The heartbroken mother of a man who was found dead in his home town has been overwhelmed by the support of a community which painted Alnwick red in his memory.
Much-loved Jonathan Percival, of St George’s Crescent, was discovered in woods near the town’s golf club at the beginning of April. An inquest has been opened.
His death shocked those who knew and loved the 37-year-old, described as a practical joker and a special person.
And on Sunday, in a touching mark of respect to the life-long Liverpool FC fan, scores of people packed into pubs in Alnwick and switched allegiances – cheering on the title-chasing Merseysiders against their beloved Newcastle United.
To make the occasion – entitled Alnwick Day and promoted by his friends and members of his family – even more special, people were encouraged to wear red (Liverpool’s colour). Some even swapped the black ’n’ white of the Toon for Liverpool shirts.
Yesterday, Jonathan’s mother Margaret paid tribute to those who organised and supported the day, which was one of the busiest that Alnwick has seen in a long time.
“It was lovely for Jonathan and he would have been proud to see his friends wearing Liverpool shirts and cheering on Liverpool in his memory,” said the 61-year-old.
“I am overwhelmed. The support has been amazing.”
Sports-mad Jonathan had supported Liverpool since he was three, following in the footsteps of his uncle, Syd Green. His heroes included Ian Rush and John Barnes.
Jonathan, an only child, also enjoyed tennis and golf and worked in Alnwick’s Wagonway Road Post Office.
While Sunday’s event was created to celebrate Jonathan’s life, the occasion evolved into a day which encouraged people to come out in the town generally.
A number of Alnwick businesses joined in, offering customers a range of discounts and deals.
Alnwick Day proved so successful that there are calls for it to be held again.
Mark Watson, who helped promote the event, said: “The atmosphere was great, there was a sea of red and the main topic to arise is for it to be repeated annually.
“The common memory that we shared of Jonathan was his love for Liverpool FC. It seemed obvious to many that the ultimate way to honour the life of such a special person would be to support Liverpool at the end of the season when they played our very own club, Newcastle United.
“As I helped promote this event through Jonathan’s friends and family, I realised that this could be coupled with an idea that had been floating around our community for several years; many people in Alnwick had longed for a day which we could call ours, just like when we had Fair Week.
“As word spread, the idea grew, and suddenly Alnwick Day was born. This day would not only allow the celebration of Jonathan’s life, but also the involvement of other people from Alnwick who weren’t so acquainted with him. Everyone was invited to wear red to unite us all and create a visual atmosphere.”
Members of staff from some of the participating pubs said the day was a success and would support it again, while there was a decent take-up of T-shirts carrying the Alnwick Day logo, created by Stephanie Oliver and produced by Sportsworld, in the town.
Some venues collected funds for The Stephen Carey Fund during the day. A total has not yet been announced, but David Wilson, of the Fund, said: “Alnwick Day was something that sneaked up on us at The Stephen Carey Fund.
“It would seem the people of Alnwick wanted to initially go out and celebrate the end of the footballing season and this evolved beyond that into a day which encompassed celebrating football, fund-raising for charity and bringing a splash of colour and vibrancy to the town of Alnwick.
“That so many businesses and individuals got involved and made the day a success is a credit to them all.”
Alnwick Day attracted positive feedback from people on Facebook.
Emma Anderson said: “It was a great day! Even from behind the bar it was amazing to see so many people coming together and having a great time!
“I hope this does becomes an annual event! Well done to everyone who got dressed up and supported this day and well done to the organiser(s) for doing such a fantastic job.”
Andrea Renton added: “Crackin afternoon. Should defo make it an annual do.”
For more details, visit the Alnwick Day page.