Meet the 2024 Judges

A warm welcome to our judging panel for the Ely Hero Awards 2024.
Brian Calvert

Brian joins us as a Judge having won the Michael Rouse Community Champion Award in 2023. The pride he felt at being nominated for last year is reflected in his commitment to Ely and the surrounding area, having lived for the whole of his adult life and choosing to bring up his young family here. Brian is known for his involvement in 1st Ely Scouts, acting as Group Lead Volunteer supporting a team of leaders to provide outstanding experiences and challenging opportunities for young people.

When not working his day job as Head of Customer Success for a Parliamentary Monitoring consultancy in London, Brian also runs the Ely Litter Pickers Group – set up in 2020 – with their endeavours to make our wonderful city cleaner and brighter for all. Brian is a proud member of the community who believes in encouraging everyone to make their own positive contribution, and from his old Scout values, doing a good turn daily! He is honoured to be judging a category of Ely Heroes this year, joining together with so many people who are an inspiration to our city. 

Maria Morgan-Geen

Maria has always lived in the area, she has very fond memories of growing up in a rural village setting where neighbours were friends and, since moving from home, has enjoyed residing in Witchford thanks to its similar community minded spirit, where she also helps administer the village Facebook group. Her multi-award winning business, Platinum Properties, also operates from premises on Lancaster Way Business Park. Growing up, as the daughter of a builder, Maria has always been immersed in housing and construction in some facet, staring her early career with May Gurney civil engineering when they were originally based in Sutton as well as heading up the East Cambridgeshire operation for another local independent sales and lettings agency before opening Platinum Properties 10 years ago.

Maria also has a real passion for supporting and encouraging young talent. She has worked with the Future First programme in local schools, supported the Apprenticeship programme and is currently training her latest two apprentices through their modern apprenticeship, they will be the third and fourth young people to successfully train with Maria and her team at Platinum Properties. In addition to this, as part of her ownership of Platinum Properties Maria supports many local events and local charities with sponsorship and donations.

Maria is delighted to be asked and extremely excited to join the judging panel of the Ely Hero Awards which she has been involved in, in some capacity, each year since its inception. Not only are Ely and its surrounding towns/villages full of fantastic local businesses, but it really has retained a community feel and this is something that Ely Hero Awards uniquely celebrates, this is something Maria truly believes in. Working in an industry that embraces technology but also understands the real difference personal support and connections can make in people’s lives, she respects how much these need to be recognised and celebrated as the world progresses with technological advances which limit our interactions.

Andrew Olley

Before he settled in Ely and began working at the City Cycle Centre, Mr Olley did an awful lot of very interesting things: he managed bookshops in central London, he designed gardens, he was even a teacher for a while. He lived a full life. He enjoyed doing all of those very interesting things, but it was only when he came to Ely that he finally felt fully at home.

Mr Olley has a special love for Ely city centre. He is a spokesperson for the Ely Traders’ Association and can often be heard on local radio singing Ely’s praises. In 2011, as part of a year-long campaign, he raised a petition of over 12,000 signatures in a successful bid to stop the imposition of parking charges in the city. Ely remains free of parking charges to this day.

It is well known that Mr Olley is very smiley. In 2023 he was awarded an Ely Hero Award as Ely’s Smiliest Server. But what is less well known is that he also has incredible balance! His favourite party trick is to balance a glass of wine on his head whilst whistling the star-spangled banner. None of his fellow judges, at this year’s Ely Hero Awards, can match this feat.

Gill Prangnell

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

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

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.

Ruth Buckley

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

Many of you will know Shelley as the face of Shelleys Shop and Post Office in Witchford which she ran for 19 years. Shelley and her husband Lee decided, for many reasons, to handover the reigns to new owners in 2023 and enter a new chapter in their lives.

Now living by the sea with Lee and their two dogs, Riggs and Molly, Shelley is now working part time and enjoying many hobbies. The decision to remain as a judge, if asked!, was an absolute “no brainer!” As she has been involved with EHA since 2017 and has a huge passion for the event, the other judges and its whole ethos. Shelley is very excited to be part of the judging panel this year and looking forward to having the privilege of meeting so many inspiring “Ely Heroes”.

Ruth Marley

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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