Long serving politicians, a community stalwart and a festival director who has brought drama and pyrotechnics to the streets were among those given a borough’s highest accolade.
Greenwich council granted Freedom of the Royal Borough status to five people to recognise their long service at an event in Woolwich Town Hall last week.
These included Rt Hon Nick Raynsford who was the MP for Greenwich and Woolwich from 1992 to 2015, former councillors Dr Jagir Kaur Sekhon OBE and Bob Harris in addition to historian and community stalwart Neil Rhind MBE FSA and Bradley Hemmings MBE the director of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.
Councillor Olu Babatola, the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: “The Freedom of the Borough is the highest civic honour that we can give. Awarding it to these outstanding people for their tireless service is a fitting way to show our gratitude and appreciation. Their actions are truly inspirational and have made a huge difference to the lives of our residents.”
Mr Raynsford who served in the Government as the Shadow Minister for Housing and Construction was responsible for the implementation of the Decent Homes Standards. He work in the borough included campaigning to deliver the Olympics and Paralympics to Greenwich as well as being a driving force in the Crossrail station being built in Woolwich and the underground rail connection to North Greenwich.
Mr Harris served as a councillor from 1990 to 2002 and was instrumental in securing the Dome coming to Greenwich Peninsula. He worked with many organisations to develop Greenwich’s cultural offer and played a key role in bringing Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication to the borough.
Dr Sekhon served as a councillor for 20 years and has been an outstanding volunteer for over 30 years working with the Sikh community to help foster community understanding.
Her work has been recognised with an OBE, an honorary doctorate from the University of Greenwich and the Videsh Samman by the High Commissioner of India.
While Mr Rhind, a prolific local history author, has helped preserve Blackheath’s heritage over may years. He was influential in helping to save Blackheath Halls and the Conservatoire and preserve Westcombe Woodlands for the community to enjoy. He has helped ensure the heath remains open for all to enjoy and also donated his enormous archive of local materials and images to the Blackheath Society.
Mr Hemmings established the GDIF in 1995 and has since then led the festival which has brought free stunning outdoor spectaculars and street theatres to multiple locations.
He was commissioned to produce the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the annual Liberty Festival in Trafalgar Square and Stoke Mandeville Annual Paralympic Celebration. The former council culture officer is also a founding member of the Royal Greenwich LGBT group.
He said: “In accepting this honour I would like to pay tribute to Greenwich’s tremendous civic commitment to culture, as well as to all the many artists, colleagues, organisations, participants and audiences who have together made, and continue to make, Greenwich the culturally dynamic and compelling place that it is and will always be.”
The five are in good company as previous recipients of the Freedom of the Borough include Doreen Lawrence, The Duke of Edinburgh and Nelson Mandela.