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200 Voices: Kurt Jackson on what moved him to celebrate the work of the RNLI

Lifeboats News Release

Internationally acclaimed artist Kurt Jackson shares his personal perspective on what moved him to celebrate the work of the RNLI in a new episode of the charity’s 200 Voices podcast.

Portrait of Kurt Jackson

Seth Jackson

From March - August this year Kurt Jackson, one of the UK’s leading contemporary artists, exhibited RNLI Cornwall at the multi-award-winning Jackson Foundation Gallery in St Just. A collection of over 75 paintings that document the vital role of RNLI lifeboats and lifeguards in Cornwall, the free exhibition has raised over £24,000 so far and 100% of the proceeds are going to support the work of the RNLI.

In this podcast episode Kurt talks about his deep connection to west Cornwall, the iconic orange and blue lifeboats, how his father was rescued by the RNLI when Kurt was a young boy, and the powerful emotions evoked during his time spent in the old Penlee Lifeboat Station.

Kurt said:

‘As a person who paints the sea it is such an amazing subject… these vivid orange and dark blue boats which are just so attractive on one level, but what they stand for is so profound.

‘The fact that people are prepared to go the extra mile, to put themselves out there to make the ultimate sacrifice.’

On 19 December 1981, the crew of the Penlee lifeboat Solomon Browne were lost attempting to rescue the crew and passengers onboard the Union Star. Tragically everyone onboard both boats that night were lost in the disaster.

In 1983 Penlee RNLI moved to Newlyn to accommodate a new, bigger lifeboat. As a mark of respect, the old lifeboat station was kept much as it was on 19 December 1981, untouched for over 40 years.

‘I managed to get access to the Penlee boathouse and made a series of works about that space, about that void where a boat should be, where now it’s empty.

‘It’s frozen in time and it’s the most incredibly powerful experience to go in there, and hopefully I succeeded in making work to try and capture that feeling.’

‘It’s an incredibly emotive place. It was a privilege to be given that access and also that time on my own there – and allowed to make my work, which is my way of responding to that place and that situation.’

The RNLI Cornwall exhibition also featured photos of Cornwall over the last two centuries. Including photo samples from Jack Lowe’s Lifeboat Station Project and RNLI Photographer Nigel Millard’s shots of lifeboats in action.

The RNLI’s 200 Voices podcast is releasing a new episode every day for 200 days, in the run-up to the charity’s bicentenary on 4 March 2024, exploring captivating stories from the charity’s history and through to the current day.

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.

To find out more about the RNLI’s bicentenary, visit

Notes to Editor:

  • Upcoming episode previews are available upon request.
  • An audio trailer for 200 Voices can be downloaded here and a video trailer can be downloaded here.
  • Find out more about the RNLI’s bicentenary at
  • Upcoming October episodes connected to the south west:

o Trapped Underwater: Frank Smith

o The Night Before Kitting Up: Ken Gollop

o Future Lifesaver: Finlay Hassall.

RNLI media contacts

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Claire Fitzpatrick-Smith, RNLI Regional Media Officer, on [email protected] or 07977 728 315.

Alternatively you can RNLI Press Office on [email protected] or 01202 336789.

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.