Coronation Street star writes veterans play

Coronation Street star shines spotlight on veterans in new play

Actor Christine Mackie is used to walking the cobbles of Coronation Street or wearing period costume in Downton Abbey. However taking on the part of a playwright for real was a new departure. The result is Best Girl, which draws from her experience of losing her soldier father to suicide when she was a child. It was written for and now stars her daughter, actor Lois Mackie.

“My dad’s experience in WWII lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Disorder) which just wasn’t talked about then,” explains Christine. “When I lost dad, I lost the belief in myself as being someone you’d stick around for, someone worthwhile. As a family we were left to get over his suicide with very little help. I’m really interested in how the children of veterans suffer from the trauma of conflict. That’s the starting point of my positive and hopeful play.”

The one-woman show follows twenty-something Annie in modern-day Manchester. Smart and funny, she still struggles with life until she finds love and the strength to seek out the help she needs through the NHS. A percentage of the play’s profits will go to FirstLight Trust, a charity helping those who served in the armed forces and emergency services and are struggling with civilian life.

“Best Girl absolutely underpins the work we want to do around secondary trauma, families and children,” says FirstLight Trust founder Dorinda Wolfe Murray. “The high suicide rate in veterans is unacceptable, with its impact shuddering through subsequent generations. We are so grateful to the Mackies for bringing this issue into the spotlight in such a moving and ultimately uplifting way.”

Oliver Award-nominated playwright April de Angelis calls Best Girl “a sharply written, moving, wise and witty play”. It will be performed at the Hope Aria Theatre at the Greater Manchester Fringe in July, before moving to the Edinburgh Fringe in August. The play was a finalist 2019 LET AWARDS and the team are now crowd funding for their Edinburgh run.

Lois Mackie adds: “Taking part in my first one-woman show is emotional and challenging in itself. The subject matter and family connection mean Best Girl is something really unique. I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”

Charity cycle ride in Gosport for D-Day anniversary

Clocking up the D-Day miles in Gosport

A plucky team of charity cyclists from Gosport are commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings by cycling 75 miles. Jodie, Riah and Sam from the town’s FirstLight Trust veterans’ hub will be taking turns to ride 75 miles to raise as much money as possible for those who served.

“We pride ourselves on staging fun events and thinking up original ways to raise funds,” explains hub coordinator Riah. “We’ve held vintage afternoon teas, card-making sessions with schoolchildren and veterans and even jam-making. Such an iconic event as D-Day needed something special, which is why we’re doing this bike ride.”

The ride starts from the FirstLight Trust Gosport hub at 68 High Street at 9.45am on 26 May 2019. The women will ride to Stokes Bay and back as many times as is necessary to clock up 75 miles between them. Halfords in Gosport generously provided a free safety check for all the bikes involved to make sure they’re in tip-top condition. Meanwhile local firm Love Emma Design have donated high-visibility clothing to the team for free.

“We are so proud of our Gosport team,” says Dorinda Wolfe Murray, the founder of FirstLight Trust. “They always approach everything with such energy so we have every hope they’ll conquer this challenge too. Every penny raised will go towards helping former members of the armed forces and emergency services with issues such as mental health, debt, loneliness and more. Cycling 75 miles is literally going the extra mile to help our charity and we couldn’t be more grateful!”

Members of the public are encouraged to come along on Sunday 26 May to cheer the team on. There is also a static exercise bike in hub on Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 May from 9am to 10am for anyone who would like to keep fit for a good cause, kindly lent by Anytime Fitness Gosport. Donations can be made at the hub on Gosport High Street or online at:


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Notes to Editors

Gosport’s FirstLight Trust hub is open Monday to Saturday 9am – 5pm at 68 High Street, Gosport PO12 1DR. It contains Sharpe’s coffee bar serving hot drinks and home-made cakes.

Half Marathon for veterans - Buckingham Palace credit RB Create

Revving up for the Royal Parks Half Marathon to help veterans

Bromley resident Rose Bradbury is picking up pace for mental health awareness by running the Royal Parks Half Marathon, presented by Royal Bank of Canada, on 13 October. Having taken part in the Great North Run and the Bath Half, she aims to beat her personal best this autumn to raise funds for FirstLight Trust. This is the charity she works for which supports former members of the armed forces and emergency services in civilian life.

Rose has always admired those serving in the armed forces and emergency services, and particularly the risk they take every day to protect others. She also realises that, although the importance of good mental health is slowly gaining more awareness, there is still a great deal of stigma attached to mental health issues. In particular for men.

“Poor mental health is something I have personally struggled with in the past,” Rose explains. “I found that running became an invaluable tool for me and a form of relief from anxiety and stress. It seems fitting to use running to potentially help others gain support and improve their mental health too.”

FirstLight Trust offers a variety of services to help those who have served in the armed forces or emergency services and suffer from depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Street Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues. They provide a warm welcome for veterans who have struggled to find support elsewhere. Their six hubs across the UK provide a space to socialise, enjoy a coffee and a cake, as well as receive help and advice.

