200 Voices: Ruth Jones on how the RNLI is 'like having a friend in every port'
In tomorrow’s episode of the RNLI's 200 Voices podcast, actress, writer and novelist Ruth Jones – best known for playing Nessa Jenkins in the hit BBC series Gavin & Stacey, talks about her family connection to the lifesaving charity and why she’s such a big fan of Saving Lives at Sea.
Ruth grew up in Porthcawl, south Wales and has always had a special connection to the RNLI.
‘I lived by the sea all the years I was growing up. My family still live in Porthcawl, my mum’s there, my brothers and my sister. My brother-in-law is on the crew and my niece, who’s now 18, has just recently joined the RNLI.
‘Because the sea is there on our doorstep, we know the importance of safety. It’s an incredibly important, vital organisation but it also plays a huge part in the community.
‘When my father died five years ago, because my dad had been a supporter of the RNLI, they lowered the flag to half-mast, and they did the same with my dad’s friend when he died. And it’s that sort of thing that I just think shows what a massive part of the community the RNLI is.’
Ruth talks about when she first met co-writer of Gavin & Stacey, James Cordon, whilst making a TV show in the early noughties and how the idea for the hit series was born.
‘James had been to wedding in Barry where the bride was Welsh and the groom was English and he thought it would be a really great setting for a comedy-drama.
‘We found we had loads of ideas for characters, who would the guests be at this wedding? We found ourselves with this great material. That’s how it came about and the rest is history really.’
After the success of Gavin & Stacey, Ruth organised a special Porthcawl RNLI fundraising event hosted in character as the iconic Nessa Jenkins. Nessa Jenkins and Friends Push the Boat Out for the RNLI was held at the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl and raised thousands of pounds for the lifesaving charity.
But it’s not just the volunteer crew at Porthcawl RNLI that hold a special place in Ruth’s heart. She’s a huge fan of the work of all the volunteer crews across the UK and Ireland and spends a lot of time in Lochinver in north west Scotland – where she’s had a tour of the local lifeboat.
‘I’ve been going there for years. It’s the most beautiful place in the world, I love it up there. RNLI in Lochinver just do an incredible job, as do all crews.
‘I've found now that if I go somewhere, me and my mum often go on a little trip around Wales, and she and I both get excited when we see the RNLI station like it’s an old friend, like you know you’ve got a friend in every port as it were.
‘There’s something really comforting about it – about knowing it’s there.’
No stranger to staring on the small screen herself, Ruth finishes by sharing her love of the RNLI’s flagship TV programme Saving Lives at Sea, that has just been announced will return for series eight next Thursday (28 September) on BBC Two.
‘One of my favourite programmes is Saving Lives at Sea – and I’m not just saying it because we are talking about the RNLI, I really do love it.
‘There’s a common denominator I find in all of the crew members that they interview, and that common denominator is humility.
‘To get on those boats and go out to sea, in sometimes absolutely horrendous conditions, takes a very special kind of person and I think they’re amazing and yet they’re so humble about it.
‘I’m really glad that programme exists, because I think it’s really important people are made aware of these volunteers. Volunteers that put their lives at risk to go out and save people – I just think it’s amazing.’
Available across all podcast platforms and the RNLI’s website 200 Voices Interviews: Ruth Jones will be available first thing tomorrow (Friday 22 September).
Launching into a podcast like no other listeners can tune in daily to hear from survivors, supporters, volunteers, lifeguards, celebrity ambassadors, historians and many more from across Wales, England, Ireland and beyond.
Catch up on the episodes so far wherever you get your podcasts or at RNLI.org/200Voices.
To find out more about the RNLI’s bicentenary, visit www.RNLI.org/200.
Notes to Editor:
- Upcoming episodes connected to Wales:
200 Voices Interviews: Ruth Jones
Bill Dewsbury: A Family Affair
Write Her Name With Pride: Tanni Grey-Thompson
Searching Blind: Ben James
- Catch-up on previous episodes connected to Wales:
Joanna Scanlan talks to 200 Voices
Moment of Dread: Milena Smith
Porthcawl Pioneer: Aileen Jones
- Find out more about the RNLI’s bicentenary at RNLI.org/200
RNLI media contacts
For more information about the 200 Voices podcast series, contact Claire Fitzpatrick-Smith, RNLI Regional Media Officer, on [email protected] or 07977 728 315.
Alternatively you can contact the 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.
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