The High Street Hero Award, in association with the Daily Mirror, recognises those unsung heroes of our high streets. This category highlights exceptional independent business owners or employees within our communities, who run great initiatives and programmes to improve the high street experience for all.
Laura Armstrong is the driving force behind Love Belper. Founder and chairperson of the committee, not only is Laura a tireless ambassador for Belper’s heritage, she also owns her own shop, runs a cleaning business and has two small children. Thanks to Laura’s drive and passion, Love Belper has achieved incredible things in its first year, including events to bring new people into businesses, improvements in accessibility and inclusivity, a social media campaign and more.
Without Alison there would be no Walter & Betty in Aberfoyle Main St. Stoical, kind and pragmatic, Alison makes time and has genuine care for others. Ask Alison', is a normal response, her connectedness has paid off, encouraging stallholders to become shopkeepers and creating confidence in local entrepreneurs to invest. Her efforts as a Director of Strathard Community Trust are appreciated. She is diplomatic; underestimated by those who don’t see the investment she makes, but deeply valued by those who do.
Sam’s bookshop and café The Snug is a magical community hub for Bridgewater. So far this year the shop has raised £200 for charity. She also volunteers for a mental health charity, works with local schools to improve literacy and offers work experience to students and the long-term unemployed. As part of the Bridgwater Town team she’s constantly trying to improve the local high street whether it is recycling, rubbish collecting or combating loneliness. Her hard work and kindness doesn’t go unnoticed!
Nothing is ever too much trouble for Josh, from Cashell’s Butchers. The Crickhowell community recognise that Josh goes above and beyond. If he hasn’t seen a customer for a while he’ll give them a call to see if they’re ok, give elderly residents a lift home with their purchases, and even pick up prescriptions for housebound residents. Described by the community as a ‘wonderful, caring young man,’ Josh is continuing the good work of three generations of Cashell Butchers.
Chairperson of the Turriff Business Association, Marj is an inspiration to her staff. As Chairperson, Marj has brought local businesses together, promoted Turriff, taught her younger staff communications skills and has been instrumental in enhancing the town’s facilities. A key player in bringing the May Day and Christmas Light events to fruition, seeing the whole community represented is of great importance to her. To staff and community alike, Marj is a true ambassador for Turriff.
Four years ago the MD of Corn Exchange Crickhowell, Dean Christy, initiated a project to prevent a national supermarket takeover. The Corn Exchange pub on the high street was saved thanks to his recruitment of a team of volunteers who mobilised people to buy, renovate and convert the building into shops and flats, preserving Crickhowell’s character and independent traders. New jobs and new businesses sprang up, one being Wales’ first 'zero-waste’ shop. This amazing effort lead to Crickhowell winning last year’s High Street Awards. Dean has since begun another charitable community project – to renovate Crickhowell’s iconic Clarence Hall.
Influence, tenacity and determination describe Rachel Dodd. With Yarm High Street wounded by austerity, Rachel came to the rescue. Engaging with local businesses and government, she secured funding to reinstate ‘Carols on the Cobbles’. Day to day, Rachel works tirelessly for the community, encouraging local people and businesses invest in their town. Now a Community Interest Company Co-chair, Rachel has an eye on the future, campaigning for positive infrastructure changes, more tourism and an online presence for Yarm High Street.
Local entrepreneur, Adrian owns and runs two previously boarded up pubs in Treorchy, employing over 40 local staff. In recent years, Adrian has raised over £29,000 for local charities, and awarded over 200 electronic reading devices as part of an attendance challenge he runs in local schools. Adrian’s pub, The Lion, is a true community pub, sponsoring 15 sport teams, offering work experience for schools and running hospitality courses. He chairs the local Pubwatch, Chamber of Trade, and has secured £25,000 grant funding to create ‘Visit Treorchy’. He is instrumental in organising the annual Rhondda Arts Festival, Christmas Parade and town firework display. Treorchy is on the up, and a huge part of that is thanks to Adrian.
Jim runs Patriot Games, lovingly known as ‘Patriot’ in the local community. Patriot provides spaces for charity groups, students and families. It’s been the safe haven for many children with autism, provided work experience for schools and colleges, and is a hub for hundreds of local gamers. Jim also works with Big Ambitions, a local organisation helping those with anxiety get back into work – with two placements now permanent staff! It’s all down to Jim’s thoughtful encouragement and support.
