Last Saturday, 12 October, Britain’s Turkish Cypriots celebrated the leading lights of the community at a special gala dinner in Central London. Three hundred guests attended the event, at the Royal National Hotel in Bloomsbury, to learn about the community’s high achievers in a variety of fields including community work, philanthropy, the arts, activism, business, and sport.
Among this year’s winners were fashion designer Hussein Chalayan MBE, Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece OBE, Mustafa Kiamil, the founder and CEO of JJ Food Service – the UK’s biggest Turkish Cypriot-owned business, actor Tamer Hassan, Liverpool and England U21 striker Liverpool Rhian Brewster, and Enfield Council Leader Nesil Çalışkan.
Now in their second year, the awards are organised bi-annually by the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations in Britain (CTCA UK) – the community’s umbrella body for Turkish schools, cultural associations, places of worship, and lobby groups.
The awards aim to “recognise, promote and reward the achievements of successful British Turkish Cypriots”. This year’s presenters were Eray Galip of Turkishisms fame and television channel Kanal T’s Duygu Tağmaç, who added a touch of glamour and comedy to the three-hour ceremony, supported by music from Emrah Tak and Tansel, Osman Kelebek, and Elvis impersonator Türker Mustafa.
Among the notable politicians present on the night were Hasan Taçoy, the Economy and Energy Minister for the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), TRNC London Ambassador Oya Tuncalı, TRNC Consul General Buket Kop, Joanne McCartney, the Deputy Mayor of London, Sabri Özaydın, the Deputy Mayor of Enfield Council, and councillors from across London including Ahmet Karahasan, Mahmut Aksanoğlu, Güney Doğan, Mustafa Çetinkaya, Margaret Greer, Halil Halebi and Ahmet Durmuş.
Although unable to attend the gala, both the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and TRNC Prime Minister Ersin Tatar sent CTCA UK letters congratulating the community on their achievements and extended their best wishes for the event.
The proceedings were opened by CTCA UK President Leyla Kemal. In her welcoming speech, she talked about the importance of the awards, which were first launched under her leadership two years ago. She expressed her pride at presiding over a second awards night, and said:
“We are proud that the Turkish Cypriots living in Britain are integrated into life here, while at the same time taking steps to preserve their own culture. They have achieved a great many successes in different fields. Our aim is to recognise these achievements and share them with our 320,000 strong community.”
The evening, sponsored by Turkish Bank and Cyprus Paradise, saw a total of 32 awards from 18 categories presented. In the first part of the ceremony, the community services of individuals and associations were recognised.
Aysın Yılmaz, a former head of the Turkish Women’s Philanthropic Association (TWPA) and the CTCA UK’s first female president, and Türker Çakıcı, head of the Hornsey Atatürk Turkish School, received Lifetime Achievement Awards. There were tears and applause as a visibly frail Mrs Yılmaz was helped to the stage by her husband and family to collect the award.
Lifetime Achievement Awards
The two winners of a poetry contest, organised by CTCA UK earlier in the year to coincide with the 100th anniversary of 19 May 1919 – the start of the Turkish War of Independence – were also named: author Sonay Yakup Yakupsoy and former LTR presenter Ertuğrul Türkbileği.
The second part celebrated those who have promoted Turkish Cypriot culture, language, and North Cyprus in Britain, alongside the community’s leading philanthropists and activists.
Renowned Turkish language educator Kelami Dedezade, and Necati Sayer, the second Turkish Cypriot ambassador to London, who both passed away in 2018, were recognised for their vital contributions with Posthumous Awards.
People’s Choice Best Community Activists
Following a public vote, the winners of the People’s Choice Best Community Activists were unveiled as Chingford Conservative Councillor Ilkay İsa and Cemal Ezel, the founder of Change Please, a social enterprise transforming the lives of the homeless.
The third and final part of the gala awarded those whose outstanding achievements have left an indelible mark on British society and beyond.
Personality of the Year
The Male Personality of the Year went to Hussein Chalayan, who this year celebrates 25 years in fashion. Described by international press as a “genius” and “game-changer”, this year the fashion designer marks 25 years in the industry, making a huge impact in the process, from creating a skirt from a coffee table, to a dress that folds into an airmail envelope, and belts that change colour according to on your stress levels.
The UK’s most senior politician of Turkish origin Baroness Ece was named the Female Personality of the Year. A trailblazer and community figurehead, she became the first elected Turkish female official in 1994 and also established the first domestic violence project for Turkish-speaking women. This part year, she has been responsible for galvanising the community into action against appalling conditions at the privately-owned Tottenham Park Cemetery – the UK’s largest burial site for British Turks.
