A photo of two representatives from the RNLI (Gianna Saccomani & Miranda Jaggers) with Euphonix's musical director (Thomas Chapman) holding an RNLI donations box and helmet.

A celebration of 200 years of the RNLI with Kingston choir Euphonix

Kingston-based community choir put on a lunchtime concert last week in aid of the RNLI’s bicentennial anniversary earlier this month. 

Euphonix, a community choir of up to 100 members, which began in 2009, performed at Kingston’s Rose Theatre last Wednesday, raising money in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) 200 years of saving lives.

The choir, led by musical director Thomas Chapman, performed a number of nautical songs to incorporate the RNLI theme, including Sam Smith’s ‘The Lighthouse Keeper.’

Chapman said: “The choir definitely has a really amazing community spirit which we really lost after the pandemic. 

“So many people here have become such close friends and it’s become a real social hub for many people in the Kingston community.”

The RNLI, founded in 1824, has four lifeboat stations operating on the River Thames, with the Chiswick station the second busiest in the UK and Ireland.

97% of the RNLI is run by volunteers, with a total of 146,277 lives saved, an average of two a day, over the past 200 years according to RNLI data.

Gianna Saccomani, a RNLI volunteer who attended the event, said: “Volunteering has been the best thing I’ve ever done. 

“You learn so many new things, meet amazing people and, most importantly, help people which is so rewarding.”

Hillary Saw has donated three lifeboats to the RNLI’s Teddington station over the last 15 years. 

Last September, she donated a brand-new D class lifeboat named the Alderman Penny Shelton, a tribute to her sister, Penny Shelton, the former mayor of Kingston from 2013-2014, who died in 2021. 

Saw said: “It’s a privilege to donate but these boats simply don’t go anywhere without the people who man them, the shore crew to take them out, the mechanics, and so many more!

“I just bask in the glow of the work of all these amazing people.”

RNLI volunteer sat in lifeboat.
SAVING LIVES: The face of Teddington’s lifesaving crew (Credit: RNLI Photography)

For one boat to complete a rescue, a tractor driver, banksmen and a launch authority who is responsible for making the final decision on whether an incident requires a lifeboat, is needed, alongside three to four volunteers in the boat. 

It costs between £70,000-£80,000 to purchase one boat for RNLI use.

Relying purely on donations and volunteers, the charity receives no funding from the government for their lifesaving work. 

Saccomani said: “The RNLI is very proud of its independence from government as they can’t tell us what to do or cut our funding which we need.”

Miranda Jaggers, head of water safety at Teddington’s lifeboat station, spoke about the connection between poor mental health and Thames-based incidents in particular, with 67% of incidents along the Thames being mental health related, according to RNLI data.

She advocates for greater education on water-related safety and speaks to young people about how to stay safe in, on, and around the water as part of a nationwide scheme run by the charity.

Jaggers said: “It’s terrifying how little people know about what to do in the case of an incident, we really need people to understand that they should never get in the water to help someone.”

Kingston Council recently introduced a number of throw bags along the Thames to stop people getting in the water themselves in an attempt to help others. 

Jaggers also held a public throw bag training event in Kingston last Saturday to teach members of the public how best to use one when required.

The Teddington RNLI are working specifically with school children who are completing their DofE to help them learn more about the RNLI, alongside receive training in water safety and first aid which is mandatory for all volunteers. 

If you see someone in trouble in the Thames, you should call 999 and ask to speak to the coastguard.

To donate to the RNLI, sign up as a volunteer or find out more about their lifesaving work you can visit them on their website.

Featured image credit: Ruth Stainer

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