Business owner Stephen has a tremendous passion for his hometown of Hoddesdon. He promotes the ‘Love Hoddesdon’ brand to local residents, shoppers and visitors and serves as a BID Director, chairing its Events and Promotions team. He’s personally dedicated countless volunteer hours to develop a diverse programme of events, including reinstating the historic Charter Funfair, the Father Christmas Parade and free vintage bus tours. Community pride has increased thanks to Stephen, and his dogged approach has helped turn this struggling market town around.
Les is a passionate advocate for the business community in Belfast. As well as running one of Belfast’s best-known music equipment and supplies shop for the last seven years, he’s also a welcoming ambassador for Belfast and the retail environment. Always looking towards the future he’s the Director of TapSoS (a groundbreaking emergency safety app), the Honorary Secretary of Belfast Chamber of Commerce, Vice Chair of Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District and a member of the Belfast City Centre Retail Steering Group.
The Sack Store is a home-ware shop and bistro café all in one. A destination venue, it pulls customers into Boston from a huge area. But it’s not all work for owner, Chris. He regularly supports local communities, contributes to charities, fundraises and frequently donates raffle prizes. Currently he’s working on a project to secure more tree planting in Boston. Customers say Chris is a rare breed: caring, considerate and compassionate.
Building his first coffee roaster by hand with his engineer father, Scott brought Coaltown coffee to Ammanford. Having had the opportunity to do voluntary work after school, 26-year-old Scott wanted to give opportunities back to the residents of his hometown. The moniker is a nod to Scott’s heritage. ‘I was born and brought up in Ammanford. It’s an ex-mining community so the name Coaltown came naturally.’ A huge success, Coaltown provides training, employment and learning opportunities to local residents.
Geraldine has been an active community advocate for years. Involved in business and community initiatives, she’s the Vice Chair of Community Planning, and is a passionate advocate for helping those with disabilities. Geraldine has increased footfall to the high street and can always be seen popping into the local traders for a catch up. She always has a cuppa ready for visitors. General Manger of Portadown 2000 she’s been instrumental in leading the renovation of the local farmers market, including securing funding for a young entrepreneurship programme. An avid promoter of digital media & marketing, she regularly logs on to encourage collaboration between businesses.
Chloe runs the Natural Weigh zero waste shop, Crickhowell’s first plastic-free shop. Initially a curiosity, it’s now a key part of the community. Chloe also runs a plastic free town group, initiating new projects to reduce plastic and littering in the high street. A number of businesses, schools and the town council have already pledged to reduce their one-use plastics, working toward Crickhowell gaining plastic free status. Chloe is an asset to the award-winning high street, and is the young future of high streets thriving and surviving.
Emma has been a tireless promoter of independent businesses in Alderley Edge for over ten years, and recently set up ‘Love Alderley’, bringing businesses together to drive footfall. Thanks to her tenacity, many projects have taken shape including a map of London Road, the Love Alderley Website, and the introduction of the Love Alderley Loyalty card. She’s the enthusiastic link between businesses and local council, and her ethos of working together has been a huge success.
Local perfumier Peter Murray jumps feet first into community involvement in Knutsford. At the forefront of events, he’s altruistic, respected and liked. When his shop runs customer events, he’ll always use other local businesses to compliment them. He’s also fronted a series of YouTube videos promoting other shops and the town, and launched a community-wide campaign in aid of Cystic Fibrosis raising £8,500, resulting in him becoming an official ambassador for the foundation.
Deri is Carmarthen’s hero when it comes to supporting the local community and environment. FourThree years ago he started The Warren, a sustainable business focused almost entirely on ethical and local produce. Deri knowingly cuts his profits in half to ensure he only uses available local & ethical produce. He also promotes the use of food that can be found in the wild. A keen supporter of mental health, he also intentionally pays his staff above average to ensure he’s a supportive employer of healthy, happy staff. Deri organises weekly events focused on community needs and regular LGBTQ,+, community fundraising events, lifting the community up with his positive outlook.
Nicky owns and runs Pots Cafe and has created a cheerful community hub in Cow Wynd. Many of her customers are elderly and meet in the café for a chat, safe in the knowledge they’re always welcome without spending much. Nicky knows them all by name and even visits them in hospital when they don't have anyone else. As well as organising free evening meals a few times a year for her older regulars, Nicky also regularly promotes the other small businesses along the high street.
Artist Emma Wareing helps the long-term unemployed create and sell handmade products in a shop called the RE STORE. Patient and kind, Emma has made the project a huge success. Emma’s social enterprise has helped rebuild lives through creativity. She even runs an after school art club from the shop. THE RE STORE is making a massive difference to a run down high street.