With family roots hailing from Kaleburnu, Londoner 19-year-old Rhian Brewsterpicked up two awards on the night: Sportsperson of the Year, for powering the England U17 side World Cup victory in India, scoring eight goals in the process. He was also named a Turkish Cypriot Rising Star, for his stand against racism in football and efforts to help young players get scouted.
Enfield Council Leader Nesil Çalışkan won the Female Turkish Cypriot Rising Star Award. Last year, she became England’s youngest-ever council leader at the age of 29 and also made history as Enfield’s first female head. She currently oversees a council of 8,000 staff and a budget of £230 million, while spearheading a huge £6 billion housing regeneration project at Meridian Waters.
Business of the Year
Business of the Year went to JJ Food Service, the UK’s most recognisable Turkish Cypriot-owned brand and with an annual turnover in excess of £201 million, also the most successful. In a rare public appearance the company’s founder and CEO Mustafa Kiamil attended the event, to pick up the trophy in person.
Celebrating their 30thanniversary, JJ now operates out of 11 sites across Britain and employs over 800 staff. It’s won multiple awards for its digital innovation – JJ was the first wholesaler to take orders online – and as an industry leader, is using its position to spearhead other major changes, from driving for more women in wholesale, to becoming an environmentally-friendly business, operating paperless warehouses, using solar-powered energy and having MSC certification for all its branches.
There was a strong show of entertainers in this year’s CTCA awards. Marking his sixtieth year in showbusiness, actor and broadcaster Osman Balıkçıoğlu picked up Best Promotion of North Cyprus in Britain 2019 for his comedy sketches and theatre plays.
Another icon Osman Kelebek and the current members of Turkish wedding band Kelebekler won the award for Turkish Cypriot Cultural Heritage 2019 for five decades of preserving traditional Turkish Cypriot culture. The London band was first formed by Osman Kelebek back in 1969 and have played at an estimated 5,000 weddings.
Game of Thrones and Snatch actor Tamer Hassan also came away with an award for ‘Best Turkish Cypriot Artist’ – one of two recipients this year.
Important contribution to Turkish Cypriot heritage
This year, a non-Turkish Cypriot was also recognised for their important contribution to Turkish Cypriot heritage. War photographer Sir Don McCullin was this year’s recipient for his powerful photograph of Nevcihan Oluşum, which won the World Press Photo Award in 1964.
The CTCA jury said: “Taken in Gaziveren moments after Nevcihan Oluşum found out her husband had been killed, this 55-year-old photo remains hugely relevant, disproving the myth that the Cyprus conflict started in 1974 and Greek Cypriots are the only victims.”
Full list of winners from the 2nd CTCA UK Awards
Turkish Cypriot Personality of the Year 2019 (female): Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece
Turkish Cypriot Personality of the Year 2019 (male): Hussein Chalayan
Turkish Cypriot Rising Star 2019 (female): Cllr Nesil Çalışkan
Turkish Cypriot Rising Star 2019 (male): Rhian Brewster
Lifetime Achievement Award 2019 (female): Aysın Yılmaz
Lifetime Achievement Award 2019 (male): Türker Çakıcı
Posthumous Award 2019: Kelami Dedezade, Necati Sayer
Poetry Award: Centenary of ’19 May’: Sonay Yakup Yakupsoy, Ertuğrul Türkbileği
People’s Choice Best Female Community Activist 2019: Cllr İlkay İsa
People’s Choice Best Male Community Activist 2019: Cemal Ezel
Best Attendance by a CTCA Chairperson 2019: Yusuf Mehmet
Most Active Turkish Cypriot Association (CTCA member) 2019: Dr. Fazıl Küçük Turkish School
Most Active Turkish Cypriot Association (Non-CTCA member) 2019: Cyprus Islamic Association
CTCA UK Platinum Supporters 2019: Turkish Bank, Cyprus Paradise
CTCA Outstanding Festival Volunteers 2019: Tuğrul Yiğitoglu, Işık Vedat, Hass ‘J Junior’ Redif
Biggest Sponsor of the CTCA Turkish Cypriot Cultural Festival 2018: Cyprus Paradise
Biggest Sponsor of the CTCA Turkish Cypriot Cultural Festival 2019: GİMA & Bodrum
Best Promotion of North Cyprus in Britain 2019: Osman Balıkçıoğlu
Turkish Cypriot Philanthropist of the Year 2019: Argun İmamzade, Cemal Ezel
Turkish Cypriot Cultural Heritage 2019: Osman Kelebek and Kelebekler
Turkish Cypriot Sportsperson of the Year 2019: Rhian Brewster
Turkish Cypriot Artist of the Year 2019: MeM Tekari, Tamer Hassan
UK Turkish Cypriot Small Business of the Year 2019: Havva
UK Turkish Cypriot Large Business of the Year 2019: JJ Food Service
Important Contribution to Turkish Cypriot Heritage 2019: Sir Don McCullin