A LARGE part of the Tyne Valley music community nearly didn't get his New Year's honour.

Stuart Stokell, who is the assistant musical director and accompanist to the Hexham Male Voice Choir and also the accompanist to the Ovingham and District Choir, was awarded the BEM for his work in the Brampton community, in which he lives and works as a freelance organist, pianist and singer and a celebrant for secular funerals.

He also runs the Brampton community choir which has, in itself, raised money for charity as well as giving concerts to local organisations. As an individual, it’s estimated Stuart has raised much more than £150,000 through sky-dives, sponsored walks and other fund-raisers.

However, he was notified of the award by an email from the Cabinet office. He explained: “It came after hours which was suspicious and I didn’t know anyone in the Cabinet so I nearly marked it as junk mail."

The national chairwoman of a charity-led organisation dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities has also been honoured.

Samantha Orde, of Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), has been given an OBE for her services to people with disabilities in Morpeth.

RDA horses and ponies provide vital therapy, achievement and enjoyment to over 100 riders weekly across the county, and now, the Morpeth group’s chairman Michelle Macaulay has showered praise on Ms Orde.

She said: “It was a pleasure to work with Samantha at Morpeth RDA and she was an inspiration to everyone involved, riders and volunteers.”

The Morpeth RDA is due to mark its 50 anniversary this year, and relies on donors and fund-raising efforts to deliver its vital work to young people and adults across Northumberland.