Winners of Local Heroes awards with the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland

Local heroes honoured at special event

Local heroes who make a real difference to communities in Northumberland have been honoured at a special ceremony. 

The County Council’s Local Heroes event recognises those sometimes unsung stars who have gone above and beyond to improve the lives of others in their local areas. 

The heroes were invited to a civic reception at County Hall, along with a number of local dignitaries, to be honoured for their work. Those invited were nominated by their elected members from across the council. 

Council Chair Councillor John Beynon, who hosted the event, said: “There really are some incredible people in Northumberland who do so much to make their communities a better place – from litter picking and charity fundraising through to volunteering and animal rescue. 

“It’s a truly humbling experience to meet these residents and hear about their work first hand. It’s a real honour and everyone who came can be called a local hero.” 

Those recognised were: 

Andrew Carr nominated by Councillor Gordon Castle 

Andrew owns a window cleaning business in Alnwick. Going back to mid 2023, Andrew, without being asked, has carried out continuous pressure washing of Alnwick’s town centre streets and without payment. The town council has paid for his materials but not his time. Only last month Andrew cleaned detritus from the dirty steps of Alnwick’s long closed Corn Exchange making it much less of an eyesore to passers-by. Andrew’s voluntary work to clean the streets of much accumulated grime, chewing gum and unsightly green algae, refreshing the whole town. Everyone who knows the town sees and thanks him for his work. He is a true local hero. 

Gillian Castle nominated by Councillor Wendy Pattison 

Gillian was fitted with a Stoma Bag following the traumatic birth of her son and has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness that this does not need to change lives. 

Among her many achievements, Gillian has been sky diving, scuba diving, climbing, open water swimming, swam the English Channel last September, completed a triathlon and half Iron Man to raise money for the Birth Trauma Association. She also raises money for ladies in Kenya who do not have access to stoma bags. A former Police Officer, she is an inspiration to all through her blog and talks. 

Carole Neesham nominated by Councillor Rebecca Wilzcek 

Carole and the Bedlington Red Squirrel Group have shown huge dedication in getting the red squirrel conservation project off the ground with the support of the local community. Through many hours of volunteering and campaigning they show that progress can be made by adopting new ideas and having a refreshed approach to conservation efforts. 

Carole has passion and compassion for the species they are trying to protect. The group has grown quickly. She is an inspirational role model within the conservation field and to our local community ensuring that the local red squirrel population is protected to the best of her abilities. 

The group is bringing red squirrel conservation to the forefront of the local community and wider area, they promote their work on social media channels, visit schools, colleges and other public events ensuring everyone is aware of the struggles our endangered red squirrels face. They will be working with the scouts, schools, Kirkley Hall, Northumberland Zoo, and Northumberland Wildlife Trust in the coming months. 

Michelle Willoughby nominated by Councillor Scott Dickinson 

Michelle volunteers in many ways to help the community. She devotes much of her time volunteering on the Management Committee of the Community Centre, arranging and hosting a variety of events during the year in the village of Widdrington. 

Michelle also cooks Christmas lunches, organises food and fun nights over the winter months so residents can keep warm and have home-cooked food in the community centre. 

Caroline Richardson nominated by Councillor Gordon Stewart 

Caroline dedicates so much of her time supporting veterans residing in Prudhoe and elsewhere in Tynedale. 

She has created and runs a veteran's breakfast club in the town, gives veterans support and advice regularly and fundraises for good causes linked to veterans. 

She works with local businesses to provide suitable activities such as 'plant a tree' linking veterans with charities and businesses. 

Irene Kane and Christine Jordan nominated by Councillor Margaret Richardson 

Christine and Irene hold a weekly stall at Blyth Market Place, usually on a Wednesday morning selling donated goods to raise money for animal charities mainly in the Blyth area. They have done this for numerous years, in all weathers and spend many hours of their own time collecting items and storing them in their homes. 

Isabel Easson nominated by Councillor Malcolm Robinson 

Isabel runs the Friends of West Lea Cemetery group and works extremely hard for the Group. They have raised money through making and selling beautiful floral tributes and grave pots to financially support the revamped Garden of Remembrance and have provided several new seating areas. Isabel is always there to talk to the many visitors to the cemetery. 

Joan Maltman nominated by Councillor Eileen Cartie 

Joan is a very active member of the community and has worked hard for many years supporting local residents as a volunteer street representative. 

She also volunteers for the RNLI raising funds by volunteering in the local shop they run, helping with fundraising events and more. Joan has also been an active member of Friends of Crofton Fields since the group began, never missing a session - gardening and litter picking. She is one special person who gives up so much time for her community. 

Karen Carins nominated by Councillor Lyle Darwin 

Once a dedicated, and determined member of Stannington Parish Council, Karen remains steadfast in her approach to ensuring the Village Hall once again became triumphant, prosperous and above all, beneficial to the residents of Stannington. 

