Kind neighbours pull off a ‘social distancing’ street party in Sheffield for 90-year-old Dennis

When Dennis Richmond was forced to cancel his 90th birthday party, he was expecting to spend a quiet day at home alone.

By Nik Farah
Sunday, 5th April 2020, 8:11 am
Updated Sunday, 5th April 2020, 8:12 am

But the Sheffield pensioner was in for a surprise, as family, friends, and neighbours rallied around to throw him a street party – with a social distancing difference.

After being instructed to stand on his driveway at 3pm, Dennis was greeted by the sight of dozens of neighbours on their respective driveways, with balloons, cake, glasses of bubbly, and quite a few musical instruments.

“It was a wonderful sight,” he said.

Dennis was delighted by the surprise street party

“Everybody was smiling and waving and singing, and my daughter made me a fantastic cake, which she’d lit the candles of and then backed right away, so we had cake to pass around.

“It was great to see everybody coming together, as much as we could in these very strange times.”

Dennis revealed the behaviour was typical of Lemont Road, in Totley – which he describes as ‘the friendliest street in the city’

The former Sheffield Star photographer added: “I’ve lived here since 1964, so I’m the longest-running resident, and have seen a lot of faces come and go over the years. It’s a really lovely place to live.

The street party was organised via the street's WhatsApp group

“This street is filled with great people of all ages, and during this crisis, everybody has really looked after one another, dropping off shopping and checking in.

“Before we went into isolation, my neighbour popped around to get my phone set up on WhatsApp and that’s how we all communicate now. I did see whisperings on our thread about this party a few days before it went ahead – but I was told to keep my nose out,” he laughed.

“It was a very different way to spend my 90th, but it ended up being a nice occasion.

“I got a lot of videos on my birthday, via the WhatsApp group, of my neighbours singing happy birthday to me, with a range of musical instruments, including Rony Robinson, who lives across from me

“And I’ve told them all I will be rescheduling the proper party for later this year - once Boris gives his approval!

“It was a very different sort of 90th, and it was definitely hard being away from my family,” added Dennis, who lives alone, since his wife died seven years ago.

“I have two daughters, four grand-children, and eight great-grandchildren, with number nine on the way, due in May.”

Speaking of the current pandemic, Dennis, who worked for newspaper across the region during his long press photography career, added: “I’ve never seen anything like this in all my 90 years – even in the war. In the war, we were all together, and we could see the enemy. This is a very strange situation indeed.

“But I’ve told everybody on Lemont Road they will all be invited to my 100th birthday party, so let’s just get through this, and focus on the future.”