WHEN Lloyd Millen was informed, just before Christmas, that he had been awarded an MBE for services to British nationals in Spain he couldn’t quite believe it.
“I had no idea that my name had been put forward so I was completely shocked,” the 48-year-old tells the Olive Press over the telephone from his office in Barcelona.
“You aren’t allowed to tell anyone about it until the actual announcement – not even your nearest and dearest – and so I couldn’t share the news when I went home to Middlesbrough for Christmas,” he said.
But when he did finally spill the beans, his parents were incredibly proud.
“It was such a huge surprise for them and a wonderful end to a difficult few years,” said Millen, who is the British Consul based in Barcelona and covers the northeast of Spain as well as the Balearic Islands.
He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list in part for the incredible success of a campaign to reduce the number of serious injuries and death among young British tourists who fall from balconies after a night out drinking – incidents that have been given the name ‘balconing’ by the Spanish press.
“It’s really wonderful to be recognised for what we have achieved working with Spanish authorities and local businesses on this. I’m the one awarded with the MBE but it is very much thanks to the effort of a whole team,” he explained.
Millen spearheaded the ‘Stick with your Mates’ campaign, which saw the number of balcony falls half during the 2019 season compared to the previous year. The campaign won awards and has influenced youth safety strategies elsewhere in Spain and southern Europe.
“Looking at the statistics since the campaign was launched we have seen a 61% drop in serious incidents so the work we have done there has probably saved the lives of some young people.”
His work preparing British nationals for the effects of Brexit was also cited as a reason for the award.
“It is no understatement to say that without his exceptional efforts, thousands of UK Nationals in Spain would find themselves in a much more difficult situation than they currently do,” said British Ambassador in Madrid, Hugh Elliott in a statement announcing the MBE.
“Since the 2016 referendum, Lloyd has made it his priority to ensure that they felt listened to. And in doing so, has worked closely with the Spanish authorities, ensuring close collaboration and solving problems as they arose. I, and the communities that he serves, are very grateful for his constant commitment to making a difference in their lives.”
Millen believes that the lowly job he had in his teenage years helped prepare him for the role.
“I started out stacking yoghurts in Morrisons supermarket in Stockton-on-Tees,” laughs Millen. “Believe me, that is the best customer service training possible.”
Millen originally moved to Spain in 2006 where he found work with the European Union Intellectual Property Office in Alicante before he was hired as Vice Consul in Alicante in 2008.
“I moved to Spain because I fell in love with a Spaniard” Millen reveals. “The relationship itself didn’t work out but the love affair with Spain is still ongoing.”
Millen now lives with his partner Flo and their dog Elliot in Barcelona, where he was appointed British Consul General in 2015.
But he admits he never imagined life would turn out like this.
“There aren’t a lot of people like me in the Foreign Office,” he admits. “Growing up as a gay kid in Middlesbrough, I never imagined I’d have the role of Consul General in a city like Barcelona, nor that I’d receive an honour such as this.
“It truly is amazing, and I hope it helps demonstrate to kids growing up and wondering about their future that anything is possible.”