JOAN McCONN AWARDED THE BRITISH EMPIRE MEDAL
The first investiture for the British Empire Medal (BEM) for nearly 20 years was held at the Tower of London on Friday 7th December. Some 293 people from across the UK received the BEM in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours, and of these there were 26 recipients of the medal honoured for services to their local communities in Greater London.
Kingston magistrate Joan McConn was awarded the BEM for her selfless service to the community in Kingston where, in addition to serving as a magistrate for 19 years she has been involved in numerous local and charitable activities. For many years she has been a trustee (and previously tutor and Deputy Chair) of the local charity ‘Learn English at Home’ (LEAH) where volunteer tutors teach English to the most vulnerable and isolated learners helping them to acquire the tools needed to make the transition from complete isolation to taking an active part in the community. Celebrated local writer Dame Jacqueline Wilson is patron of the charity, and Kingston MP Ed Davey said “the charity has helped to improve the lives of many people in the constituency and Joan’s work has made a profound difference to the project on many levels”.
Joan helped set up the ‘Kingston Federation of Allotment Gardeners’ (KFAG) in 2003 which aims to promote and encourage allotment gardening, which was in decline at the time. KFAG is also working to encourage allotment sites to form Associations which can take over the management of their site on a voluntary basis and so help the Council save money and give allotment holders a direct interest in the management of their site. She is on the Management Committee of KFAG and is also the Lettings Secretary of Addison Gardens Allotments, and thanks to her determination and enthusiasm, as well as the growing interest in home produced fruit and vegetables, the allotment plots are fully let and thriving.
Joan looked after St John’s Parish Hall in Grove Lane for 20 years. The Hall provides a vital venue for pre-school toddlers at ‘Kingston Kindergarten’ and is also the centre for many local community activities which include a thriving theatre group - ‘Spring Grove Fringe’, badminton, a great local dance and party band – the original ‘PlanB’, fundraising dinners and concerts, and private family celebrations.
She has been the Chair of Kingston Tour Guides for 11 years, a group that trains volunteers from the local community to guide walks in Kingston - introducing local people as well as visitors to the long and colourful history of the town. She also represents the ‘Spring Grove Residents Association’ (SGRA) on the Conservation Area Advisory Committee for Kingston Council and has also been a voluntary usher at the Rose Theatre since its opening.
In her various roles working for the community in Kingston Joan has been the instigator of many fundraising activities and initiatives, and without her efforts the various groups that she has been involved with would have been very much the poorer.
Joan received her medal from the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, Sir David Brewer CMG JP acting on behalf of the Queen, at the ceremony held in the New Armouries at the Tower. Also present was General the Lord Dannatt who said “As Constable of HM Tower of London, I am delighted that this Investiture is being held within the Tower. This ancient Fortress and Palace has witnessed many of the great moments in British history. It is therefore most fitting that the outstanding contributions to our country and our community by the recipients of the British Empire Medal are recognised within this historic setting.”
The BEM dates from 1917 (reinstated this year after a gap of 19 years) and is awarded for meritorious service deemed worthy of recognition by the Crown, and is affiliated with the Order of the British Empire (OBE).