The Local Hero Award went to Mark Gibbins who has been running workshops for men in Spon End, Coventry for many years. The award was presented and handed by David Burbidge, Chair of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, and Councillor John McNicholas, Lord Mayor of the City of Coventry, at the Coventry Cathedral on 1 March 2022.

It all began in 2013 when the community hall got some funding to run cooking workshops, but there was no one to deliver them. Mark Gibbins, a Spon End resident with a love of a vegetarian curry, art and creativity and a passion to support men, who like himself, struggle with their mental health. Soon Gibo, as everyone knows him, was applying for small bits of funding himself to keep workshops going at Rose Community Centre, and since then he’s been running both Coventry Men’s Shed and Crafty Blokes. 

The men who come to his workshops are often vulnerable and isolated and Gibo supports them in so many ways, above and beyond crafting and cooking. When Covid struck in 2020 the guys were in the early stages of developing a puppet show with a suicide prevention message. Although they could no longer meet in person Gibo kept supporting each and every one of the men who attend his groups with regular calls and texts. Finally, just before Christmas 2021, the puppet show went ahead giving a huge sense of pride and purpose to those involved. I can’t over emphasise the importance of the work Gibo does and the lives he’s changed, possibly even saved.

Gibo shared his joy of receiving the Local Hero Award and some details about his community work on air during Phil Upton's Breakfast Show on BBC CWR. Listen via BBC Sounds (from 2h28m48s).