Inspiring Aberdeenshire 2024 finalists

View the finalists of the Inspiring Aberdeenshire 2024 awards:

Aberdeenshire’s Future award

Remi Salvan (Laurencekirk)

Remi Salvan is a remarkable young man who at 18 years old has shown great leadership in his local community of Mearns, as well for others across Aberdeenshire.

As a student at Mearns Academy, Remi demonstrated a keen interest in community and youth matters and joined Mearns Youth Forum in second year. In this youth-led group, Remi encouraged healthy discussions and debates on a wide range of topics and promoted youth activism. With a strong interest in the environment and sustainability, Remi coordinated and participated in litter picks and highlighted school uniform concerns.

In 2021, Remi was elected as a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, he is a member of the Laurencekirk Gala committee and the local community council.

The list of his activities and roles is vast and he shows true leadership to other young people around him.

Kai Suleman (Aboyne)

Kai is an inspiring young man who has been active in the Aboyne community for a number of years. He has worked hard in his role as an MSYP and Scottish Youth Parliament since he was 14, with a particular focus on championing the voices of young people and anti-bullying campaigns.

He was instrumental in bringing to fruition a youth cafe and hub, skate park in Banchory and continues to campaign for one in Alford. He has raised money by running 50 miles for veterans. Despite being enrolled into Aberdeen University at 16 he still manages to return to Aboyne Academy to hold talks on various campaigns to the younger pupils.

His is a name to watch.

Elliott Robertson (Premnay)

Elliott has always felt strongly linked to Aberdeenshire and loves to talk about the rich history and beauty his home has to offer. His community spirit began aged eight when he started with the Scouting movement and over the years, he has raised thousands for local causes by participating in charity events, gaining his bronze, silver, gold and platinum Scout Awards.

Recently he has been taking part in a project to explore filmmaking in the area and promote sustainable local film industry.  Elliott has been on stage dancing at the Lemon Tree, the Music Hall and the Royal Albert Hall in London. More recently he was invited to Aberdeen to work with a group of young people who had been settled in the area after fleeing war in Ukraine. It is clear Elliot applies himself with passion to each and every project and is a real role model.

Inspirational Volunteer award

Portlethen Youth Club (Portlethen)

Portlethen Youth Club is run by a small team of volunteer youth workers. They have been open for just a few years, support young people aged 10 and above to build relationships, grow in confidence and try new things.

It is recognised there was not much in the community for this age group before the youth club came along. Young people can attend at no cost, and now as many as 30 young people each week enjoy different sessions, playing games, meeting new people.

The volunteer group who run the club are a real credit to Portlethen and parents say there is so much reassurance knowing the kids are safe and supported.

Bill Murray (Balmedie)

Bill has been volunteer chairman of the Balmedie Leisure Centre for 14 years.

He has raised over £1,000,000 in funding for the benefit of the charity and its community projects - the building of the Beachside Coffee Shop, a new inclusive playground, equipment and sessions for children with ASN, classes and events for senior citizens and the more vulnerable – and his current project to improve parking at the football pavilion.  

Bill has led the leisure centre committee through the rough and the smooth all whilst working a full-time job, being a busy dad and grandad. Bill asks for nothing in return and the community of Balmedie would not have such facilities and access to a huge range of activities if it wasn't for his commitment.

Advenchurz/Andy Duguid (New Pitsligo)

In the nomination, Andy was described as the Heart of New Pitsligo. He has spent many years dedicating his time to putting on events for children and young people.

What he puts on is free, with a nod to hardship faced by many families, and it takes the form of shows and events, like a murder mystery night, a Harry Potter themed Experience, his yearly light show as well as fundraisers in the community.

The group he set up is called Advenchurz, and their 2024 calendar includes superhero theme events, ladies nights, musicals, discos and an over 16s horror trail.

The Advenchurz calendar is a firm favourite in the New Pitsligo community and is credited with bringing the community closer.

Heart of Aberdeenshire Caring award

Linsey Singers (Inverurie)

Linsey is one of the founders, Trustees and volunteers of North East based maternal mental health charity – Latnem. She is also a change agent with Maternal Mental Health Scotland and a Girlguiding Unit Leader. She dedicates so much time, passion and heart into everything she does, especially her work to help others.

Linsey has supported countless mums at a very tough and vulnerable time in their lives, not only sharing her own experience, but listening with compassion and care.

