When I was first elected to serve the people of Barnsley Central, I was determined to use my position to showcase the best of our town. We have such a lot going for us here, why should we keep it all to ourselves?!
The Proud of Barnsley initiative began with the competition I ran to find a "picture" that depicted the theme. The winners, Jorji-Lea and Georgina from Holy Trinity school were selected by the Judges, which included Ashley Jackson, the world-renowned artist. When they came to Westminster to unveil their picture, it made me incredibly proud - both of our town and of them.
Now, the Barnsley Chronicle has picked up the mantle, with the Proud of Barnsley Awards and I was honoured to be part of the judging panel on Friday, along with Barnsley FC player Bobby Hassell, International Best-selling Author Milly Johnson, Royal Television Society Award-winning Egyptologist Dr Joann Fletcher, former Mayor Cllr Karen Dyson and Chronicle Chief Reporter Katia Harston and Editor Andrew Harrod.
It was an incredibly difficult job; the nominees were all ordinary people from Barnsley, doing some amazing things. There were some very touching stories and choosing winners for each of the categories was not easy.
I am now looking forward to the awards ceremony next month, which is promising to be a glittering event, hosted by award-winning, Barnsley-born actress Katherine Kelly. The trophies have been created by local sculptor Graham Ibbeson and will be worthy mementos for the winners.
The judging coincided with a "tweet fest" on Twitter, in which people were invited to tweet about why they think #BarnsleyIsBrill. It was really good to read all the positive things that were being said.
Now we must maintain the momentum of positivity. Let’s make sure we all keep shouting about the fantastic people and town of Barnsley!