The acclaimed restoration of a historic town centre ballroom has won entrepreneurial Krzysztof Zemlik our Special Recognition Award at this year’s Oldham Business Awards.
The accolade was an unexpected climax to the glittering awards evening for Krzysztof, who was one of three finalists in the Business Person of the Year category – alongside Richard Leach of Precision Pallets and Cases Ltd – being pipped to the award by Andy Hirst of Sudlow’s data centre and infrastructure specialists.
Specially selected by members of the OBA steering group, the prestigious special recognition award is given to someone we consider to have gone above and beyond for the borough.
This year’s award acknowledges Krzysztof’s sympathetic and sustainable restoration of Billington’s Dance Studio, also known as the ‘Ascroft Street Academy’, once visited by thousands of dancers over eight decades and nurtured by Mrs Billington from whom the building takes its name.
A healthcare management professional, Krzysztof bought the historic building during the pandemic with plans to house and expand Ascroft Medical Centre, which he runs with his fellow director Dr Piotr Kieruzel.
But, as our 600-strong audience at the at the Queen Elizabeth Hall heard on the night, Krzysztof wasn’t just buying a building – he was purchasing a piece of social history so deeply ingrained in Oldham’s past that he couldn’t let it disappear.
Thanks to Krzysztof’s empathy for the century-old building and what it means to Oldham, what we have today is a lovingly renovated, magnificent ballroom – and much more.
As well as bringing dancing back to Billington’s, Krzysztof has created a coffee/cocktail lounge and meeting space that hosts a calendar of events across each week, from business to community, including music, arts, crafts, and culture.
He is supportive of many local and regional charities and has begun meaningful connections with many, including LGBTQ+ and multi faith groups that have a safe place to meet.
And in August, Billington’s played host to producers from ITV’s The Voice UK 2024 as they sought out Oldham talent for the next series.
There are conferences planned too, the first being ‘The Blue Green Conference’, when the speakers will be the Consulate General of Portugal and Oldham’s Executive Director for Place and Growth.
All Billington’s renovations have been energy efficient, and a great deal of time and money has been spent on ensuring the building is as green as it possibly can be.
Our chair Steve Kilroy, a former BAE Systems executive who leads the steering group which organises our awards and chooses the finalists and winners, says: “Congratulations and well done to Krzysztof for restoring Billington’s to its rightful place as a jewel in the crown of Oldham town centre.
“And congratulations to each and every one of tonight’s winners. Over the years, Oldham Business Awards have been recognised as a platform for growth and development not just for our winners, but for all of our finalists too.
“They all make a huge contribution to Oldham’s vibrant business community that features an astounding array of talent, business acumen, and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s an incredibly tough task to choose the finalists, never mind the winners, and our thanks go to everyone who has nominated an individual or a business this year.”
This year’s event – the 15th anniversary of the awards – was hosted by renowned impressionist, actor and comedian Jon Culshaw, his second stint as our MC following his appearance in 2015, along with Granada Reports’ entertainment correspondent Caroline Whitmore, a regular on the OBA stage.