Dame Julie Walters hailed her close friend Julie Budge as an “absolute powerhouse of a woman” as the domestic abuse activist was honoured at the Women Of The Year Awards.
Budge, founder and chief executive of the My Sisters’ House support centre, took home the woman in the community award at the annual event, which this year took place as a “virtual tea” party.
Some 400 women tuned in for the 66th edition, which paid tribute to key workers, charities and NHS staff on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic and was filmed in October ahead of broadcast.
In a pre-recorded message, Dame Julie, 70, said: “I remember when we all used to sit around tables and eat, get drunk and put the world to rights.
“We can’t do that now but instead we’re going to have a fabulous virtual tea.
“Big congratulations to all of you women and all of the fantastic things that you’ve achieved.
“A big, big welcome also to our NHS staff that are joining us today and thank you for everything that you’ve done.
“I have a very special congratulations, and that goes to my friend Julie Budge. She is an absolute powerhouse of a woman.”
The actress, who is patron of Budge’s charity, added: “She is a force of nature and she runs and founded a charity called My Sisters’ House which has helped, supported and counselled hundreds of women with various problems.
“Women with all sorts of issues such as poverty, domestic abuse and violence, mental health, and she so deserves this award.
“I am massively proud to be patron of her charity. So, Julie, congratulations and to you all of you, have a great lunch.”
My Sisters’ House functions as a sanctuary for abuse survivors embedded in the Bognor Regis community but working across the coastal area of West Sussex.
Singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading celebrated “ordinary women who have done extraordinary things” as she received the lifetime achievement award.
The 69-year-old, who was this year made a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, quipped: “Thank you. I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to receive a lifetime achievement award from Women of the Year and I have to say yes, I was President of Women of the Year.”
Paying tribute to the event’s co-founder, the Marquess of Lothian, Lady “Tony” Antonella, she added: “It’s really an honour for me to accept this award because Tony Lothian was a visionary and she had the brilliant idea of honouring very ordinary women who have done extraordinary things.”
The wellness warrior award went to Sylvia Mac, burns survivor and body confidence activist, while Poppy Gustafsson, chief executive and co-founder of cyber-security firm Darktrace, was honoured with the innovation award.
Adwoa Dickson accepted the community spirit award for her work the Amies Freedom Choir, a community choir for young women who have survived trafficking.
Accepting the prize from TV host Lorraine Kelly, she said: “I am overjoyed that the women of the Amies Freedom Choir have won The Woman of the Year Community Spirit Award 2020.
“It pays great tribute to the resilience and determination of our participants who have overcome so many obstacles and despite facing such adversity, find the strength to build beautiful friendships by coming together to sing.”
Former Great British Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc returned to host the afternoon alongside Kelly, Georgina Campbell and Tamzin Outhwaite.