Sean Fielding, Oldham Council Leader, said: “I want to take this opportunity to wish all our residents, businesses, partners and community groups a very happy New Year and all the best for 2019.”
“It’s been an incredible few months since I took over as Leader of the Council and it has been a huge privilege to meet so many committed local people, partner organisations and community groups who all want to play their part in realising our ambitions for Oldham as a place and making our borough the better place that we know it can be.
“There are so many committed individuals out there and that’s reflected in the New Year’s Honours List with people from Oldham being recognised.
“One is David Hedley Johnson from Springhead who established a local theatre company – Oldham Theatre Workshop – in 1968. It worked with hundreds of young people and went on to become Europe’s largest young person’s theatre company.
“Another is Mufti Helal Mahmood, a local Iman who has been awarded an MBE for his services to creating community cohesion as well as for the money he has raised for local charitable causes in Oldham. Congratulations to everyone recognised this year.”
David Johnson, BEM, founded his theatre school, 'Oldham Theatre Workshop' in 1968, where he offered local youth in the North West of England free access to his drama workshops.
It was the first theatre to provide free entry to afford the local youth the experience of drama at no cost and he developed this outlet to become Europe's largest Young People's Theatre Company.
Each year he put together a minimum of five major fully-staged productions, with casts ranging from 40-600, playing locally and throughout Britain. It is because of patience, dedication and skill that his theatre school has been so successful and enjoyable for so many young people. He is the only Young People's Theatre Director to have had three specialised documentary features devoted to his work, and this is credit to his outstanding work over the years. David has been involved in training a panoply of successful professional actors during that time including Anna Friel, Suranne Jones, Joe Gilgun, Gerard Kearns, Sally Lindsay, Lisa Riley, Jo Hartley, Malique Thompson-Dwyer, Raffey Cassey, and Sue Devaney.
Mufti Helal Mahmood, MBE, is a leading Imam in Oldham who has been instrumental in developing links between Muslim and other faith communities. He has also brought together the Imams and Madrassa teachers from the different Islamic traditions to work with the Local Authority and other partners and address issues around cohesion.
He has been active in dispelling myths around Prevent, the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, which has led to quick condemnation for acts of terrorism purportedly committed in the name of Islam and the development of strategies to counteract reactions that would adversely affect borough cohesion. He has also worked to make sure that reassuring messages go out from the Police and Oldham Council to the mosque communities after extremist incidents.
Mufti has worked with locally based Christian ministers to deliver workshops in more than 30 schools and colleges, exploring the similarities between Islam and Christianity and modelling cohesion to the pupils and students. He has been the Muslim expert on many panels at Any Questions events for increasing mutual understanding and respect among the different religious communities. As host for visits to local mosques by more than 30 schools, and by regularly delivering talks in high schools, he helps to dispel myths about Islam. He has also co-ordinated the collection of charitable donations from Oldham’s mosques towards the Mayor’s non-Muslim charities, encouraging a sense of belonging among the borough’s Muslim communities.
We also now understand that other local recipients of BEMs include Jon Paul Morrey, a police community support officer with the British Transport Police, for his services to policing in Oldham.
Ida Ashworth, 90, is also the recipient of a BEM in recognition of her services to the community. She formed the Oldham’s Wednesday Walkers group more than 30 years ago and still remains an active member of the group which boasts 240 walkers in five groups of different grades and ages.