SETTLE woman Ann Harding said she burst into tears when she was told she had been awarded a BEM in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to the community of Settle during Covid-19.

The honours' list, which was due to be published in June, was postponed in order to consider nominations for people playing crucial roles during the first months of the Covid-19 effort.

"I really didn't think things like this happened to ordinary people," said Ann.

Ann, 56, moved to Settle 14 years ago and was responsible for saving and promoting the Victoria Hall as a community resource for the arts, entertainment and culture that is more than an hour’s drive from the nearest equivalent venue.

Local authority funding was withdrawn in 2009, and she took on the role of project manager to bring about the transformation into a community hub, with extraordinary success.

In 2019 the hall attracted more than 13,500 people to more than 150 ticketed events, a remarkable programme for a small remote town.

More recently, the hall has been a buzz of socially-distanced activity which Ann helped to organise as a community effort to offset the effects of lockdown due to coronavirus. It is for her efforts in this that she was nominated for a British Empire Medal.

Settle Community Response not only became the heart of the community’s coronavirus response, it helped to safeguard the hall’s future by opening a new pop-up charity shop.

After organising a leaflet drop throughout the community, more than 200 volunteers came forward, setting up dedicated phone lines, a volunteer rota, and have so far delivered over 2,000 prescriptions and over 700 shopping drops, taken the elderly to hospital as well as setting up a pop-up foodbank and a jigsaw library.

Alongside the charity shop, Ann has also commandeered a field behind the hall owned by Craven District Council to hold a café to use donated produce, an outdoor stage and cinema, and a bar/barbecue with 15 tables made by volunteers from upcycled materials under a donated gazebo to ensure social distancing.

She is also currently making plans to open a plant shop and a ‘repair café’ where people can bring items to be mended.

During her time in Settle she was also responsible for driving the creation of Settle Hydro, a community funded green power generation project, to supply locally generated electricity to the town to support economic development.

"I really didn't expect this at all and my feelings went from being overwhelmed, to honoured to sheepish because of all the volunteers who have helped. I only give directions," she said.

"All I do is point people in the right direction and I have to say this is for everyone who has done such fantastic work for Settle Community Response in very difficult times."