MBEs for Morecambe and Carnforth women in Queen's Birthday Honours List

Kerrie Higham, from Morecambe, has received the award for Services to the Community, while Rebecca Oaks, from Yealand, near Carnforth, has been awarded the MBE for Services to Coppicing and Green Wood Craft.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 10:30 pm
Kerrie Higham has been awared an MBE for services to the community.

Kerrie, 44, who was born and raised in Morecambe said that "things like this don't happen to people like me", and described how she was "absolutely flabbergasted" when she opened the email announcing the award.

She initially thought the announcement was junk mail, and left the email for three hours before she finally opened it, while Rebecca Oaks, 57, actually deleted the email initially, thinking the same thing.

Rebecca later received a phone call confirming it was genuine.

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Rebecca Oaks has been awarded the MBE for Services to Coppicing and Green Wood Craft.

She said she was "very pleased" with the award, and highlighted that the work she had done was also a team effort.

Standing for Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an MBE is the third highest ranking Order of the British Empire award (excluding a knighthood/damehood), behind CBE and then OBE.

Kerrie received her MBE for services to the community in Morecambe, particularly during Covid-19.

She set up the Covid-19 response through The Well, a not-for-profit community interest company founded in 2012 by her husband David.

Kerrie and her husband David.

With hubs in Barrow, Morecambe and Lancaster as well as sites in Kendal, it helps people in Lancashire and Cumbria recover from drug and alcohol addiction.

In recovery herself, Kerrie said that The Well puts people at the forefront of everything it did, and during the pandemic, it maintained contact with people who needed the service.

Since the start of lockdown the Barrow in Furness Hub has delivered over 1,200 meals to some of South Lakeland's most marginalised individuals, and has provided 376 portions of ingredients to vulnerable families in an effort to encourage communal cooking and healthy eating.

Kerrie was also instrumental in setting up a new Community Support Group, formed immediately in response to the Covid-19 lockdown when many areas of support became unviable.

She created the group as a way to continue to reach people within the local community, who had previously engaged on a face to face basis, and as a result has reached a much wider audience.

It now also acts as a stepping-stone for those leaving hospital and looking to continue their engagement in recovery as well as being fed by a number of different projects and other agencies whose own support programs have been limited by the lockdown.

She has also been leading a Family Support Group, created to support the families and loved ones of those in the grip of addiction.

She said: "Things like this don't happen to people like me, but I think what is very good about it is it raises awareness about what we do, and puts our organisation on the map and highlights the possibilities.

"I'm in recovery myself, I'm Morecambe born and bred, and it just shows that people can break free from their past.

To come away with an MBE is massive, and I hope it inspires other people as well."

Rebecca Oaks, 57, from Yealand Redmayne near Carnforth, was awarded the MBE for services to Coppicing and Green Wood Crafts.

Over the years she has worked tirelessly to open up the coppicing industry to new entrants, particularly women, and is a woodland sustainability pioneer, craftswoman, activist, trainer, and author.

She has sponsored four apprentices, who all now run coppice crafts businesses and continues to provide a source of inspiration and guidance to young entrants, especially women, seeking to start new woodland businesses.

She started her business in 1994 and simultaneously dedicated herself to promoting and celebrating coppicing and green wood crafts.

As well as demonstrating excellence in her own craft work (making hurdles, charcoal, baskets, coracles and much more) she has energised the sector and inspired a new generation of coppice workers.

She is the founder and driving force behind the Bill Hogarth Memorial Apprenticeship Trust (BHMAT), set up in 2001 in honour of her mentor, to provide training in sustainable woodland management that benefits biodiversity and wider society.

She developed a structured three-year apprenticeship that has awarded diplomas to 18 apprentices, most of whom now run their own coppice craft businesses and went on to develop a partnership with the Small Woods Association (SWA) to run the National Coppice Apprenticeship Scheme.

She was a founder director of the National Coppice Federation (NCFed), which gives a national, unified voice to regional coppice groups and has written three coppicing and coppice craft books, one of which won the Woodland Awards best books of the year in 2018.

She was also Chair/Vice-chair of the Coppice Association North West from 1996-2018.

She said: "The announcement came via email and I deleted it at first, but luckily they called me later.

"I was very pleased.

"Obviously with these things it's often a team effort, and there's been a great team of people working on the apprenticeships side of things.

"It's just great to have the recognition."