“We are really lucky to have someone as dedicated as Rose as part of our team,” says Dorinda Wolfe Murray, the founder of FirstLight Trust. “The Half Marathon takes place just a fortnight before our Stress Down Day on 25 October which promotes well-being across the population, not just veterans. We look forward to cheering her across the finish line!”

The 13.1 mile route of the Royal Parks Half Marathon takes in London’s world-famous landmarks and four of London’s eight Royal Parks. Approximately 16,000 runners taking part. Rose will post updates of her training on Instagram @firstlight_trust. Donations can be made online at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rosebradburyrpfhm201934781

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Notes to Editors

The charity FirstLight Trust runs hubs in Hawick, Hereford, Gosport, Lancaster, Redcar and Scarborough.

For more information, please email FirstLight Trust founder Dorinda Wolfe Murray at enquiries@firstlighttrust.co.uk or call 07464 828 049

For more details about The Royal Parks Half Marathon please look at https://royalparkshalf.com/

Loch Lomond - seen on hike to help Hawick veterans - copyright Katja S Verhoeven from Pixabay

Caroline’s hike to help Hawick veterans

Hawick’s Caroline Brown is heading for the hills later this month to support a hub for veterans in the town. She’s taking on the West Highland Way to raise funds for FirstLight Trust, a charity helping former members of the armed forces and emergency services adjust to civilian life.

“I joined FirstLight Trust last year as their hub co-ordinator,” says Caroline. “I’ve seen first-hand the amazing difference we make. Veterans have said to me that we make their lives easier, that they’re glad we’re here. We never turn anyone away, we’re there for the long haul and there is no time limit on our support.”

The first hub in Scotland, Hawick is one of the charity’s six hubs across the UK offering support to veterans. No appointment is needed and the hubs are open every day except Sundays. The double as a café for the public and veterans alike. Trained staff help with issues such as dealing with red tape, form filling and debt management. They also offer deeper support with settling back in to civilian life after service, addiction, depression, anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

“Caroline has been such an inspiration for our Hawick veterans,” says Dorinda Wolfe Murray, the founder of FirstLight Trust. “She’s helped set up crafts fairs, stalls at the Trinity Gardens Christmas market, Remembrance Sunday commemorations and a Burns Lunch. Walking 96 miles really is above and beyond her job description, but we’re proud to support her every step of the way!”

The West Highland Way stretches 96 miles (154 km) from Milngavie to Fort William. Its terrain ranges from loch shores to steep mountains. Caroline will start walking the week-long route on 25 April with her friend Sonja and fellow walkers are welcome to join them, even if it’s just for part of the walk. Donations can be made online at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/caroline-brown59 or in person at the hub on Hawick High Street.

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Notes to Editors

Hawick’s FirstLight Trust hub is open Monday to Saturday 9am – 5pm at 1-3 High Street, Hawick TD9 9BZ. It contains Sharpe’s coffee bar serving hot drinks and home-made cakes.

You can find out more about this iconic Scottish trail on the West Highland Way website.

Header image is of Loch Lomond on West Highland Way by Katja S. Verhoeven from Pixabay

Scarborough D-Day - memorial seat overlooking harboour

A+ for Scarborough school’s D-Day initiative for veterans

To mark the 75th anniversary of the World War II D-Day landings in June, a Scarborough school has teamed up with a local veterans’ charity. St. Augustine’s encouraged pupils, parents and staff to donate a carrier bag each of items to help raise money for those who served in the armed forces and emergency services.

“We wanted to demonstrate our support and respect for our local armed forces and emergency services veterans,” explains teacher Mark Winspear. “So we asked our school community to bring in unwanted clothing, bric-a-brac, books, CDs, DVDs and toys that could be sold in FirstLight Trust’s shop on Newborough. The response has been amazing with more than 60 bags and £85 being donated.”

FirstLight Trust offers support for veterans and their families. They help with accommodation, food, training, gaining access to appropriate medical treatment or simply a chance to talk things through. Next door to the charity shop is the hub, containing Sharpe’s coffee bar serving hot drinks and home-made cakes. Here veterans and the public alike are welcome to relax.

“There are around 2,700 former armed forces personnel living in the Scarborough area alone,” explains charity founder Dorinda Wolfe Murray. “So we are really grateful to St. Augustine’s for their astounding initiative. It’s so also important for the next generation to be aware of the sacrifices made by those who have gone before them. We hope some of the students will pop by to visit us on Newborough and our stand at Armed Forces Day on 29 June.”

Scarborough was the charity’s first UK hub, opening in 2015. Since then similar hubs have been launched in Gosport, Hawick, Hereford, Lancaster and Redcar. The coffee bars contained within the hubs are named after Major Richard Sharpe, the fictional soldier played on TV by Yorkshire actor Sean Bean. Permission to use the iconic name was granted by the charity’s patron, author Bernard Cornwell.

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Notes to Editors

The FirstLight Trust hub and shop are at 63 and 64 Newborough, Scarborough.

More details about FirstLight Trust are available at www.firstlighttrust.co.uk

More details about St. Augustine’s can be found at staugs.co.uk

For more information, please email FirstLight Trust founder Dorinda Wolfe Murray at enquiries@firstlighttrust.co.uk or call 07464 828 049

House plans - to illustrate Annington donation press release

Veterans’ charity builds for the future

A leading veterans’ charity is hiring their first ever Operations Manager thanks to the help of Annington, the company who owns the Ministry of Defence’s Married Quarters Estate.

