The Academy of Urbanism is a not-for-profit organisation that brings together and supports the current and next generation of urban leaders, thinkers and practitioners who deliver and sustain great places.

The Urbanism Award draws out exceptional examples of urbanism and, after 15 years of focusing on places, this year it celebrated the people who have made outstanding contributions to our towns and cities.

And we are excited to announce that our CEO and co-founder Sue Riddlestone OBE was one of these individuals. Winner of the Urban Re-Inventor Award for her contributions to the sector, Sue was described by the panel as a ‘creative and resilient leader, who pushed innovation in sustainable living long before it was fashionable.’

The Academy noted that Sue had worked tirelessly over the years to promote and enable sustainable living, from instigating the pioneering BedZED eco-village in 2002; developing One Planet Living, a sustainability framework which has been used in billions of dollars worth of developments across the world; to helping London 2012 become the greenest Olympics Games yet and, more recently, helping to develop the UK’s very first eco-town.

Receiving her award at a ceremony last month at The Building Centre in central London, Sue said:

'I want to say thank you for this great network and to the judges, and to everyone who voted for me. When we got down to the final three in the category, I was just so honoured to receive that vote of confidence from my peers, so thank you.'

We have got to halve CO2 globally by 2030. We [urbanists] are all in such a powerful position to influence that in our day-to-day work. We are the generation that has got to get this right.

Sue Riddlestone OBE

'I wanted to enthuse and encourage you to channel your inner Greta Thunberg every day and work on making it easier for people to live a zero-carbon, sustainable life.'

As a gift, The Academy of Urbanism's poet-in-residence Ian McMillan composed a poem in celebration of Sue's achievements.

On the process of writing this, Ian said:

'I knew the subject was a serious one, but I also wanted the poem to be uplifting and jaunty, so I hit upon the idea of using the internal rhythms of Sue Riddlestone’s name to set the tone. I wanted the poem to be aware of itself, so that it constantly looked at its own construction and shape and I hoped that would underline the sense of celebration.'

Sue Riddlestone, by Ian McMillan

If the future is a healthy one

Then we must thank Sue Riddlestone

Who sat in committees day after day

And listened, considered and had her say

To make the world a better place

To put a smile on the world’s torn face.

You might ask why a jaunty rhyme

Is fitting here. Well, at this time

Of turbulence I have to say

That rhyme is a renewable way

Of making language work for us

And that has to be a plus.

So, Sue, I’m not ashamed to write

If sustainability is in sight

It’s thanks to the thoughts you thought

The battles that you sat and fought

So when tomorrow tells its tale

Of how we couldn’t dare to fail

To make a sustainable world

It’s the Riddlestone flag that gets unfurled!

© Ian McMillan

About Ian McMillan

Ian McMillan is a writer, poet and broadcaster who is poet-in-residence for The Academy of Urbanism, Barnsley FC, and now Barnsley’s Lockdown Poet. As well as presenting The Verb on BBC Radio 3 every week, he’s a regular on BBC Breakfast, Coast, Countryfile, Pointless Celebrities, Pick of the Week, Last Word and BBC Proms Plus. He has also been a castaway on Desert Island Discs. Find Ian on Twitter here.

Photo credits: The Academy of Urbanism, Ian McMillan/Jamie Bubb

Share this article