The High Street Hero Award, in association with the Daily Mirror, is recognising those unsung heroes of our high streets. This category is highlighting exceptional individuals within our communities, who run great initiatives and programmes to improve the high street experience for all.
Gail Laser has worked tirelessly for years as a volunteer campaigner to help improve the high street. Gail has invested an enormous amount of time and energy and has made a real difference to the community, the visitor experience and the environment. In addition, she has been a driving force in the digital transformation of Chipping Barnet’s High Street.
Working with other members of the community, she opened three pop-up shops, one of which is now an established up-and-coming business. Gail has also set up a Love Barnet page on social media, which now has several thousand followers and is instrumental in engaging businesses and the local community.
Other successes include setting up a local branch of Make it Your Business, a business group encouraging women to open or seek funding to open new local enterprises. She also instigated the ‘Next Door’ social media site that is widely used by locals.
Chairman of the Independent Garstang Traders (IGT) and local businessman Luke Pollard has been shortlisted as a High Street Hero after successfully implementing the Love Garstang Loyalty Card Scheme, which rewards shoppers for supporting the local High Street and its businesses.
In his time as chairman of IGT, Luke has doubled membership and has raised the body’s profile by introducing social media channels and a new town website, which he personally designed and built.
Luke also heads up the town’s Victorian Christmas Festival, the Garstang Ice Cream Festival and oversees the town’s Christmas Lights campaign – all highly successful and popular events in Garstang High Street’s calendar.
Jenn has been the driving force behind bringing together businesses in the local Scarborough community. Through her Totally Locally campaign she has coordinated high street discounts and joint marketing materials to ensure that local businesses are able to maximise sales.
More recently, Jenn has launched Love Local, a campaign to streamline the town’s business offering and to bring everyone together. She also takes responsibility for organising family fun days. Thanks to her tirelessly efforts working with local businesses to unite the community, Jenn’s impact on Scarborough is significant.
Emma Corfield Walters is the owner of Crickhowell’s independent bookshop “Book-ish”, which is also a cafe and meeting place for locals and visitors. She is a founder member and driving force behind “Totally Locally Crickhowell” which spearheads a range of activities, contributing to the uniqueness of Crickhowell High Street, and which was responsible for the development of the Corn Exchange project, which helped to transform a derelict pub into new shops and apartments.
Book-ish was opened in October 2010 and has gained a reputation for excellent customer service, community-driven projects and literary events.
Clive Davies is credited for instigating vast improvements to Cardigan High Street with the formation of the Town Centre Partnership which he now chairs. In particular, Clive has been commended for conceiving the town’s wi-fi offering along with the formation of a town app, promoting local events and encouraging footfall to the High Street.
Clive is known by many in the town as a result of his work as a local councillor and town mayor, platforms he has used to promote Cardigan as a unique shopping experience with a large number of independent traders, a relatively low level of empty shops and a full calendar of events.
Owner of Princes Café, which is currently celebrating its 70th anniversary on Pontypridd’s High Street, Mr Gambarini has been instrumental in setting up the Your Pontypridd Business Improvement District and has always been a very strong voice connecting and supporting the local business community.
Members of the business community and residents young and old often visit Princes to enjoy the friendly customer service offered by Mr Gambarini and his staff.
Mr Gambarini also sits on the town’s Welcome & Access committee, which has put forward a proposal to install a digital advertising screen to promote local trade.
Mr Gambarini has a strong passion for the town of Pontypridd and enjoys working with business owners to ensure the High Street remains at the heart of the community.
David Robertson is a key figure in the Elgin Business Improvement District and has dedicated much of his time through his role of vice chair and chair, as well as running and developing his own businesses in the town centre.
Eight years ago, David took on the redevelopment of a derelict building with the aim of providing a destination store on Elgin High Street.
David has also been working with Young Enterprise to encourage youngsters to set up their own businesses or entrepreneurial career. Meanwhile, David has been a driving force for projects including the restoration of historical monuments to bring Elgin’s rich heritage alive again.
Jozefine Duthie manages Dimensions, an independent family business operating in Fraserburgh for 42 years. She is a key figure behind several town centre initiatives which attract footfall to Fraserburgh and benefit the community’s businesses and local services.
Initially involved with retailers associations taking responsibility for Late Night Christmas Shopping Events, Jozefine has expanded her role to encompass the formation and development of Fraserburgh Super Saturday’s, an initiative which continues to win a great deal of plaudits.
Carolyn Wilson has galvanised the town centre of Alness, establishing Alness in Bloom and creating a high street that the town can be proud of. Her foresight and hard work over the decades have helped to create a vibrant shopping experience for both the local community and visitors to the Highlands.
Carolyn also owns four shops on the High Street and is heavily involved in initiatives to improve the infrastructure, cleanliness and general aesthetic of Alness High Street.
Sarah works for a local estate agent on Lisburn’s High Street and in response to declining footfall has created a community space in the city centre that offers a destination for people to visit and enjoy a range of activities together. She realised that by creating a new space where people from the community could meet and enjoy their time in the city centre, this would encourage repeat visits and greater support for local businesses.
Working with others in the local community, Sarah has encouraged groups to use the space as a community hub, including setting up a sewing club, judo club and gardening club there. She also organises the community-led 'The Big Lunch' event and runs the Grub Club on Friday evenings to drive footfall to the High Street. Sarah brings together the local community, providing a meeting place, enhancing the visitor experience and promoting activities through digital media channels.
Geraldine has actively championed the community and local businesses for many years, whilst always offering a helping hand in whatever way she can.
She is an advocate for assisting those with disabilities or health conditions and last year received a USEL Community Service Award in recognition of her dedication to her clients and business partners. As company manager of Portadown 2000, she has worked tirelessly on regenerating derelict land and two listed buildings just off Portadown High Street, whilst also leading on initiatives including a local farmers market, themed street markets and a car boot sale.
Geraldine is seen regularly up and down the street chatting to businesses and the local community to explore new ways she can make Portadown High Street a more appealing place for the local community.
Stephen Reynolds, Proprietor of The Front Page Bar, has been shortlisted for the High Street Hero Award for his first-class customer experience to visitors of Ballymena and fellow traders for over 28 years.
Stephen has given back to the community by raising tens of thousands of pounds for various charities and organises an annual senior citizens excursion. He has also been involved in various initiatives encouraging people to visit the town and bringing people together including Shutters Up Night, Town Centre Christmas Market, Discount Day, Giro D’Italia family fun day and Ballymena Historical Walking Tour.