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Posted on: April 28, 2017

The British Empire Medal is a British medal awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the British monarchy.  Her Majesty the Queen has approved that Avril Hitman be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year 2017 Honors List.

Avril was presented her British Empire Medal at the Tower of London on Friday 21st April 2017. Avril commented:

“I was thrilled to receive the British Empire Medal in recognition of my work over 32 years with Magpie Dance, the organisation I founded in 1985. The investiture was at the Tower of London, I was very nervous before the ceremony, which required me to walk up the room (in the New Armouries in the Tower of London) to a small stage where my citation was read out. I was one of 33 individuals receiving a BEM that day. What struck me was the diversity of the work for communities across London that is happening; the ceremony highlighted this work which often goes unreported and uncelebrated. I’ve had many messages of congratulations from colleagues and friends which is very much appreciated; I was able to invite three guests to the investiture, my husband, son and mother. My family were very excited to be present; there were a few tissue moments during my medal award by the Lord – Lieutenant of London, who pinned the award to my dress. For some reason he could not fasten it the first time, he took several attempts! Looking back on the occasion it all seems like a dream, I have my medal and a certificate from the Queen which will serve as a wonderful reminder of the day. I’m looking forward to attending the Royal Garden Party next. A hat and dress extravaganza celebration!” 

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32 years ago Avril Hitman founded Magpie Dance, an inclusive contemporary dance company that has carved out a national reputation for its exciting and inspiring approach to inclusive and creative dance. Magpie’s mission is: ‘Unlocking individual potential and ability, to be at the forefront of dance for people with learning disabilities’

Avril started Magpie in 1985 and it has grown for 32 years from a single inclusive dance session for just 45-minutes weekly to an acclaimed organisation delivering over 350 sessions for over 300 participants aged 8 upwards through high quality dance participation, performance and training both nationally and internationally.

“There is nothing else like this in the country. The confidence and skills that these young people gain from attending Magpie dance is invaluable.” Magpie parent

Congratulations Avril!