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Iconic red phone box goes yellow to kick off RNLI Mayday fundraising campaign

Lifeboats News Release

Mayday distress calls are something the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) charity is used to responding to any time, day or night.

4,800 volunteer crew members from 238 lifeboat stations across the UK and Ireland are on standby to drop everything in an instant to save lives on waterways and at sea.

An iconic red phone box beside the River Thames has been turned yellow this May Day to kick off the RNLI’s 2018 Mayday fundraising campaign. The public are implored to come up with inventive ways to fundraise throughout the month of May, from cycling, swimming and baking to donning their brightest yellow at work or school. All money raised will go to fund vital new kit to help courageous volunteer lifeboat crews save lives.

In 2017 these crews launched 8,436 times, aiding 8,072 people. RNLI London lifeboat crews alone launched 697 times, aiding 273 people.

Passers-by who spot the yellow phone box, along the Thames outside City Hall can better understand what happens when the RNLI receives distress calls by going inside and picking up the phone to hear real life rescue stories. The experience aims to give participants an insight into what it really means to be a lifesaving volunteer responding to a call for help and encourage them to ‘do their bit and fund our kit’ and help to raise funds to keep RNLI volunteers safe and dry on the water.

Chris Walker, RNLI Helm on the Tower lifeboat explains: ‘We rely on our kit to keep us protected from the very cold temperatures we face on the river during rescues. Our kit is being upgraded this year, with the new kit being supplied by our strategic partner Helly Hansen. This great new kit will ensure we have maximum protection, keeping us warm and dry while we’re saving lives.. Along with a few crew mates, we’ve been trying the new kit out for size and we all agree it’s fantastic. The increased flexibility and lighter weight of the material allows us to don the kit really quickly, which is paramount for our response times - people can drown in a matter of moments in the Thames. We’re a charity and rely on the public to help us stay on the water, so we hope people will spend a moment this May Day to think about what else Mayday means and support us.’

Andy Jupp, RNLI Community Fundraising Manager for London says: ‘Yellow wellies, lifejackets, helmets – this iconic kit is essential for lifesaving and protecting our selfless volunteers who face extreme conditions while saving lives at sea. We’re asking the public to get creative and Go Yellow throughout the month of May to help us raise funds for their kit. We’ve got loads of ideas in our fundraising pack which you can sign up for at, and people can also show their support by joining the conversation online using the hashtag #MaydayEveryDay.’

The RNLI’s Mayday campaign runs throughout May and aims to raise £750,000 to fund lifesaving kit for the charity’s brave volunteers. An RNLI crew member’s yellow wellies cost £55 a pair, a lifejacket costs £458 and a safety helmet costs £263.

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.


The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland