From bookshops to disaster relief: It’s all in a day’s work

Alnwick Lions membership director Dave Knowles with Lions John Aitkin, Dave Bickerton and Steven Farrell-Knowles.
Alnwick Lions membership director Dave Knowles with Lions John Aitkin, Dave Bickerton and Steven Farrell-Knowles.
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Raising money for worldwide disaster relief, recording talking newspapers for local blind people, running a second-hand bookshop – it’s all in a day’s work if you’re one of the Alnwick Lions.

Members of the voluntary service organisation give up their spare time to take part in an astonishing range of activities, raising money and providing services for people in need both locally and further afield.

Current projects include the Lions Bookshop on Bondgate Within; the long-running talking newspapers scheme, which provides recordings for blind people; and the mobile Santa’s Grotto, which tours the streets of Alnwick and surrounding areas every winter.

At present there are around 26 members, who meet fortnightly at the Royal Air Force Association on Lisburn Street.Some have been part of the Lions since it first started in the town, back in 1975.

The group is part of Lions International, which claims to be the largest voluntary service organisation in the world with 1.4million members in 193 countries, but all of its activities are organised locally.

“In Alnwick we do very much work autonomously,” said Lions secretary Richard Hall.

“Normally the money we raise goes within ten to 12 miles of where we live. The money goes to local people who need help.” Money is also donated to international charities such as Water Aid.

The bookshop, which began as a stall in the fish marke t outside the Northumberland Hall, raises up to £15,000 per year and more is raised through community events and street collections.

Membership is by invitation only, but the Lions are keen to be inclusive in their recruitment policy. There are both male and female members.

Richard said: “We’re especially keen to get younger members – quite a few of us have been in for 30-odd years. Honestly, once you get in you tend to stick at it.”

New membership director Dave Knowles said that while the current Lions remain as committed as ever, membership has become ‘a bit static’.

“There must be people out there interested in doing charity work, especially after the Olympics,” he said.

“We would just like to get some newer and possibly younger members. A couple of hours in the bookshop, a couple of hours here and there, it all helps out.”

At the Gazette office last Thursday, Andrew Smail was busy helping record the week’s newspaper onto tapes, which are then distributed to people in the area who are unable to see to read. He has been a Lion for almost a decade.

“It’s quite rewarding,” he said. “Out there, we’ve got about 40 to 45 people waiting for their newspapers – so you feel like it’s for a good cause.”

To discuss becoming a member, drop in to the Lions bookshop, or contact Richard on 0845 833 5931.