She always goes the extra mile, striving to help and support every single person who reaches out to her.

The nominations for Linsey said: “I can’t begin to imagine where I would be were it not for her understanding, professional knowledge and personal experience. I consider it an honour to know her and to see the work she carries out”.

Danielle Mahan (Peterhead)

Danielle works extremely hard to ensure that everyone in Peterhead is treated with dignity and respect. Ensuring she can play a part in properly integrating more vulnerable families is clear a priority, and one which she goes over and above to achieve.

She has organised a food bank for the entire community at her local school, a community BBQ fun day, has run free raffles to allow children and families the opportunity to win experiences they may not be able to afford themselves. She has organised a community big breakfast, providing free breakfast to all, she sources clothing, resources, opportunities for not just the school but the community.

What makes Danielle special is her resourcefulness, and the fact that she understands what her community needs.  

Amanda Rennie

Amanda is the Care Home Manager at Edenholme Care Home in Stonehaven. Amanda shows an exemplary dedication to her service, which goes above and beyond the expectations of her as a care home manager.

Amanda is an inspirational leader for her team - she is usually found out and about in the home, leading by example with the knowledge and skills that she has developed over many years' experience. She knows all the residents very well and embodies a true sense of a person-centred approach. She really wants to ensure that every resident has a good quality of life and can participate in activities that enhance their well-being.

Amanda is a role model for others in the care sector and a valued member of her community.

Cultural award

Jane Veitch and P1,2,3 at Monymusk Primary (Monymusk)

Jane and her class at Monymusk School are truly championing the dialect of Doric on a now-national stage.

They work hard to meaningfully promote Doric amongst the school and the wider community and are constantly going above and beyond to inspire the next generation to adopt and keep the local dialect alive.

It was this consistent learning which inspired the pupils of P1,2,3 to want to share their love of Doric with the wider community, with the class deciding to write a book about the local legend, Jock the giant o’ Bennachie.

It took a year of planning, illustrating, and writing the book – which has now sold over 500 copies and they were invited to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and visit the House of Commons to explain the inspiration behind it.

They won Scots School of the Year at the Scots Language Awards and the Bairns Book o’ the Year.

Jane’s passion has been passed on to her pupils, and has allowed them to turn their dreams of publishing a book which shares their love of Doric into a reality.

Sandy Ritchie (New Deer)

Everyone who knows Sandy says his knowledge and love for the village of New Deer is second to none.

Despite being in his nineties, he has dedicated his life to serving the people of New Deer. His long life has allowed him to acquire many stories of life in the village and is known as a valuable source of nearly lost traditions and tales.

He recorded his memories, local traditions and myths and set them down before they are lost forever. His book, New Deer And Roon Aboot: A History has recently been published.

Sandy understands the importance of the past in creating a sense of place in the present. He is a founder member of The Book of Deer Project over 30 years ago and retains a keen interest in the work.

Along with other accolades, Sandy is a valued and loved member of his community, whose enthusiasm for keeping traditions alive is valued by everyone.

Birse Community Trust (Deeside)

In their corner of Aberdeenshire, nestled on Deeside, the Birse Community Trust are active in championing local history and heritage.

The trust is active in a number of restoration projects, including the Bucket Mill, and Souters shop and Birse Kirk. Their work opens up fascinating and little-known buildings to the community and encourages a glimpse back in time.

They are working with partners on archaeological survey and historical research and have established the Birse Parish Archive at Finzean Old School. This now safeguards many old photographs, documents, other local history records and a collection of interesting local artefacts.

In their role they are keeping traditions alive, but importantly making sure they are safeguarded for many years to come.

Beautiful Aberdeenshire Environmental award

Ury Riverside Park group (Inverurie)

The Ury Riverside Park is currently being developed by the community of Inverurie for people and wildlife together on the flood plain of the River Ury. It is a unique long-term project creating a large semi natural park in the heart of a town by the community for the community.

The development of the 61 hectare park started in 2016 following extensive community consultation. The plan is to develop the park from a former barley field into a biodiverse, accessible park.

A lot of different habitats are being created including native woodland extensive wet wildflower meadow, amenity grassland, and seasonal wetland areas. Other areas of the park are being allowed to develop through natural regeneration.

