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Hunstanton lifeboat volunteers feature in RNLI bicentenary podcast 200 Voices

Lifeboats News Release

Two volunteers from a Norfolk lifeboat station feature in the RNLI's new 200 Voices podcast, as the charity that saves lives at sea counts down to its bicentenary.


Leesa Espley (left) and Kate Craven, who feature in the RNLI's new 200 Voices podcast
Launched last month, an episode will be released daily for 200 days in the run-up to 4 March, 2024.

Each explores a captivating story from the charity’s history, through to the current day.

This month Leesa Espley and Kate Craven, from Hunstanton RNLI Lifeboat Station, are featured.

In the 5 September episode, Leesa tells how she needed laser eye surgery to correct her short sight before she could join the crew just over 20 years ago.

'It was the best thing I ever did,' she tells the podcast. 'I'll never forget my first time on the boat, it was amazing.'

Shortly after she joined the crew at Hunstanton, the station became the first to operate a hovercraft and is one of just four around the country which operate the nimble craft.

Leesa went on to learn to fly the Hunstanton Flyer and became the RNLI's first female hovercraft pilot.

Of her life saving career, she adds: 'It's really difficult to pick out one particular shout.

'All the shouts are unique and different in their own way, from kite surfers to people being cut off on sandbanks, to injured fishermen.

'It's really rewarding, that's why you do it: To give something back and know you've made a bit of a difference.'

Kate Craven is Lifeboat Visits Officer and runs Hunstanton RNLI’s education programme. She is also the charity's Water Safety Officer for North Norfolk.

She also runs Storm Force - a kids' club at the station over the summer holidays to deliver vital water safety messages - and shows parties of pupils from visiting schools around the station.

'This year, we've seen 1,600 children, coming through from schools around our county and as far away as Northampton' she says in the September 17 episode.

'They leave knowing an awful lot more about water safety than they did when they arrived.'

Kate and volunteers at the station demonstrate its life saving equipment during visits.

She adds: 'They love the hovercraft, they love the tractor, they love the fact the RNLI saves so many people and often call our crews superheroes.'

The charity has been saving lives at sea since it was founded in 1824 and, in that time, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 144,000 lives.
Funded by voluntary donations, and with lifeboats crewed by specially-trained volunteers, the RNLI is a truly unique rescue organisation with a remarkable 200-year story to tell – many highlights of which are shared through the podcast series.

Available across all podcast platforms and the RNLI’s website, listeners can hear from survivors, supporters, volunteers, lifeguards, celebrity ambassadors, historians and many more from across the UK and Ireland – and beyond.

The 200 Voices series also includes celebrity ambassadors such as Sixth Commandment actor Timothy Spall, Gavin and Stacey actress Ruth Jones, Irish musician Phil Coulter, gold medal Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie and BAFTA-winning actress Joanna Scanlan.

RNLI Strategic Content Manager Rory Stamp said: '200 Voices is an incredible collection of stories that are emotive, powerful, inspiring and heart-warming.
'The series gives us a chance to hear from a whole variety of amazing people who have played a part in or been touched by our lifesaving charity.

‘200 Voices is the first in a programme of activity planned to mark the RNLI’s bicentenary as we celebrate the world-class lifesaving service we provide today, remember our remarkable history and aim to inspire the future generations of lifesavers and supporters as we move through into the next 200 years.’

Notes to editor

An audio trailer can be downloaded here and a video trailer here.

Audio or episodes and images - including those featuring Leesa Espley and Kate Craven - can be downloaded here.

Main image: Leesa Espley (left) and Kate Craven Credit: RNLI

Since Hunstanton's current station opened in 1979, its inshore lifeboat Spirit of West Norfolk and her predecessors have helped save 140 lives and render assistance to more than 600 people who found themselves in difficulty or in danger.

In 2003, she was joined by the hovercraft Hunstanton Flyer, which has since then been launched 250 times, saved 13 lives and assisted a further 150 people.

The station is one of just four around the coastline who operate a hovercraft.

RNLI media contacts

For more information call Chris Bishop, Hunstanton RNLI volunteer Deputy Lifeboat Press Officer on 07584 147219 or Clare Hopps, Regional Media Officer on 07824 518641.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.