The 2021 Iolanthe Midwives Awards Ceremony took place on January 28th, 2022. We had hoped a delay might have resulted in the possibility of a face-to-face ceremony, but instead, for the second year, we held the ceremony online. However, it is hard to imagine how it could have been more enjoyable, even in person.
Almost all our award winners were able to attend – although a few hard-working folks were keeping their maternity wards running instead – and we were delighted to have almost all of our Trustees with us too, but also some very special guests. Many of us took the opportunity to dress up in our sparkly best and share some fizz with our families, to get into the spirit of the occasion.
After a warm welcome to everyone from our Interim Chair Mars Lord, the Iolanthe Trust’s much-loved patron Baroness Cumberlege gave her congratulations to all our award winners, with attention to the detail of the wide array of projects they have been carrying out, supported by their Iolanthe funding.
Trustee Benash Nazmeen thanked all midwives and student midwives who had found the time to apply for awards despite continuing to work under such difficult circumstances in 2021, and then invited Mary Cronk’s daughter Maggie to present the Mary Cronk Award. This is given to a midwife whose project aligns with inspirational independent midwife Mary Cronk’s own passion and values, and Maggie presented it to student midwife Rhian Ward, to put on a Biomechanics in Birth course for her fellow student midwives.
Benash then went on to present our Dora Opoku Awards, given to a Black or Brown registered midwife and a Black or Brown student midwife, received tonight respectively by Kelly Shari and Rio Cole. Kelly will study for a Diagnostic Assessment and Decision Making qualification, and Rio plans to attend a Breastfeeding London course.
For 2021 the Trust awarded ten Midwives Awards. Trustee Logan Van Lessen presented these to Verónica Blanco Gutiérrez, Tracey Beason, Tamsyn Green, Sally Pezaro, Mhairi McLellan, Lauren Alexis, Ellie Ruding, Ella Radford,Marley Hall and Katie Poljakovic.
Our Trustees Sheona Brown and Grace Thomas, both involved in Midwifery Education, went on to present seven Student Midwives Awards for 2021, to Rhian Ward, Joyce Fogg, Elisabeth Schwalbe, Rebecca Murdoch, Megan Smith, Naomi Thistlethwaite and Mireia Manzano.
As Jean Davies herself was unable to attend, though sending us her best wishes from abroad, the joint Iolanthe/RCM Jean Davies Award for addressing health inequalities was presented by special guest Birte Harlev-Lam OBE. This award was won by Kyia Omoshebi, with co-applicant Tamsin Bicknell, for improving the quality of maternity care for Black and Black-Mixed Women at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Birte, representing the Royal College of Midwives, gave the Award to Tamsin, accepting on her own and Kyia’s behalf.
With all our award winners now able to relax, our Legal Trustee Johanna Rhys-Davies spoke about someone who we particularly wished to remember this evening. Joan Greenwood was a midwife who rose to become the Midwifery Officer in the Department of Health from 1984 to 1994, working for innovative change in the world of birth. She was also for a time the Midwife Treasurer of the Royal College of Midwives. It is thanks to Joan and her colleagues that NHS midwives today are working with safe midwifery standards. Before she died in November 2019 at the age of 86, Joan received an Order of the British Empire for her life’s work.
The Iolanthe Midwifery Trust was fortunate to be remembered in Joan’s will, receiving a generous legacy. Joan had planned this for some time, keeping a sharp eye on Iolanthe’s work to be sure we were meeting her standards! Coming at a time of financial challenge for many charities including our own, these additional funds have eased this difficult period of the ongoing pandemic and enabled us to confidently grant awards to midwives and midwifery students, knowing we have the funds available to do it. We are also delighted to be able to offer our prestigious Midwifery Research Fellowship in 2022. We could not be more grateful to Joan for her kindness.
Johanna had more generous folks to thank – firstly, Dr Maeve O’Connell, midwifery lecturer and yoga teacher. Giving her own time freely to provide online "Yoga for Iolanthe" classes for midwives, Maeve has, for a second year in a row, passed participants’ donations onto Iolanthe.
Next, our marathon runners – Kristy Dunning, Amy Doherty, and Dr Joanne Welsh (a previous Midwifery Research Fellowship winner) ran both the virtual marathon in 2020 and the actual marathon in 2021, surpassing their own fundraising targets. Jo Milsom joined them in 2021 for her first run, also surpassing her target, and our own ex-Director and current Finance Officer, Miranda Scanlon ran the 2021 marathon from home.
After all these energetic people had received their Iolanthe Fundraising Awards, Johanna had one more to give, to the Coniam family, who have a very special place in our hearts. Ross’s generous journey began in 2018, when he and Naomi lost their newborn daughter, Norah. Ross took on a series of challenge events, known as Nine4Norah, to raise funds in Norah’s memory.
Iolanthe was a grateful recipient of the family’s kindness, not only then, but this year again, as we have received a further donation to our work. Ross and Naomi were tag-teaming to manage their little boy’s bedtime, so we had glimpses of all three throughout the night, with Naomi finally accepting the Award on behalf of her family.
Mars Lord then returned to review Iolanthe’s year, covering its main events – the Trust moving to its new identity as a CIO, as a result of much hard work by Miranda Scanlon in her previous role of Executive Director, with Johanna’s legal support; the appointing of new Executive Director Susan Soar and Admin Officer Sharyn Lock; the stepping down of Trustees Mary Stewart and Phoebe Pallotti, and the recruitment of new midwife trustees Emilola (Lola) Ornato, Rachel Elf and Dr Helen Bedford. They will also now be joined by our new Financial Trustee Deepa Verma.
Mars’ final speech was a celebration of Jacque Gerrard, MBE, who stepped down as Chair of Iolanthe at the end of 2021 after nearly three years, but luckily for Iolanthe, remains as a Trustee. Mars said:
“Jacque has brought joy, diligence and passion to her time as Chair of Iolanthe Midwifery Trust. She has led us all so well and kept an open space for each of us to share, have robust discussions about Iolanthe, whether in the awards process or areas of governance…. She stewarded this ship magnificently through the pandemic... She has been a faithful, fantastic force for Iolanthe and we have been blessed to have her.”
Jacque responded with a summary of the highlights and challenges of the Chair role over the last few years, thanking Miranda for her support as our previous Executive Director, Mars as Vice Chair, all the Trustees for their hard work, and welcoming Susan and Sharyn.
Mars ended the evening with a final thanks to our special guests for attending, and a final congratulations to our award winners, and we all joined in a round of applause.
Award winner Katie summed up the night for us all when she wrote afterwards: "I wanted to extend my thanks to you… for tonight’s ceremony. It was so wonderful, there was a lot of love in ‘the room’."