West Belfast's resolve to come back better from the Covid Crisis was on show last Friday as the annual Best of the West extravaganza went online.
And while all had changed due to the coronavirus, one thing remained the same: the indomitable spirit of the people of West Belfast.
Indeed, pride of place at the virtual celebration went to four exceptional honorees who had gone the extra mile during the pandemic to help their neighbours.
These Community Hero Awards were presented immediately after this year's winners across 30 categories and went to:
- Gaeilge hub Ionad Uíbh Eachach, celebrating its 30th anniversary, stepped up with support classes Léargas and Bí Dána and activities online and in person when the lockdown ended for its adult learners and children.
- Celebrated songsters Tony and Brenda Coleman ensured the music kept our spirts high by organising online discos for the community every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for the lock-downed community from their home. Their fancy dress party was a special hit and gave great comfort to people who felt alone or anxious during the surge.
- The Cavemen band rallied to the car parks of the care homes to entertain residents who were completely shut off from the community and denied contact even with their loved ones. Their concerts brought great cheer and, as the situation worsens, they are continuing to play from the car parks of our care homes.
- The Greater Colin Foodbank Collective captured the very best of the West Belfast spirit when the pandemic hit, bringing together a host of community activists to make sure no one went hungry or without in the greater Colin area during the height of the crisis.
Presenter Lynette Faye of the BBC was joined via Zoom by the winners of each category as the Best of the West results were revealed by sponsors from the NIAVAC studios across town in East Belfast. This year's premier sponsor was The Glider but there was support also from GLL Better Leisure Supplies, Salon Supplies, Huhtamaki, Glenwood Business Park, Concentrix and Specsavers Park Centre.
The 2020 Best of the West Winners are:
- Best Visitor Attraction on Glider Route: Clonard Monastery
- Best Car Mechanic: Manning's Car & Commercials.
- Best Care Home: Brooklands
- Best GAA Club: Gort na Móna
- Best Project for Seniors: Good Morning Colin
- Best Gym: The Unit Gym & Fitness
- Glenwood Best Small Business Award: A1 Solutions
- Best Sunday Roast: Bobby's Bistro
- Best Boxing Club: An Gleann
- Best Music Group: Substation
- Best Small Business: The Sleepover Crew
- Best Restaurant: Biddy's Bar and Bistro
- Best Daycare Centre: Little Saints out of School
- Best Household Retailer: Direct Furniture
- Best Fry: The Coffee House
- Best Chemist: McGrath's Pharmacy
- Best Bar/Club: Andersonstown Social Club
- Best Fish Supper: Aldo's Fish and Chips
- Best Soccer Club: Belfast Swifts
- Best Singer: Alanna Flynn
- Best Taxi Firm: Gransha Taxis
- Best Community Centre: Tullymore Community Centre
- Best Dance Group: Ferris School of Irish Dancing
- Best Pizza: Little O's
- Best Coffee Shop: The Coffee House
- Best Convenience Store: McKenna's Today
- Best Beauty Salon: Beauty Box
- Best Barber: JJ's Barbers
- Best Hair Salon: Hair by Antoinette
- Best Tanning Salon: Stacy's Closet
In total, over 700,000 votes were cast by text, paper and internet in this year's competition which was launched back in February, pre-pandemic, then paused for six months before being revived in September.
Said Christina Sloan of Belfast Media Group: "We want to thank all our sponsors, nominees and voters for staying with us through this difficult time to ensure that we were able to raise a glass to those businesses, organisations and individuals who are continuing to provide invaluable service to the community. 2020 has been a tough year for everyone but based on the outpouring of community spirit we witnessed last Friday night, we can move forward with hope for the future."
You can watch back on the entire 90-minute celebration below.