Gay charity Stonewall has launched its first annual awards designed to celebrate the range of positive contributions being made by individuals and organisations to the lives of gay people in Britain.

The 2006 Stonewall Awards are exclusively sponsored by Barclays and the first winners will be announced at a ceremony at London’s Royal Academy on Thursday 2 November.

Uniquely three of the ten accolades – ‘Hero of the Year’, ‘Bully of the Year’ and the ‘Stonewall Barclays Community Group of the Year’ – are being chosen by a vote among more than 5,000 Stonewall supporters from across Britain.

The chosen Community Group of the Year will receive a cheque for £5,000 to support its work.

Six other award-winners, such as Journalist of the Year and Broadcaster of the Year, will be selected by a judging panel including novelist Stella Duffy, actor Simon Callow, Lt Cmdr Craig Jones of the Royal Navy and entertainer Amy Lamé.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive, said: “We want to celebrate the positive work being done for all of us, not just by gay people but by our straight allies too. It’s always easy to criticise but we also want to draw attention to the ever-increasing number of people across Britain offering positive support in so many ways to the gay community.”

Jo Fraser, chair of the Gay Bisexual Lesbian and Transgender Network ‘Spectrum’ at Barclays said: “Barclays is very active in encouraging diversity and inclusion across communities in the UK through a number of initiatives.

“We are really pleased to sponsor the first Stonewall Awards, and particularly the ‘Stonewall Barclays Community Group of the Year’ category. We are delighted to continue our work with Stonewall to support the gay community and celebrate diversity.”