Stevenage councillor Sherma Batson remembered in emotional Celebrate!!! show
PUBLISHED: 12:13 31 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:13 31 October 2017
A community came together to put on a multi-cultural show on Saturday in memory of Stevenage councillor Sherma Batson, who championed diversity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.