to be one of the judges in this new celebration of local heroes.  We have been delighted with the number of entries but it has been a really difficult task to narrow these down to the finalists and then the winner.

Ely is such a fantastic place to live, work and shop so it has been particularly rewarding to work together with the other judges on what will be an annual event which recognises the talents, care and commitment of local people.

Before retiring, I worked for over 30 year in secondary education as a teacher of business and was a Secondary Head Teacher in Peterborough.  My family has run a business locally since we arrived in the area over 40 years ago.  After retiring I became a local Councillor sitting on the City of Ely Council and East Cambridgeshire District Council and was Mayor for two years. I was recently elected to the Cambridgeshire County Council.

I am absolutely committed to supporting skill development and helping young people in the area to achieve their career potential through my work as Chair of the Learning and Skills Sector of the Chamber of Commerce.

Married with two children and two grandchildren, my hobbies include theatre and singing and I am a Trustee of Pos+Ability, VCAEC, Ely Museum and the Ely Choral Society, working on their Steering Committee for the Ely Youth Choir.  I am a governor for Ely St Johns Primary School and Ely College.

Mark Cornell, Farm Manager at Snakehall Farm

Having grown up in a farming family, Mark has always had a love of the land and in 1990’s fell in love with supporting adults with learning difficulties after meeting a very special man who came for work alongside him at Wicken Fen. After he passed away at an early age, Mark’s mind-set changed, as did the course of his life.

For over 11 years, Mark has been the Farm Manager at Snakehall Farm, a real working care farm in Reach, Cambridgeshire, that provides real, meaningful work experience for adults with additional needs. Mark’s passion is enabling people to grow, whether by teaching them to drive Tilly the tractor or growing tasty organic produce. Nature and nurture is his mantra

Mark won the Ely Hero Colleague of the Year Award in 2019 and a finalist in the Ely Hero Award Category. Mark and the team at Prospects won the national Merkel Third Sector Care Award in Community Engagement in 2022 and was also presented with a High Sherriff Award. 

Snakehall Farm is the headquarters of The Prospects Trust, a charitable social enterprise that also runs a Garden Team and Prospects Unwrapped in Ely, all providing training in social and life skills to vulnerable people.

Ruth Buckley, Truth HR Solutions

Ruth has lived and worked in Ely for 19 years. She is married and has a teenage daughter. After working for several other businesses as an HR Manager for over 20 years she started her own consultancy in 2019; Truth HR Solutions. She specialises in working closely with Small businesses, helping them to grow through their people.

Ruth has been a supporter of the Ely Hero Awards from the first ever event. She is delighted to have been invited to be a Judge in this year’s Awards.

Her career in HR has spanned many business sectors, Hospitality, Retail, Food Manufacturing, Education and Technology. Selecting the best candidate for a role is something that she really enjoys. An excellent choice for a Judging panel!

Ruth enjoys volunteering in her spare time, she is a Parent Academy Council Member at Ely College and an Industry Mentor at Bishop Laney Sixth Form. You might also know her for running a fortnightly business networking group, selling Poppies each year or even from Ely Swishing events and helping to run the popular Eco Ely community group.

Shelley Davies, Shelley’s Shop & Sandwich Bar

Shelley and her husband lee own and run Shelley’s shop and sandwich bar in Witchford which also houses the local post office. Shelley has been involved with the Ely Hero Awards since the beginning after winning Smiliest Server!

She lives in Emneth with Lee and her two dogs and loves the outdoor life. Growing veg and plants and enjoying nature. She is always up for a challenge and recently spotted skipping outside her shop for cancer research.

Chris Parsons, Artistic Director Ely Arts Festival

Chris Parsons is a freelance musician who works all across the UK and Europe. He has performed in the BBC Proms as an orchestral trumpeter and toured to Estonia, Germany and Denmark with professional ensembles. He runs his own ensemble, Eboracum Baroque which perform all across the UK and lead education workshops in schools. 

He works a lot in community music conducting choirs and orchestras and is passionate about music education, often leading workshops in schools as well as teaching the trumpet. 

In January 2021 he became the Artistic Director of the Ely Arts Festival and enjoys working with the fantastic committee to put on a 2 week festival every year bringing high quality performances to Ely and the surrounding area. He has conducted a big concert in Ely Cathedral in 2019 and 2022 featuring over 300 local school children and this work led to him being named an Ely Hero in 2022!

Steve Smith, Coop Store Manager

Steve Smith is a father from Ely, who moved to the city from Devon 21 years ago. 

Steve loves his sports, and his spare time is taken up as a Rugby Coach at Ely Tigers Rugby Club, which both of his young sons play for. Steve loves to travel and enjoys long walks and days on the beach with his family and Labrador Willow. 

As a dual site manager and member pioneer at the Coop Shops in Burwell, Steve has his hands full. Athough Steve lives in Ely, he loves getting involved with the Burwell community projects, including the Good Eggs Awards, the Carnival, the Burwell help group and working with local Food Banks. Steve runs a facebook page called “Steves Community News” which is used to communicate good news and spread the word on all things nice going on in Burwell. 

During his time at the Co-op he has won countless Co-op awards such as the Community champion of the year, Regional store manager of the year. His highest accolaide was winning the “National Retail week Store Manger of the Year-Mark of Excellence” beating many contestants from other non coop stores from across the country. 

Steve is looking forward to seeing what amazing contestants this year’s Ely Hero awards has to offer.

Ruth Marley, Re-Imagine Resource Centre CIC

Ruth Marley is the Director of Re-imagine Resource Centre CIC, a Scrapstore, Community Kitchen and Solidarity Larder, where for nearly a decade she has upheld the mission of fostering creativity and sustainability through reuse by diverting materials destined for landfill and connecting them with people who need them.

As a former “”The Ely Hero” Winner 2018 and Community Champion Finalist 2019 she is uniquely placed to know what it takes to be an effective community player and is forever inspired by those folks who are helping others. As an Ask Me Ambassador for Women’s Aid and part of the East Cambridgeshire Food Poverty Alliance numerous Re-imagine projects work alongside other non-profits, organisations and neighbourhood groups on a mission of making a difference and always striving to play a part in addressing the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, prosperity, racism, peace and justice.

As a Master Crafter, Seamstress and Reuse Artist, Ruth brings her brand of eco-creativeness through exciting hands-on making activities and sustainability education at events, festivals and markets to all ages and abilities. Having lived in The Fens with her daughter for 17 years it was a huge honour her to be chosen to represent Cambridgeshire and attend a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. With eco-credentials this fierce she continues to collaborate with numerous corporate partners on planet-positive projects that truly make a difference in people’s lives. Her passion for the planet is as strong as her commitment to the community and she is immensely proud to be part of the Ely Heroes Judging panel this year.
Justin Smith, Ely Runners

Justin has had a long career supporting adults with a learning disability across East Anglia, and now provides leadership within a National Learning Disability Charity. This work is varied and rewarding, and this is where running comes in, because his work can be stressful, and he has found running and the running community to have a calming influence in his life.

Justin is a past winner of the Sporting Hero category, which was off the back of his work around inclusion in his local Running Club (Ely Runners) and for parkrun. He also won the Regional England Athletics Award in the same year as the Sporting Hero. Justin leads the popular Ely Runners Beginner’s course, and is a parkrun addict, who volunteers at Soham Village College parkrun every other week. On the alternate weeks Justin travels with friends as far as he can to try out other parkruns.

Justin is honoured to be asked to be part of the judging panel.

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