NSPIRATIONAL Penni Bubb is celebrating after being named Rochford’s citizen of the year for her outstanding contribution to the district.

The 47-year-old set up the Mushroom Theatre Company at Lubbards Farm, in Hullbridge, in 2004. The group integrates children with special needs with able-bodied children in all classes and performances.

Penni, of Hillary Crescent, Rayleigh, also set up the Equal People charity in 2005. It is raising funds to build a purpose-built theatre and performance area to cater for disabled performers and spectators.

She was handed her award at a ceremony at the Freight House, Rochford, where dozens of others were also commended for their unstinting community work, courage and dedication.

Speaking of her award, Penni said: “When you hearwhat other people nominated for this award have done for our community, it is really humbling to have won.

“I don’t regard what I do as something out of the ordinary, but I don’t think anyone nominated does.

“I set up the theatre company for the joy of it.

“I love to sing, dance and act and I get excited by the kids’ excitement.

“It is about what they are, not what they are not.”

The awards were presented by vice-chairman of Rochford District Council, Derek Stansby, his wife, Doris, and council chief executive, Paul Warren.

Mr Warren, opening the ceremony, said: “I am constantly amazed by the wealth of committed citizens who reside in the district and this year proved no exception.”

The council gave out 44 certificates and awards, including special mentions for residents who had recently died, Maureen Vince and Derek Head.

Mrs Vince, who was chairman of Rochford Parish Council, died suddenly in March this year.

Mr Warren presented her son, Stephen, with a certificate honouring her tireless work in the community.

Virginia Wade Bain also accepted a certificate on behalf of Mr Head’s family.