On Friday, 4th March, two community heroes from BBC’s Bristol region who selflessly helped others at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic recently travelled on a Great Western Railway (GWR) train named in their honour.
Fancy-dress runner Martin Heath and food-delivery champion Emma Hurrell were chosen as BBC Make a Difference Superstars following a link-up between the BBC and GWR to celebrate those people selflessly helping others at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Martin wore a special Isambard Kingdom Brunel outfit for the ceremony.
Their names now feature at each end of Intercity Express Train 800033, as GWR continues to honour BBC Make a Difference Superstars from nine regions across its network.
Martin, dubbed the Mitcheldean Running Man, and Emma, from Stroud, were chosen as BBC Make a Difference Superstars for selflessly helping others at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the first lockdown, Martin raised community spirits by running in a different fancy-dress costume every day, clocking a total distance of 440 miles over 101 days. Parents praised his efforts and his different costumes every day, except for Easter when he donned his popular chicken suit made a reappearance, gave their children something to look forward to. Older members of the community said he had eased their feelings of isolation.
For his last run over 300 villagers turned out to cheer him on and he was even given a police escort. Martin’s gruelling efforts helped raise £840 for Muscular Dystrophy UK and £1,390 for Great Oaks Hospice in the Forest of Dean.
Emma works at the Long Table social enterprise initiative in Brimscombe, near Stroud, which provides pay-as-you-can meals for the people of Gloucestershire from its community canteens in Brimscombe and Matson on the outskirts of Gloucester.
At the outbreak of the pandemic, Emma and her team could have easily decided to go on furlough. Instead, they created the Feeding the Five Thousand campaign that cooked and delivered over 40,000 meals around Gloucestershire during the lockdown. They fed NHS frontline workers, people in homeless shelters, those on low incomes, and people who were shielding or quarantining.
Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper said: “I’m really pleased that Martin Heath – the Forest of Dean’s Mitcheldean Running Man – is getting a well-deserved, lasting piece of recognition for his superb fundraising efforts for worthy causes including the brilliant Great Oaks Hospice.
“During challenging times, Martin put a smile on the face of many in the Forest of Dean, so I thank GWR and BBC Radio Gloucestershire for paying tribute to him in this way.”
Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie said: “The Long Table was at the very heart of our community throughout the pandemic, with Emma at its core. They ensured thousands of people remained well-fed – including NHS frontline workers and the homeless.
“I love visiting them and I am delighted that Emma’s name will now adorn a GWR train to mark her outstanding contribution to our community and the Long Table.”
Great Western Railway Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:“Martin and Emma went to incredible lengths to support their communities and we’re thrilled to add their names onto the side of an Intercity Express Train.
“The GWR has a long and proud history of naming trains after Great Westerners – past and present heroes from across our network – and it’s a real treat to add these two community stalwarts to that list.
“It was a privilege to partner with the BBC Make a Difference campaign and the stories which featured on BBC local radio were truly overwhelming.”
Head of Audio and Digital for BBC England Chris Burns said: “We have been amazed by the response of many listeners to our Make a Difference campaign on Local BBC Radio, as listeners have been helping each other out throughout the pandemic.
“It has been humbling to learn about the kind-hearted efforts of so many in our communities and Martin and Emma are great examples to the rest of us. Congratulations to them and to the team at BBC Gloucestershire.”