Stevenage councillor Sherma Batson remembered in emotional Celebrate!!! show

PUBLISHED: 12:13 31 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:13 31 October 2017

The finale of Saturday's Celebrate!!! event. Picture: MILLROE Photography

The finale of Saturday's Celebrate!!! event. Picture: MILLROE Photography

Archant

A community came together to put on a multi-cultural show on Saturday in memory of Stevenage councillor Sherma Batson, who championed diversity.

Sherma Batson, who was Stevenage mayor in 2014/15. Sherma Batson, who was Stevenage mayor in 2014/15.

Sherma was a long-standing member of Stevenage Borough Council, the first female black mayor of the town and a community activist. She was also a Herts county councillor for Broadwater and was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2008 for service to local government and the community.

In January this year, Sherma collapsed and died suddenly, aged just 59.

Sherma Batson's husband Howard Rooke, daughter Ahisha Ferguson and mother Yvonne Batson were presented with the Campbell Younge Award in Sherma's memory. Picture: MILLROE Photography Sherma Batson's husband Howard Rooke, daughter Ahisha Ferguson and mother Yvonne Batson were presented with the Campbell Younge Award in Sherma's memory. Picture: MILLROE Photography

She had been influential in setting up Celebrate!!! in 2002 – an annual showcase of multicultural talent at Stevenage’s Gordon Craig Theatre – and she subsequently organised the event every year.

On Saturday, Celebrate!!! was held in Sherma’s memory and included performances from Stevenage teenager Gabz – of Britain’s Got Talent fame – and soul singer Nathan Boyce Watson, who performs under the name Decosta Boyce and released his second album, Electrick Soul, this summer.

Gabz took to the stage for Saturday's show. Picture: MILLROE Photography Gabz took to the stage for Saturday's show. Picture: MILLROE Photography

The show also featured Punjabi Gidda dancers, Grant School of Irish Dancers, Warriorz performing arts academy and singer/songwriters including Becky Phillips and Jochebel Ohene McCarthy.

Sherma’s best friend and fellow borough council member, Michelle Gardner, helped organise the event.

Singer/songwriter Decosta Boyce. Picture: MILLROE Photography Singer/songwriter Decosta Boyce. Picture: MILLROE Photography

She said: “I had helped Sherma for the last few years to put the show on, but without her I didn’t know where to begin.

“People came together and everybody helped. The amount of love and heartfelt support we received was incredible.

Sherma Batson's husband, Howard Rooke, at Celebrate!!! on Saturday. Picture: MILLROE Photography Sherma Batson's husband, Howard Rooke, at Celebrate!!! on Saturday. Picture: MILLROE Photography

“The event has blown my mind. It went better than expected and we got a standing ovation. It was very emotional.”

Michelle had known Sherma since she was 17 and said: “She was a beautiful human being and an amazing community-spirited person.

Herts of Love Gospel Choir. Picture: MILLROE Photography Herts of Love Gospel Choir. Picture: MILLROE Photography

“She was very strong and fiercely cared about helping others to make it. Her joy was seeing them climb.”

At Saturday’s show, Sherma’s family – husband Howard Rooke, daughter Ahisha Ferguson and mother Yvonne Batson – were presented with the Campbell Younge Award in her memory.

The award is presented to people for outstanding and significant achievement or service to the community.

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