In terms of wildlife, the area is home to many nationally scarce or declining species including at least 25 pairs of skylarks, grey partridge, sandpipers, yellowhammers, sedge warblers and reed buntings. Otters are present in the river and two badger setts have developed. Kingfishers, ospreys, buzzards, peregrines, sparrowhawks, red kites and barn owls have been seen too.

The park is a well-used local amenity, the work of the riverside group shows what can be done to work alongside nature to face the challenges of a changing world.

SHARK Johnshaven Environmental Group (Johnshaven)

SHARK is an environmental group based in Johnshaven. Established in 2006 the volunteer group promote and protect wildlife and habitats in their local area.

They work to support migrating swifts from Africa, installed hedgehog highways and are active in protecting local species.

One of their main areas of work is in encouraging a more sustainable lifestyle for the residents and in particular carry out and promote activities which reduce the village’s contribution to global warming.

This takes the form of green waste composting, beach cleans and village litter picks.

The group recognise the important role that communities can have when they pull together to reduce our collective impact on the planet.

William Reid Matthew (Fraserburgh)

Bill, to those who know him, has worked tirelessly to create and maintain Fraserburgh Community Garden. And isn't showing any signs of slowing down, despite being in his eighties.

It all started when he became a director at Fraserburgh Development Trust and was put in charge of the community garden. He was part of a very small cohort of volunteers that took a waste piece of ground situated just off Alexandra Terrace and West Road and has turned it into a beautiful community garden that is not only a triumph to see but provides produce and learning opportunities for various groups within the community.

This garden has been a labour of love for Bill who remains the constant driving force behind it and is a beautiful, educational space that has used a derelict area of ground for a positive initiative that benefits the whole community.

Local Hero Courage award

Suzanne Davies (Newtonhill)

It is people like Suzanne who epitomise this award category – a community champion in the face of adversity.

Ten years ago, she was diagnosed with a high-grade Stage 4 brain tumour. Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy followed. But did Suzanne just sit back and take it easy? This is Inspiring Aberdeenshire, so of course she didn't.

In the words of her oncologists, she is a miracle. It is incredible rare to get so far after her diagnosis. Her courage, determination and strength was always admired by everyone who met her. Over the past ten years Suzanne has gone out of her way to help other people whenever she can, as a survivor and ambassador.

She signed up and volunteered to be part of the Courage on the Catwalk volunteer group and has become a volunteer at the ARI Anchor Unit. In total Suzanne has raised over £100,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity, Brain Tumour Research, CLAN, Friends of Anchor, and the ARI Neuro Ward.

And long may you continue to be a champion, Suzanne.

Frazer Dickson (Luthermuir)

Frazer has been volunteering at Mearns Youth Club since it began.

He has never missed a youth club session and is amazing with all the young people who attend.

Frazer has ASC, Hypermobility, Anxiety and problems with his mobility, yet he is there encouraging and interacting with all the young people he meets every week.

His ideas and contributions to the youth club and wider community through Community Cafes and community engagement is second to none.

He is currently completing a college placement at a nearby school and is highly thought of as "one of the staff and an inspiration to the pupils". His ambition is to be a PSA in a primary school to help young people who have ASN like himself.

He is the perfect role model for overcoming adversity.

Kintore Community response (Kintore)

This nomination is one of the broadest these awards have ever had. It is not for a named individual, or even a group, but for the way a whole community pulls together, time and again, often in the worst of scenarios.

The Kintore area is affected regularly by flooding. But through the community council, the resilience group, residents, volunteers both official and unofficial, they pull together when flooding strikes and support each other in the most unified way.

There are tales of locals with lorries and pumps coming to help pump water out of gardens, people coming to the rescue of neighbours, volunteers working long days and nights to go door and support people who can't stay in their homes, rest centres being stood up and food and shelter provided.

And it isn't just the formal structures, this award recognises that when the community needs a hero they can often find it from within.

To everyone who has stepped up and helped out when things have got bad, Kintore is incredibly grateful.

Community Spirit award

Men United (Peterhead)

Men United is a charity working in Peterhead, surrounding areas and over Aberdeenshire as a whole. They provide a support service for men suffering with their mental health, through peer support, a listening ear, safe spaces and professional support.

To date, they have supported around 850 men, and intervened and saved over 30 people who were considering taking their own lives. The drop-in centre is open five days a week, free for all men to attend. Recently, the group have started a support service for young men aged 16-21, identifying a gap in mental health support for this age group.

