Three Newham heroes honoured in Queen’s Birthday list
15:20 15 June 2015
Two long-serving heroines of community sport and a young cadet leader have been honoured in the Queen’s Birthday list.
Natasha Hart, founder of Newham All Star Sports Academy, was awarded an MBE for her services to sport in east London, while former Olympian Linda Strachan, founder of Newham Swords Fencing Club, has been given a BEM, also for services to community sport.
The borough stalwarts are joined by 24-year-old volunteer cadet unit leader Robert Sewell who picked up a BEM (British Empire Medal) for services to young people and the community in Newham.
Natasha, 46, who set up the basketball academy in 2005 and pioneered the Carry A Basketball Not A Blade campaign, said she was “really shocked” to have been awarded the Member of the British Empire award, adding: “I wasn’t expecting anything like that.
“It’s a huge honour – it’s absolutely fantastic. What can I say, I don’t think you can get bigger than that really.
“It’s my name on the award but it’s for everyone, for the players, all those young people that we saw through these 10 years, all the coaches and volunteers and my family, especially my mum, who have been so supportive.”
Former Olympic fencer Linda, 53, established the fencing club 10 years ago.
Starting out with few resources, today the club is run across several locations across the borough and boasts more than 70 fencers, including some of the best in Britain for their age groups.
“My first reaction was one of disbelief,” she said on opening the letter from “Her Majesty’s Service” that told her of the award. The next thing I thought was ‘oh God, I have got to get a frock’.
“It just hasn’t sunk in yet . It’s just lovely to be on the list.”
“I have been to a couple of Olympic Games – marching around the stadium is a great honour, but I think this is up there with representing Great Britain at the Olympics. It’s a huge honour to get it.”
She added: “I just carry on and do the things that I do – I love working with kids as a full-time PE teacher. This is about giving something back. It’s important for the great work being done in community sport by those who haven’t been recognised.”
Robert, who took up a full-time role as a Met police constable in November last year, said he had to read his letter “several times while shaking” before he could take it in.
“As soon as I got it I was overwhelmed with emotion,” he said, adding: “I feel really proud and I’m proud to be a part of the cadets. Joining at 14 gave me the life and leadership skills I needed to become a police officer.”
He said he hoped the award would show others that “with dedication, aspiration and inspiration you can achieve anything you want to”.