Two North East pubs have been crowned winners in The Great British Pub Awards – Pub Heroes. The Mowden in Darlington won the Ei Publican Partnerships Pub Hero of the Year category and the Keel Row in Seaton Delaval won the Feeding the Community category. The award ceremony took place last night [Thursday 24 September] online on FacebookLive and YouTube.


The Mowden, Darlington

Simon and Rachel Leadbetter, publicans of The Mowden, supported the elderly and most vulnerable in their community during lockdown, by raising over £9,500 which enabled them to cook and deliver over 10,200 free meals.


After closing on 20th March, Simon and Rachel looked at the prospect of continuing trading as a takeaway food venue, but after trialling this for two days they decided that they would prefer to help the local community by providing free hot meals. They used the surplus food stock from the pub and started using their social media platforms to ask if anyone knew of any local elderly or vulnerable people that may benefit from a free meal.


That first week of lockdown, they delivered around 40 meals to the local area. Word spread and more people contacted them to see if they could help elderly relatives living in the area; not wanting to let anyone down they added more addresses to their list and in the second week they delivered 50% more meals.


In total, Simon and Rachel prepared and delivered over 900 meals a week, with the help of local volunteers. They were approached by the local Councillor Pauline Culley who helped spread the word of their initiative, meaning they were able to support a wider group of vulnerable people.


Simon said: “I can’t believe we have won! Thank you so much to everyone who voted for us and for all the support over the recent months. This award would not have been possible without the dedication generosity of our community.”


Nick Light, Managing Director of Ei Publican Partnerships, said: “This award celebrates the most truly incredible stories of how our pubs are the backbone of communities up and down the country. Simon and Rachel are certainly worthy winners of this award, their dedication and drive to make the most out of a very challenging situation is truly inspiring.”


The Keel Row, Seaton Delaval

Sharon Herron, publican of the award-winning Keel Row in Seaton Delaval, has her finger on the pulse of her community and pre-empted the uncertainty and anxiety that the pandemic would cause. Weeks before pubs were forced to close, Sharon launched a free delivery service for those who were apprehensive about visiting busy public places or had underlying health conditions. When the Government mandated that pubs were to close, the Keel Row quickly built on their previous efforts and launched a takeaway/delivery service. There were no additional charges for delivery and prices for home-cooked dishes were reduced to ensure all of the community were able to access the service. A team of volunteers worked each day to serve home-cooked food at affordable prices and they delivered meals daily to local care homes and sheltered accommodation.


For Easter, Sharon and her team visited nearby households with a Peter Rabbit mascot. Children were waving from their windows and Peter Rabbit left free treats at their front doors. The little event helped spread some much needed happiness during a difficult time.


Sharon and her team also set up a successful afternoon tea service, delivering over 80 afternoon teas each day. The teas were a perfect way to celebrate special occasions safely at home and free balloons were included for a real personal touch. A special VE day afternoon tea was launched to help the community celebrate this day at home. The pub delivered 400 individual teas that day, including delivering to war veterans within the community.


Sharon said: “This is a fantastic surprise. I can’t believe we won, thank you to everyone who voted for us. I  just wanted to help in any way I could, when lockdown hit. The Keel Row is at the heart of the community here and that wasn’t going to stop just because we had to close our doors.”


The Great British Pub Awards Pub Heroes recognise and reward the incredible efforts by pubs during the COVID-19 pandemic. In spite of the lockdown and being forced to close their doors, many pubs remained at the heart of their communities, providing help and support in many different ways. With over 600 entries across fifteen categories, the winners were chosen by public vote.


Each winner will be offered the opportunity to submit an application for up to £10,000 each to fund a business improvement or upgrade or to put towards a community project. Additionally, Coca-Cola will fund a further £1,000 donation to a local charity or good cause supported by each of the winning pubs.