Community stalwart and inspirational founder of Surrey Music, Cliff van Tonder, has been recognised at a prestigious ceremony at The Palace of Westminster held on Thursday 24th January, and honoured with a British Citizen Award for Services to the Arts (BCAa).
The British Citizen Award serves to recognise “determined, committed endeavour in improving the workplace or community, effectively impacting the lives of those around them”. Cliff was nominated by Surrey Music - the community organisation he founded and runs voluntarily as CEO and Musical Director - in recognition of his 13 years of selfless service in creating, nurturing and growing the society, and for the huge impact he has had on his members and the wider community, and for the positive contribution he has made to society.
In 2005 Cliff formed Elmbridge Choir in Cobham, to provide an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to enjoy performing choral music while at the same time giving something back to their local community. 13 years later, Surrey Music has raised more than £175,000 for charitable purposes, awarded grants totalling £14,000 for music activities and initiatives, established a big band, supported a youth band, enabled a group of adults with learning disabilities to enjoy weekly music sessions, and now comprises two thriving community choirs – Elmbridge Choir and Elmbridge Ladies Choir - with a membership of 240 members.
Along with 29 other worthy recipients from all corners of the UK, Cliff was presented with a specially struck medal inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’, and a framed Certificate of Honour.
The ceremony was hosted by patrons of The British Citizen Award, The Rt. Hon. The Lord Dholakia OBE DL and Dame Mary Perkins. Medals and certificates were presented by sponsors of the Award: Specsavers, Unilever, Unity Trust Bank, Experian and The Co-operative Bank.
Cliff was presented with his medal by Places for People’s Group Executive Director for Affordable Housing, Pat Egan, who said,
“It was an honour to present Cliff with an Award. His efforts towards making music accessible for everyone has brought the community to life. Cliff’s exceptional dedication in creating a community choir has allowed hundreds of people to experience the joys of singing and performing.”
“There is no end to Cliff’s drive and energy which he gives freely and in abundance to the members of Surrey Music and to serving the local community,” explains Surrey Music’s Publicity Officer, Debbie Groves, who nominated Cliff for the award on behalf of the society. “Nominating him for a British Citizen Award was a very fitting way to thank him for all he does, and we couldn’t be happier for him that his efforts have been recognised in this way.”
“I am so incredibly humbled and honoured to receive this Award, and very proud that I was able to represent Surrey at the ceremony!I heard so many inspiring stories of courage and conviction and feel privileged to receive this honour for doing something that I love.”
The event was hosted by TV personality Michael Underwood, who stated “Having presented the very first British Citizen Awards, it’s a real honour to be invited back and a privilege. I am in awe learning more about the incredible people being recognised for their contribution to society.”