Best of Darlington 2019 Awards Evening


The Best of Darlington Award Ceremony was held on the 14th June 2019. Congratulations to all winners and finalists – you really are the Best of Darlington!
For more photos and the full list of all finalists and winners, please visit

Exceptional Volunteer was Sponsored by Tees Valley Rural Action
The judges award this to an individual or group who has shown outstanding commitment in their voluntary field without expectation of reward or recognition. This might be the length of time someone has volunteered, the breadth of responsibility that they have taken or the sacrifice they made in order to volunteer.

2019 Winner: Team JJ at Café JJ
Café JJ first opened in October 2007 with two learning disabled young men as volunteers. Now, over eleven years later, 12 learning disabled people volunteer for five hours every Monday and five hours every Tuesday to prepare food and serve customers from the local community
All the work hard to gain catering and waiting on skills. They come to their volunteer jobs full of enthusiasm and keen to do all they can to serve customers in the local community.
In 2016, Team JJ were awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service Through their dedication to volunteering, the twelve members of Team JJ have demonstrated what learning disabled people are capable of when given a chance.
Award presented by our very own Rita Lawson, Tees Valley Rural Action

TVRA Launch a Roaring Success @ Rushpool Hall

We would like to say thank you to all those who have attended our launch and networking event at Rushpool Hall Saltburn. We are extremely grateful for those who made the time and travelled across the country to attend.

We hope everyone valued the opportunity to make new connections, as much as we did, while giving food for thought to major issues that effect rural communities


A major thank you to our board of trustees whose support, advice and faith have kept us going. As Rita our CEO says new beginnings and let’s do this.

Thanks to our partners who were key note speakers on the day

ACRE Action with Communities in Rural England and Community Transport Association

The future of civil society in Tees Valley: A seminar to discuss the way forward for stakeholders in the voluntary sector, charitable foundations and the public sector

The future of civil society in Tees Valley:

A seminar to discuss the way forward for stakeholders in the voluntary sector, charitable foundations and the public sector


Friday 5th July 2019, Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough, 9.30 – 1.00

The voluntary and community sector (VCS) has continued to support and strengthen civil society in Tees Valley over the last twenty years. It has done so in the context of a great deal of economic, social and political change. The aim of this event is to bring people together from the VCS, charitable foundations and the public sector to enter into a positive debate on the future funding landscape and what that promises for the wellbeing of Tees Valley.

Perhaps surprisingly, the VCS has kept on going at more or less the same size over the last decade – this has been achieved as individual organisations and groups have looked at new ways of accessing resource through trading, fundraising, public sector contracts, winning grants from regional and national foundations and from social investment banks. The mix may have changed in the sector’s basket of funding, but the overall volume of income seems to have remained much the same.

But it has not been easy and many VCS organisations say that they have had to work harder than ever to keep themselves going and supporting local causes that are important to them. With all these changes in mind, it seems like a good time to ask people to get together for an event. The event will be small but productive, with just 60 places, bringing key stakeholders from the VCS, public sector and charitable foundations together from across the five boroughs of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees.
At the start of the event, a panel will present views on the future financing of the VCS in Tees Valley and its surrounding areas. The event will be chaired by Councillor Chris McEwan, Darlington Borough Council.

Speakers will include:

Nancy Doyle-Hall, Executive Director, Virgin Money Foundation: on the role of charitable grant making foundations and trusts in supporting civil society

Alison Collins, Investment Manager, Northstar Ventures: on the role of social investment in developing VCS sector strengths

Tony Chapman, Policy&Practice, St Chad’s College, Durham University: on changing funding relationships between the public sector and the third sector.

Following table discussion there will be a second panel to debate with the audience the current situation across Tees Valley and its environs and the future prospects for the development of civil society.

Mark Davis, CEO, Middlesbrough Voluntary Development Agency

Karen Grundy, Community Programme Manager, Catalyst Stockton

Rita Lawson, CEO, Tees Valley Rural Action

Mike Millen, CEO, Redcar and Cleveland Voluntary Development Agency

The seminar is free to attend, but places are limited and will book up quickly, so please register your attendance via:

Janet Atkinson, Institute for Local Governance, Durham University

The Institute for Local Governance is a North East Research and Knowledge Exchange Partnership established in 2009 comprising the North East region’s Universities, Local Authorities, Police and Fire and Rescue Services.

Further information about the content of the event can be obtained by contacting:- or




Please join us for The Rural Strategy Regional Roadshow;
Thursday 11 July 2019 (11am – 4.30pm) The Great Hall, The Discovery Museum, Blandford Square, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 4JA

Registration & Coffee from 11.00am for 11:20am start.

Organised by a partnership of The Rural Services Network, Action with Communities’ in Rural England, The Rural Coalition, The Plunkett Foundation and the Northern Rural Network.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the last Rural White Paper, we believe it is time to look again in a comprehensive way at the opportunities and threats facing rural areas and communities in England. I hope, therefore, that you will accept our invitation to join with a range of rural advocates and practitioners from your Region to consider how a new Rural Strategy can deliver for England’s rural communities and to join the campaign calling on the Government to produce such a strategy.

Today the challenges facing rural areas often leave residents and communities feeling isolated and largely overlooked by a political and financial system that is seemingly focused on towns and cities. Yet, nearly 20% of England’s population live in the countryside, more in total than in Greater London. There is a genuine need for their voice to be heard.

“Rural” all too often conjures up imagery of idyllic countryside living, but this stereotype is massively to the detriment of those living and working there and does a great disservice to the genuine challenges they face.

This event aims to champion a new Rural Strategy to raise the profile of rural issues and address the challenges faced by the communities of rural England, with the intention of achieving genuine equality for future generations of people living and working in rural England. We will look at a range of issues and opportunities, related to community and governance; connectivity and access and essential services in developing the building blocks of a new Rural Strategy.

On 1st March 2019 the Rural Services Network launched a campaign calling on the Government to produce an urgent comprehensive, cross-cutting strategy for rural areas, in the light of a warning that people living in our towns and villages “simply cannot afford to wait any longer for politicians to take their concerns seriously and act on them”.

The call is the result of concern that deep-seated challenges to the sustainability of rural communities, including rural economies and service delivery in rural areas have been inadequately addressed for too long and the situation is now urgent. The significant outflow of people from rural areas to urban-based jobs and services continues to be a source of concern. There is a prevailing sense that the potential of rural areas is being squandered, despite projections that unlocking their digital potential could add at least £12bn of extra productivity each year to the UK economy. There is also the continuing uncertainty of the impact of Brexit and the fear that the UK’s exit from the EU will serve to compound these existing challenges, especially in those areas currently heavily impacted by EU policies and reliant on EU funding streams.

The case for a Rural Strategy has been considerably strengthened by the recent House of Lords Select Committee Report on the Rural Economy, published on 27 April 2019 and entitled ‘Time for a Strategy for the Rural Economy’.

Following an initial event in Taunton in March, the discussion on 11 July will be the first in a series of Regional Roadshows and will seek to address questions such as;

(a) What should a Rural Strategy cover?

(b) How should we take things forward – who should be involved and how do we make it happen?

There will be focussed discussion on how a rural strategy would help in your Region and whether there are any different regional perspectives to highlight and specific actions needed.

We are inviting representatives from local government, business (including community business) and economy, government agencies, community, voluntary organisations and others with an interest. We do hope you will be able to join us and we look forward to working with you on 11 July.


Click to Book my place

You can access the House of Lords Report by clicking this link LORDS REPORT

You can also access The RSN’s Campaign and Template Strategy by clicking this link

This event is kindly supported by Calor