Stephen Wilson Heywood, 52, has been crowned the North West’s Neighbours of the Year 2020, as part of Co-op Insurance and Neighbourhood Watch’s search for the UK’s best neighbours.
During lockdown Stephen organised many successful socially distanced street parties. He organised singers, DJs, bingo and kids’ competitions - he even brought his alter ego out of retirement and dressed up as his drag character Veronica Dyson.
Stephen also raised £80,000 for charity and set up a foundation for a child with MS. He helps to organise the local Neighbourhood Watch and even arranged a garden makeover for one of his neighbours.
Stephen’s neighbour, Heather Edmond Green, who nominated him for the award, said: “He is the kind of person who will move mountains to help anyone out – all with a cheeky joke and a smile. He never rests. There are people who have lived here for decades and never met their neighbours, until Stephen came along.”
Stephen Wilson Heywood, North West’s Neighbour of the Year 2020, said: “We’re all friends with one another and very supportive – it’s a great community to be a part of. I’ve struggled during the lockdown, but the community has kept my mind occupied. It’s made me feel like we can overcome this, and it’s made me proud of myself.”
The Neighbour of the Year award celebrates neighbours who look out for others, are sociable and friendly, offer practical help and are kind, caring and respectful. In its third year, the number of entries increased by a staggering 100 percent from 2019.
Ellis German, Home Insurance Executive at Co-op Insurance said: “We’re so proud of Stephen – he’s an excellent reminder that there are those on our doorsteps who need us more than ever. All the judges agreed that he was the worthy winner of the North West Neighbour of the Year 2020 award.”
This year the awards are being back by actress Catherine Tyldesley, who played Eva Price in Coronation Street, who said: “It’s heartening to see that neighbours like Stephen exist and are being recognised for the great work they’re doing to create communities where everyone feels safe and part of something.”
This year’s winners are announced as new data from Co-op Insurance and Neighbourhood Watch warns that the surge in neighbourliness seen in the Spring hasn’t been sustained, as pandemic fatigue sets in across the UK.
During the peak of the first national lockdown in April, data from Co-op showed a spike in neighbourliness, more than four fifths (81%) of adults in the East Midlands said they knew which of their neighbours was classed as high risk.
After seven months of pandemic restrictions, this figure has seen a dramatic fall, with only a quarter (22%) of adults in the North West revealing they know which of their neighbours are at risk.
“With the Co-op, we really urge everyone to be as supportive of each other as possible and be truly vigilant. It will be a very challenging Christmas for so many of us.”
Ellis added: “Our latest research is cause for concern as we start to see neighbourliness plateau. The length of time of the pandemic, the personal impact on everyday lives and the shorter days and colder weather are all key reasons for why we’re seeing this.
“We’re urging people to band together and keep up neighbourly spirits this winter, especially with neighbours who are vulnerable or alone, whether that’s by having a friendly chat over the garden fence, checking in to see if they need food or medicine dropping off or by keeping in touch online.”