It takes someone extra special to win the Outstanding Contribution to Sussex Award.
With past winners including international best-selling author Peter James and chairman of Brighton and Hove Albion Tony Bloom, the level of candidate is always high.
Today we reveal the shortlist of this year’s potential winners – one of whom will be crowned at the Community Stars Awards ceremony at the Theatre Royal in Brighton on November 1.
They include Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Dome and Festival and chair of Brighton and Hove Arts and Creative Industries Commission.
Andrew has been at the helm of the Brighton Dome and Festival since 2008 and is credited with making the arts accessible and helping both venue and event into England’s biggest curated mixed arts festival.
Now in its 48th year, Brighton Festival’s innovative commissioning and festival production continues to win critical acclaim.
Next is Tony Mernagh, executive director Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership and managing director of Brighton and Hove Business forum. Tony is a celebrated figure across the business community and, as head of the partnership, has been involved in collaborating with other stakeholders to devise the economic strategy for the city.
His focus on enhancing the city’s distinctive destination and lifestyle offer, increasing quality jobs and business opportunities and establishing a strong and influential ‘Greater Brighton City Region’ make him a worthy nomination – particular as he will retire next year.
Also shortlisted is David Samuel, founding director of Paddle Round the Pier. The world’s biggest annual free beach festival has raised more than £2 million for charity since starting in 1996. The paddle boasts an international reputation in the water-sports press and has been voted one of the ‘top ten summer festivals’ by the The Times and ‘top 15 summer destinations’ by The Guardian.
Up for a posthumous award is Sir George Christie – son of Glyndebourne founders John Christie and Audrey Mildmay.
It is the 80th anniversary of Glyndebourne this year and Sir George sadly passed away in May. He and his wife Mary were instrumental in turning the family business into a world-renowned opera house.
He launched the Glyndebourne Touring Opera - giving greater accessibility to the arts by taking opera productions around the country. He also established Glyndebourne’s education department known for its work in the community with schools and youth opera programmes.
Finally, the last shortlisted name is Mervyn Weeks – one of Brighton and Hove’s most recognised charitable faces. Mervyn has been active in the city’s charitable sector for nearly 20 years and has supported projects including Off the Fence homeless charity, Brighton and Hove City Mission and the FareShare food charity.
He is now a pastor at Lindfield Evangelical Free Church but his work across Brighton and Hove has earned him a reputation as one of the most committed and thoughtful men to ever grace the city.
Ivan Mainprize, vice president at American Express, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this award, which recognises the significant contribution made by noteworthy individuals to the community.
“The talent, drive and efforts of this year’s nominees have all made a mark in very different ways.. We are proud to recognise the contributions of all five nominees.”