Hero shopkeeper of Barnsbury has the honour of turning on Christmas lights

Community hero Des McDaniel (centre right) at the big N1 Centre switch on Pic: Dieter Perry

Community hero Des McDaniel (centre right) at the big N1 Centre switch on Pic: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

Battling Des beat illness and developers

Children meet Father Christmas at the event

Children meet Father Christmas at the event - Credit: Archant

A much-loved shopkeeper who won battles with serious illness and developers – as well as the hearts of his customers – was given the honour of turning on some of the borough’s most iconic Christmas lights.

Des McDaniel, 63, who brightens up the lives of patrons of Islington Wines, the shop he runs in Liverpool Road, Barnsbury, was picked by the Gazette and the N1 Centre as the community hero deemed most worthy of flicking the switch on the centre’s festive display.

Meal for two

As well as following in the footsteps of X Factor winner Steve Brookstein in pushing the big red button at the mall in Parkfield Street, Islington, Mr McDaniel was also handed a meal for two at Gourmet Burger King, tickets to catch the latest blockbuster at Vue and a box of chocolates.

The shopkeeper, who has been at the store for 25 years despite losing his voice while suffering from a laryngotomy 18 months ago, said: “It was such a surprise. I was a bit overwhelmed. I was grateful to be nominated.

“I really enjoyed it. There were lots of people there and some of my colleagues and friends.

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“I couldn’t believe the support I had. I love my job and I am so happy to work here, so this was just a huge bonus. I went straight into work after switching on the lights.”

Last year, just weeks after returning to work following major throat surgery, Mr McDaniel was flung into another struggle – to save his business from being turned into flats.

As the Gazette reported at the time, the community, as well as local politicians, rallied round him and more than 300 people signed a petition to block the move.

Simon Jary, a regular customer of Islington Wines, who nominated Mr McDaniel, said: “Des is quite simply the nicest man in Islington, maybe the world, and fought to save his business from developers despite having throat surgery which means he can no longer speak properly.

“Anyone who lives near the shop will tell you what a great man he is, so helpful and loved by all the community. He hasn’t won X Factor but he has won the community’s hearts.”

Lynne Glover, manager of the N1 centre, said: “We had a brilliant time and are really glad so many people turned up.

‘‘We were thrilled that the Mayor of Islington, Cllr Barry Edwards, and Santa were also able to join us and it was great to be able to invite the local community to nominate someone to do the all important switch-on.”