Hartlepool expat musician presented with Queen's honour after raising £150,000 for charity
A musician from Hartlepool has been awarded a prestigious honour for his services to the community and raising £150,000 for charity.
Stuart Stokell, who began his musical career in the town, was presented with the British Empire Medal (BEM) at a ceremony in Cumbria where he now lives.
He was awarded the honour for services to the community in Brampton where he lives and works as a pianist, organist, funeral celebrant and singer.
Stuart, 44, has raised thousands of pounds for various charities over the years through sponsored fundraisers and concerts, something he started back in his home town.
He also credited his former Hartlepool tutors for his success and his prestigious award.
Stuart said: “I’ve still got very close contacts in the town and visit quite often in my work as a celebrant.
"I received the award for services to the community; stuff I started doing in Hartlepool, playing piano in concert parties, being an organist and my work with choirs.
"I’ve also personally raised about £150,000 for charities including the Blind Association, Stroke Association, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK.”
Stuart took up music when he was just six and played in a concert party with the late Brian Guttridge, of the North East School of Music.
Singing lessons from Atti Bianco, of Hartlepool Male Voice Choir, were also a big influence he said.
"It’s all down to all the work that Brian and Atti began that has enabled me to do all this,” said Stuart. “I can’t say how grateful I am to them.”
Stuart, who was also organist at St Oswald’s Church and crematorium, moved to Cumbria in 1999 to be with his partner Martin Langford.
He now runs the Brampton community choir and has raised money through skydives, sponsored walks and other activities.
He received the BEM from the Lord-Lieutenant of Cumbria, Claire Hensman, in a ceremony at Farlam Hall.
Stuart, who attended Brierton Comprehensive School and is a former member of Hartlepool Stage Society, added: “It was a lovely day. I had quite a few friends there including from Hartlepool.
"When I was notified of the award I was surprised because you don’t realise how much people appreciate what you are doing until something like this happens.
"It’s extremely humbling.”