We all know 2020 was tough. Across the country lives were turned upside down and all of us have had to get used to restrictions that we never thought we’d ever see.
But as we turn the page into 2021, it’s time to celebrate the highlights of a year that – for many reasons – we’ll never forget. The New Year’s Honours list is this year packed full of ordinary people doing extraordinary things – those who went above and beyond the call of duty to help their communities through these challenging times.
And that community spirit has never been more important than in the year we’ve just had – from the weekly ritual of clapping key workers to the little acts of kindness, be it dropping off food for neighbours who are self-isolating or walking over the road to ensure social distancing.
Here at City A.M. we want to highlight those who received a gong in the New Year’s list.
Stephen Trowbridge, MBE
Stephen Trowbridge is the Managing Director of First City Care, a network of care homes across Swindon. Throughout the pandemic he has led from the front, supporting his team, partners and of course his patients with everything from PPE to ensuring funding.
“I got an email when I was on the phone to my mum – I told her I better call it back. You just don’t believe it,” he tells City A.M.
“The last ten months or so have been tough, and we’ve tried to keep everybody safe. You round one corner, then turn around and start again, but it’s my responsibility to look after the team whatever happens.”
Stephen is quick to pay tribute to his team when he discusses his honour – an honour that he says he was “thrilled and shocked” to receive.
“It’s a team effort, it’s not just from me. I’ve got brilliant individuals who have been selfless throughout. At the start we had staff self-isolating or who were rightly worried. But they all came back to work,” he says.
“But that’s a testament to the team, and how they’ve been working.”
Amongst the busiest periods was when hospitals were cleared to make way for Covid patients. Swindon is one of just a handful of areas where patients needing care were all able to leave hospital on time – a remarkable feat that required going far, far beyond what his job entails.
And he has become a sector leader across adult care providers in Swindon, offering to share his PPE supplies and supporting managers across the sector when issues or clarification have been sought.
He has been at the forefront of understanding the complexities of changing guidance, information and translation into practice, which has been of benefit to staff, partners and commissioners.
And, Stephen says, there have been moments when it’s been rewarding.
“When you’re facing what you’re facing, and you feel like you’re on your own… it’s hard,” he says.
“But when you’re standing on your doorstep, and you’re clapping for your colleagues, and you see all your neighbours clapping you, the way the nation came together… it’s brilliant.”
“This is a massive honour, but I’ve still got a day job to do,” he tells City A.M. But Stephen goes far beyond the remit of his day job, as this honour recognises.
Christine and David Bagley MBEs
Christine and John started the charity Urban Outreach in their attic in Bolton in 1990, supporting the most disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals in the city. When Covid-19 hit, they stepped up even more.
They immediately responded by establishing and leading Bolton’s Humanitarian Food Hub, which fed more than 30,000 people during the first lockdown.
“When Covid hit,” David says, “the one thing we couldn’t do was buy food, but we had enough from people’s generous donations to survive for the first four weeks of the original lockdown. It was a remarkable thing and it gave is a whole sense that we could cope with whatever was ahead.”
The charity also benefited as a side-effect of the furlough scheme, with many of those put on the scheme filling their days with work with the charity.
“We had so many people volunteering and their companies let them use their vans. It was remarkable. We put on barbecues, Caribbean meals and non-alcoholic cocktail bars for the drivers,” David tells us.
But like Stephen, David is quick to praise the people around him for his MBE – and not just his wife Christine.
“It belongs to thousands upon thousands of people who have volunteered, given and supported us – children who have ridden their bikes up and down the street and got their neighbours to donate. It belongs to them. We only created a space and people filled that space.”
Anybody can receive an honour – they just have to have made an exceptional contribution to UK society.
The system remains a powerful way to say thank you to those on the frontline, within our communities and in our public services, and reflects the extraordinary contributions being made by so many across the UK.
Vitally, the system has become so much more representative of UK society than ever before. A more transparent process, in which individuals can be nominated online, has helped the system become more reflective of society as a whole in our great modern country.
Many of those receiving an award this year will receive their awards from the Royal Family at special ceremonies – fingers crossed those in-person ceremonies can start sooner, rather than later.
For more information on Honours recipients, go to www.gov.uk/honours