Local groups are available at Newmachar and Turriff, and also online. Men United staff visit workplaces and give talks on how to help or spot those who may be struggling.

As a charity they are growing all the time, reaching out to those who have nowhere else to turn. Men United are helping people see that life is worth living, and for that we should all be very grateful.

Maud Village Trust (Maud)

Community group the Maud Village Trust has spent two decades going the extra mile, in order to “put the heart back into Maud”. The group have dedicated their time and resource to regenerate their small village, to bring new community benefits to residents. Their work is helping Maud emerge as a vibrant and inspiring community.

Almost overnight, in 2001, the vibrant and bustling village which had served as the centre of agricultural life for the farming communities of Buchan and beyond, came to a standstill raising deep concern amongst local people about its future. In response to this, members of the newly formed Maud Village Trust emerged, with a community action plan. They have been instrumental in the establishment of the Maud Resource Centre and Community Service Centre as a sustainable facility with a wider range of projects than you could imagine. There is something here for literally everyone.

Maud Village Trust have more than met their objective and are a true example of using collective power as a catalyst for positive change.  

Julie Hay (Portlethen)

One of the nominations for Julie for this year’s awards simply opens with the sentence “Julie is an amazing woman”.

She is a near-constant presence in the 'Fine Piece Cafe' which she runs in the Jubilee Hall in Portlethen. She is there almost all the time, does most of the baking and is active in the community encouraging and assisting everyone along to see the service for themselves. She also actively encourages people to help out, and that has very visible benefits for the community.

Julie volunteers at the Larder in Portlethen and goes above and beyond there too, delivering food to those who may not be able to come along to the larder themselves, collecting their orders and making sure no one is forgotten in the community. She is also ready and willing to support many of the other fundraising groups in the town, always willing to give her time.

Another nomination said: “I have never seen her anything but smiling and positive, a truly valued resident of the community.”

Inspiring Aberdeenshire Lifetime Achievement award

Maggie Fowler

Maggie has been the heart of Inverurie Market Place School Uryside School for over 25 years.

She retires in June, after she started at Market Place in 1996. She has been a firm part of the fabric of both schools and the wider community. Her kindness is noted by pupils and staff and is the person who brings colour to school life. If that is from Fine Treat Fridays to significant inspections, she has always been name checked for her warmth and care.

Outside school Maggie teaches twice weekly at Ellon pool to include children with additional support needs, babies and toddlers the basic skills to water safety. She volunteers several times a week at Ythan Swimming Club, and also in all aspects of swimming from school teams where she was lucky enough to be able to include Hannah Miley as part of the team, basic swimming lessons and lifesaving. 

Always on the go, she insists retirement will not slow her down - apparently she is going to keep on with her volunteering work, helping out with her numerous grandchildren and even finding time to fit in the odd 10K run.

A true community champion in every sense.

Jim Stephen (Stonehaven)

“Wee Jim”, as he is affectionately known, is truly an inspiration to so many people in Stonehaven.

A raft of testimonials supported his nomination and the group nominating him were blown away blown away by all the responses. It showed how much he is valued.

Over the years he has held many positions on local groups – including the Men's Shed, the Community Council, the Stonehaven Town Partnership and the Fireballs Association. There are very few events which take place in the town that he is not involved with. Those he does support; it is recognised they wouldn't be as much of a success without him.

He has been nominated because of his generosity of time over many years, and his sheer determination to support Stonehaven and its people, to make their town a better place.

Jim has dedicated himself to making a difference to a community that couldn't be more grateful for his work.

Alex Geddes (Peterhead)

Alex is the Operations Manager at Peterhead Prison Museum. He has worked tirelessly, since the site was bought from the prison service, to turn it into a five star tourist attraction, bringing visitors from all over the world to Peterhead.

Alex has dedicated years of his life to breathing life back into the Victorian prison. The aim is to give visitors a unique experience which many come back for time and time again. His vision for the museum has seen multiple exhibits and experiences added to and expanded over the years - ensuring that there’s always something new and interesting no matter how many times you visit.

Following Covid, the museum was weeks away from having to close its doors. However, Alex’ passion, commitment and determination to keep this going saw the Museum come back strong - back to being the top tourist attraction that it has remains.

He’s not ready to retire just yet, but he will be leaving enormous boots to be filled when he does, and this nomination is a way of saying thank you for everything.