30 May 2024

‘Help us make Withernsea’s Blue Light Weekend an event to remember’

by Sam Hawcroft

The team behind Withernsea’s Blue Light Weekend has begun the countdown to this summer’s event with the launch of its official website and fundraising drive.

The event, across the weekend of August 12- 13, is billed as “a celebration of the sea and to show our gratitude for the emergency services”. It is being held in memory of Withernsea RNLI’s operations manager, Steve Medcalf, who died last December, aged just 52, after a fire at his home in the town.

Fellow lifeboatman Dave Penson, who runs events company BlipActive – a key partner of the Blue Light Weekend organising committee – said Steve had come up with the initial concept and title of the event about a year ago.

Dave said: “Steve was really anxious to bring back events like the raft race, as well as the various sea safety events that had kind of dropped off over the years.

“So, with Active Withernsea’s support and sponsorship, we did the swim last year, and the RNLI did an exercise at the same time. We said we’d have to do something bigger the following year because the events were such a success – we received some great feedback. We batted around different ideas and it was Steve who said, we’ll call it Blue Light.”

The organising committee is planning a series of attractions across the two days, including a 12-mile sportive suitable for all the family, half-mile and one-mile sea swims, an RNLI exercise at sea, a flotilla of fishing boats, a colour run and live bands. For more details, visit the new website at www.bluelightwithernsea.com, which features comprehensive event listings, sponsorship information and details of how to become a volunteer on the day.

Some of the events are still to be confirmed as organisers are relying on sponsorship, but Dave said they had secured two vintage planes, including the German exhibition aircraft used by Hitler at the 1936 Munich Olympics.

He added: “We are also on the shortlist for a Red Arrows flypast and confirmed is a freefall parachute display team jumping into the sea from a helicopter.”

The team are conscious of not trying to do too much, too soon, and the aim is that this inaugural event will be something to build on for future years. They are actively seeking sponsorship from businesses and organisations in the area, and the website lists a host of opportunities from sponsoring or part-sponsoring a stunt plane for £600, to funding a colour run station and 25kg of powder for £75.

In return, businesses’ logos will be front and centre on the signage and promotional material. A JustGiving page has also been launched, and people are urged to give what they can to make the event the best it can be.

Dave said: “The money that goes to the JustGiving page is for the event organisation. And if there’s any left, it’ll either go to towards next year’s event, or to blue light charities.

“In order to raise money for these charities, you need to have an event, and you need to create something really good and big that pulls people in, and then there’ll be lots of opportunities to donate on the day. Yes, we could just have bands in the park – but this event is meant to be different.

“I used to work across in Grimsby for many years and the Armed Forces day there started out attracting 2,000-3,000 people, and it was just a few bands on Cleethorpes seafront. Now it attracts up to 100,000 people and the town is absolutely chock-a-block, and all the guesthouses are full. And we thought we needed to do something similar for the emergency services.”

Volunteers are also being sought to help on the day, from marshalling events to manning stalls or band stages, and a dedicated email address has been set up for people to express their interest at [email protected].

Dave added: “We’ve already got a volunteer co-ordinator in the group, and we’re mindful that we don’t want people to be standing around for eight hours – it’ll be very light-touch volunteering, for two-hour stints at a time.”

For more information, and to view the events and express your interest, visit bluelightwithernsea.com.

To make a donation, visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/blue-lightweekend.