Truly inspirational: Woman who counsels the grieving wins Mail honourShelley Gilbert is overall winner of Inspirational Women of the Year AwardsAccolade awarded for her work with counselling charity Grief EncounterMother-of-four meets Samantha Cameron and Darcey Bussell at No10
08:58 GMT, 13 November 2012
With a guest list ranging from the Prime Minister’s wife to a Strictly Come Dancing star, it was certainly an illustrious event.
But for once, it wasn’t the famous faces who were in the spotlight.
Instead, mother-of-four Shelley Gilbert became the centre of attention yesterday – as she was named the overall winner of the Daily Mail’s sixth annual Inspirational Women of the Year Awards.
Influential: Shelley Gilbert (centre) with Samantha Cameron and Darcey Bussell at Downing Street. Mrs Gilbert is the overall winner of the Daily Mail's sixth annual Inspirational Women of the Year Awards
Proud: Mrs Gilbert, a mum-of-four, was awarded the accolade for her work with Grief Encounter, the counselling charity she set up in 2003
Shelley Gilbert was nominated by Kevin Wells, the father of murdered schoolgirl Holly, for the support she gave his family after his daughters disappearance
The 49-year-old was invited to 10 Downing Street to meet Samantha Cameron and Strictly judge Darcey Bussell before a gala dinner at the Marriott Hotel in London’s Grosvenor Square.
Mrs Gilbert, who set up counselling charity Grief Encounter in 2003, received the accolade in recognition of her years of charitable work.
She was nominated by Kevin Wells, the father of murdered schoolgirl Holly, for the support she gave his family after his daughter’s disappearance.
Celebration: Darcey parties with dancer Kristina Rihanoff and fellow Strictly judge Graig Revel Horwood, and with author Kathy Lette (right)
Strictly inspirational: Strictly stars Craig Revel Horwood and Kristina Rihanoff attended the awards ceremony
Although typically in the spotlight, celebrities like Olivia Inge took a back seat as Inspiration Woman of the Year Shelley Gilbert became the centre of attention yesterday
Mrs Gilbert was joined at Downing Street by the four other finalists in the awards, held in association with Sanctuary Spa and the charity Wellbeing of Women.
Pam Marshall, 43, from Southampton, was put forward by her close friend Jean Rice for opening two holiday homes for seriously ill children and their families, while Andrea Fox, 52, set up The Drop Inn, a youth centre near her home in Belper, Derbyshire, to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Justine Laymond, 39, from Essex, has raised more than 15,000 for charity since having a life-saving double lung transplant.
And mother-of-two Clare Dimmer, 57, from Portsmouth, is the founder of Breast Cancer UK.
She set up the charity after contracting the disease when she was 38.
Olympians: (Left to right) Olympic rowers Anna Watkins, Katherine Grainger and Sarah Storey arriving for the Daily Mail Inspirational Woman of the Year Awards, at the London Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square in central London
Jenni Falconer and Carol McGiffin attended the glittering ceremony, where women who made an important contribution to their community were recognised
Amber Atherton (right) and Kara Tointon heard the stories of the finalists, who were selected from hundreds of extraordinary women nominated by the Daily Mail's readers
Afterwards, the women attended a glittering awards ceremony hosted by television presenter Emma Forbes.
The 47-year-old said: ‘It is humbling to hear what they have done with their lives.’
All of the finalists were selected from hundreds of extraordinary women nominated by the Daily Mail’s readers.
Read Shelley Gilbert’s inspirational story and interviews with the finalists online in Femail on Thursday.
Paying tribute: Meera Syal gave an after-dinner speech last night in which she praised the work of the NHS. RIGHT: Olympic gold-medal winning rower Helen Glover said she was 'so inspired' by the finalists, whose achievements she said made her own seem minor
The other inspiring women of the night: From left, Olympians Anna Watkins, Alex Danson, Natalie Seymour, Helen Glover, Heather Standing, Sarah Storey and Katherine Granger