A BICESTER charity has been presented with the prestigious Queen’s Award for its work – the highest honour a charity can receive.

Tim Stevenson, the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, handed over the 'richly deserved' crystal award and certificate from the Queen to OYAP (Oxfordshire Youth Arts Partnership) Trust at the end of last month.

The Queen’s Award is the equivalent of an MBE for volunteer groups and OYAP is one of a handful of organisations in Bicester to ever achieve the accolade.

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It marks a triple celebration for OYAP, which this year celebrates its 21st birthday, as earlier this year its founder, Helen Le Brocq, was awarded the High Sheriff Award for her outstanding contribution to youth arts and education in Oxfordshire.

Ms Le Brocq said: “We are hugely honoured. After 21 years of working so hard to develop creative and cultural opportunities for young people, this award is recognition for everyone who’s been part of the OYAP story.

“We started with absolutely nothing and our aim was to engage with young people, from age eight to 21, through arts and culture and give them the opportunity to express themselves through arts activities.

Oxford Mail:

"In the past 21 years we’ve seen tens of thousands of young people come and go through our doors and have life enhancing experiences.

“The Queens Award is seen as a kite mark of excellence and it means the Queen has recognised the contribution this organisation has made. It’s a real honour and we hope it will open new doors for us.”

OYAP Trust chairman David Marcou said he was 'proud to receive the award' on behalf of the charity.

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He said: “We harness the arts whether music, sculpture, dance or language to work with and improving the life chances of young people, including the most vulnerable, to find something that connects them. We have an enormous amount of evidence where the trust has made significant impact on young people’s lives and that’s why we do it.”

Oxford Mail:

Current and former mayors Jason Slaymaker and Sean Gaul both chose OYAP to be among their chosen mayoral charities.

Councillor Slaymaker, who attended OYAP as a young person, said: “It was fantastic to see OYAP receive the award. The support and work OYAP do with young people in our community is amazing and it has such a big impact. For me, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for OYAP Trust.”

Councillor Gaul handed over a cheque for £2,864.68, which was raised during his mayoral year.