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‘Bitter’ rivals come together

Anna Murby reports on a pandemic collaboration

They stand barely 300 yards apart so, in normal times, you might expect two pubs in such close proximity to be bitter rivals, fighting over the same beer money!

But these are hardy normal times and so it is that The Swan and Helmet and The Lamplighter in Northampton have laid down their professional competitiveness to work together for the good of their locals, only confirming why they have both been deserved former winners of the ‘Community Pub of the Year’ title in the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards.

Within a week of the first lockdown last year, The Swan and Helmet on Grove Road established a food bank to offer much needed supplies to the most vulnerable and, ten months on, they’re still hard at it, supporting more than fifty local schools, young people leaving the care system, smaller charities, community groups and the Northamptonshire Community Mental Health Team through their own charity, The McCarthy-Dixon Foundation.

Indeed, they have helped to feed an incredible 35,000 people since the first grocery packs were delivered last March.

So it was that, in wanting to show their support for the pub’s remarkable efforts – which saw owner, Teresa McCarthy, named as a ‘COVID-19 Local Hero of the Year’ in the 2020/21 Awards – The Lamplighter, just round the corner on Overstone Road, not only donated almost £2000 from its virtual annual live music Christmas fundraiser, but has saw its co-owner Paul Hanna and his team give freely of their time to help to sort and pack the donations.

The collaboration may seem unusual to many but for Paul, it’s an obvious tie-up: “I have been absolutely amazed at the hard work and generosity that Teresa and her team have shown during these difficult months and I know what an incredible difference they’re making to those they are helping to feed, many of whom would go hungry without their food parcels” explained Paul.

“So, we feel the least we can do is to play our small part in helping to ensure that this vital service continues for as long as it’s needed, and why any thoughts of rivalry are long-since forgotten – for now, at least!” he added.

This incredible partnership is only one example of many of how those involved in the Awards are working together to help combat the various challenges created by the pandemic.

Take the further example of the charity, Food4Heroes, co-led by fellow ‘COVID-19 Local Hero of the Year’, John Brownhill from south Northamptonshire, which benefitted from a donation from none other than the competition’s headline sponsor, Weetabix, to enable them to ensure that 1,000 people in need in the county were able to tuck into a delicious three-course meal on Christmas Day.

Similarly, Awards media partner All Things Business is working with competition judge, Jon Thorpe, who is Managing Director of workplace IT and security experts ACS, to have this month launched #TechTogether, a project encouraging the gifting of old devices such as iPads, tablets and laptops to be distributed to local schools to be used for home learning.

The scheme has had an incredible response, with more than 200 gadgets having already been donated, the first of which have already been delivered to those most in need.

For Awards Director, Rachel Mallows MBE DL, such collaborative projects are a wonderful by-product of the competition’s existing success in supporting the county’s food and drink firms: “Over the previous twelve years, the Awards have played a vital role in helping businesses to flourish and grow but for this last year the competition’s safety net of support, where commercial interests are set aside for the greater good, has expanded exponentially” explained Rachel.

“It makes me incredibly proud to think that, even in the face of their own difficulties, so much generosity is being shown by so many in our wonderful food and drink sector for the greater good of others” she added.

For more details of The Swan and Helmet’s food bank, including how you can show your support, please visit www.mccarthydixon.org.uk or to make a donation to Food4Heroes, please visit www.food4heroes.org.uk

Meanwhile, to gift any old technology to the #TechTogether project, please email louise@allthingsmanagement.co.uk 

For the full list of the ‘first course’ results in the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards 2020/21, and for details of the finalists in the categories yet to be revealed, please visit www.northamptonshirefoodanddrink.co.uk or call Rachel Mallows on 01933 664437 or email rachel@themallowscompany.com

Meanwhile for further information on how you can join the ‘second course’ of the virtual Awards celebration when they are announced, please follow the Awards on Facebook at @foodawards or Twitter and Instagram at @foodawardsHQ or on LinkedIn at @weetabixnfadawards.

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