Karen, along with others played a pivotal role in organising many community events, including the much-loved Battle of Britian event, a night of live Rock and Blues, and coordinating local historians to produce cultivating literature books on the history of the Parish. 

She continues to organise community projects and engagement events for residents , including friends and family of the village. Karen steered the Neighbourhood Plan over 4 years and became a Planning Champion, which she was very proud of. Through this process Karen was fortunate to meet so many amazing residents and local businesses and even give a couple of Planning lectures to the Planning students at Newcastle University! 

Another notable project is the successful renaming of “Platinum Way” to celebrate the Queens Jubilee. Despite personal difficulties, Karen has helped many residents of the community, and although she has stepped down from the Parish Council, Karen is still a key member of the village. She now volunteers for “Coping with Cancer” in Cramlington and with Northern Cancer Voices to collect as many cancer care stories as possible to feedback to Trusts, hospitals and medical staff in the hope that best practice will be adopted. 

Les Sage nominated by Councillor John Beynon 

Les is the longest standing member of the Chamber of Trade, and ex-chairman and President of Morpeth lions. Les has worked tirelessly for Morpeth both for businesses and the residents, organising many charity events, He has helped organise the Christmas lights in the Town, Morpeth in Bloom, Morpeth fayre day. Many events in the Town could not have gone ahead without Les and the amount of voluntary work he does. 

Marilyn Russell nominated by Councillor Paul Ezhilchelvan. Unfortunately, Marilyn cannot attend today so has asked Alan Smith to pick up the award on her behalf 

This senior resident in my division has been, and still is, an enthusiastic litter picker. Marilyn goes all over Cramlington and beyond, to clear litter. She goes as far as Northumberlandia – which is far away from the estate where she lives - and clears the rubbish there! She also alerts the Councillors of any fly-tipped rubbish that requires removal. I am very pleased to nominate her in recognition of her great and long service working solely for the benefit of others. 

Martin Devon nominated by Councillor Colin Hardy 

Martin was the driving force that transformed the derelict old school in Cornhill on Tweed into a thriving community asset. Martin and his wife Elizabeth have worked tirelessly over the past five years, overcoming numerus challenges to bring the Old School back to life in the form of the Cornhill Community Centre. 

Peter Burnham nominated by Councillor Jeff Watson 

Peter has managed the Memorial Hall in Warkworth unpaid for at least 10 years. 

He has had renovations done, organised a local cinema, arranged Ceilidh's and many other events. Peter also carries out maintenance of the hall himself. 

The Hall is now a going concern, which at one time it looked like closing 

Ruth Boyd nominated by Councillor Ian Hutchinson 

During covid, Ruth went hunter gathering for her friends, neighbours, in fact anybody! 

While standing in the queue to go shopping she would sing and dance to "lift the spirits" of other people waiting, everyone loved it. 

She also did house calls and leaflet drops to make sure people were OK and managing during the pandemic. 

When it was possible to attend care homes, she visited Acomb Court Hexham, Rose Tree Care Home Mickley, also Haydon Bridge Care Home. The residents loved to see her and looked forward to her visits for a "sing along" and quizzes. When word "got out" she was doing this she started getting requests asking her to entertain for their friend/relations special events at their home or in hospital, anywhere in the area. 

Ruth and her sister made meals and delivered them to the staff at the Hospital, Fire Station, and other shops in Haltwhistle, she says it was to keep spirits up (and hers) during the pandemic. 

Both food and money were donated to assist Ruth in her quest. 

I feel Ruth deserves recognition because of the dedication she put into helping in her local community in such a stressful time. 

Tommy Johnson nominated by Councillor Caroline Ball 

Tommy is part of the Ashington Community Litter Project and is an asset to the town keeping ‘Tommy's Triangle’ spotless and attending the regular group picks. Tommy always has smile and a wave when out picking and is great person who volunteers to keep his town clean. Tommy is not just out once a month or for the Great British Spring clean but many times a week keeping his patch spotless and reporting any issues via fix my street. He is an ambassador for anyone who wants to volunteer and a real local hero. I am nominating him to say thank you as his local Ward Councillor and on behalf of the people of the Ward. 

Tugay Jansen nominated by Councillor Kath Nisbet 

Tugay and his wife Melikre had to flee from Turkey a few years ago and came to live in my ward. They have worked tirelessly to make it work by offering food and kindness to their neighbours, getting to know everyone and organising events in the community. They have become an integral part of our community. Tugay travels with the Dialogue society delivering events in the Northeast bringing communities together. Tugay is a great musician and is always entertaining in the community. He is also an artist in marble painting, which young people love. It was difficult times for them to begin with, but he has come a long way and is still going. They have just received their refugee status in this Country which now allows them to work - great news for our community 

Neal Skelton nominated by Councillor Glen Sanderson 

Neal was instrumental in setting up Feltonbury music festival, and very much involved in attracting more villagers to attend our Remembrance service in Felton. He is also involved in arranging many other village projects which benefit the wider community 


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