A INSPIRATIONAL Bradford community hero was presented with a prestigious award by a popular celebrity soap star.

Actor and Coronation Street Star Jane Danson honoured Bradford resident Katie Mahon with a National Lottery Award, in recognition of her work in establishing Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company in Thorpe Edge.

The Corrie star presented Katie with her award today after it was announced that she had won the Arts, Culture & Film category in the 2023 National Lottery Awards.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Katie Mahon, of Bloomin Buds Theatre Company, is presented with a National Lottery Award by Coronation Street star Jane Danson.Katie Mahon, of Bloomin Buds Theatre Company, is presented with a National Lottery Award by Coronation Street star Jane Danson. (Image: Newsquest)

The National Lottery Awards are the annual celebration of the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.   

A judging panel whittled down 3,780 incredible nominees to just seven winners and Katie faced stiff competition to become the winner in this year’s Arts, Culture & Film category.

Katie grew up on the Thorpe Edge housing estate in Bradford, where she suffered with anxiety from a young age.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Katie Mahon with the National Lottery Award.Katie Mahon with the National Lottery Award. (Image: Newsquest)

She realised that theatre enabled her to become somebody else on stage, so went to university to study her passion.

It was her own experience of facing barriers to higher education in the theatre world that inspired Katie to set up Bloomin’ Buds in her first year of study, with the aim of tackling the stigma of being working class within the arts community.

Now in its ninth year, Bloomin’ Buds runs The Rockwell Community Centre as an arts and cultural hub, with 200 people from the community attending events, singing groups, poetry nights and plays on a weekly basis.

The centre also provides a wide range of support to the local community, including food parcels, debt management and housing assistance.

The organisation employs 12 people from working class backgrounds with a team of around 10 volunteers, offering intern and academic placements for disadvantaged young people within a professional theatre environment.

With artistic director Katie leading the way, Bloomin’ Buds’ packed weekly schedule is geared towards positive community impact and support. 

The company’s latest production Where is Love tells the coming-of-age story of a Bradford woman and her brave fight against the cycles of domestic abuse. It was premiered at Bradford Literature Festival in June and was staged at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, along with two other productions from the company.

Bloomin’ Buds will receive £300,000 of funding from The National Lottery through Arts Council England over the next three years, which will enable them to continue their important arts and community hub support in Thorpe Edge.   

Katie said: “I just can’t believe it. It feels incredible to be recognised for all of the amazing work that the Bloomin’ Buds team does within the community.

"Our mission is to make the arts more accessible for working class people, and we just couldn’t do it without the support we receive from The National Lottery.

“Winning this award will help us to create even more opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to break down barriers so that the arts can be enjoyed by all.”

Jane, known for her portrayal of Leanne Battersby in the ITV soap opera, travelled to The Rockwell Community Centre to present Katie with her trophy and to congratulate her on her achievement.

She said: “What Katie has done to tackle the stigma of being working class in the arts community is nothing short of incredible.

"From my own experience, I understand the barriers that working class people can face in this industry, and Katie’s determination to ensure that her community has access to the benefits of the arts is truly inspirational.

“She has provided residents in Thorpe Edge with a safe haven where they can experience the joy of singing, acting and performing without feeling excluded or judged, and this deserves to be celebrated.

“I am delighted to present Katie with this award and I’m very excited to see what she will do next.  National Lottery players should be proud to have supported such a wonderful project.”

Katie added: "It was super exciting for people at the community centre to meet Jane. She was so humble and really relatable. We talked at length about what it was like to make an impact on the arts and theatre world when you're from a working class background."

Winners in each category received a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation and a National Lottery Awards trophy.