FirstLight Trust runs six coffee bar hubs, open to veterans and the public alike, in Gosport, Lancaster, Hawick, Hereford, Redcar and Scarborough. They offer a place for veterans and their families to socialise and seek support in an informal atmosphere. Sales of hot drinks and home-made cakes help raise funds for the charity. The charity’s hubs also organise events and activities for veterans, ranging from Remembrance Day lunches to regular gardening sessions.

“With so many hubs across the UK, it’s more important than ever to have the infrastructure in place to support them,” explains FirstLight Trust’s founder Dorinda Wolfe Murray. “A full-time Operations Manager is crucial to our continued success. Annington’s help means we can employ a talented individual to deliver projects, work with partnership organisations and recruit, nurture and develop our close-knit team of colleagues to provide the best possible help for our veterans.”

Annington has supported FirstLight Trust, a charity for former members of the emergency services and armed forces, since 2016. A team from the company raised money walking the 25 km-long Thames Bridges Trek. Now the company are enabling the charity to add the key role of Operations Manager to their team.

“Our staff are genuinely interested in the work FirstLight Trust does supporting veterans at grass-roots level. The charity’s high street cafes help provide on-the-ground immediate support that has been life-saving,” says Helen Liddell, Chair of Annington. “We are delighted that our donation will enable such a vital appointment. It will help the charity build on the great work they are doing amongst the veteran community, supporting those who have served.”

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Notes to Editors

For more details about FirstLight Trust, please email Dorinda Wolfe Murray at enquiries@firstlighttrust.co.uk, call 07464 828 049 or go online at www.firstlighttrust.co.uk


Annington is one of the largest private owners of residential property in the UK with over 40,000 homes across England and Wales. To date, they have helped over 17,000 people purchase their own home, many of whom were first time buyers, service personnel and key workers.

Annington’s portfolio is unique in the private rental sector. While their homes range in style and size from one-bedroom apartments through to eight-bedroom houses, the majority of their properties are detached, semi-detached and terraced family homes with gardens. Annington’s developments are often set in much more open space than you might find elsewhere, especially when compared to modern developments.

Annington has more than 20 years’ experience as a private landlord and specialises in truly affordable family homes. They are one of the few private sector organisations with experience at scale in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) and believe that their model can play an important role in addressing the UK’s current housing shortage. Annington was formed in 1996 with the purchase of 57,434 homes from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and properties leased to the MoD to house military families continue to represent a large proportion of their portfolio.

More details about Annington’s charitable activity can be found at: www.annington.co.uk/corporate-responsibility/annington-group-charitable-activity

Hereford veterans charity skydive

Lynne’s leap for Hereford veterans

Hereford’s Lynne Gladwin is reaching for the skies to support a new hub for veterans in the city. After seeing the Northern Lights in January, skydiving was next on Lynne’s bucket list. She’s performing her first ever tandem skydive to raise funds for FirstLight Trust, a charity helping former members of the armed forces and emergency services adjust to civilian life.

Lynne herself served in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. Her eldest son is in the Rifles and she already runs two Armed Forces and Veteran Breakfast Clubs in Leominster and Hereford. For the past two years she’s volunteered with veterans, signposting them to the best support on offer. Lynne now joins FirstLight Trust as a support worker in their forthcoming Hereford hub.

“When the job opportunity came up with FirstLight Trust, it seemed a natural choice for me,” says Lynne. “I get to help blue light and service veterans full time in a job I’m passionate about. Not many people can say they love going to work. I’m very fortunate.”

The Hereford veterans’ hub will combine a community space and coffee bar for veterans and the public alike. It is the charity’s sixth UK hub, joining other Sharpe’s establishments in Gosport, Hawick, Lancaster, Redcar and Scarborough. They aim to serve hot drinks and home-made cakes at reasonable prices in a friendly atmosphere where veterans can chat. The coffee bars are named after Major Richard Sharpe, the fictional soldier famously played on TV by Hollywood actor Sean Bean. Permission to use the iconic name has been granted by the charity’s patron, author Bernard Cornwell.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have someone as experienced as Lynne to join our Hereford team,” says Dorinda Wolfe Murray, the founder of FirstLight Trust. “The fact that she is a veteran herself means she already understands the culture of the armed forces in a way no civilian can. Jumping out of a plane wasn’t in her job description, but we are very grateful for her sponsorship!”

During the freefall section, Lynne will reach speeds of 120 mph, or one thousand feet every five seconds. Once the parachute is deployed, she will slow to one thousand feet per minute. Lynne’s leap is scheduled for Sunday 3 March over Swindon. Update: bad weather means it will now take place in the middle of May, weather permitting.

Donations can be made online at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Lynne-gladwin1

Christmas opening hours - Chinook helicopters with red noses over mountains

Christmas opening hours for FirstLight Trust hubs and shops

Christmas Eve:

Our Gosport, Lancaster, Scarborough and Redcar hubs and shops close early at 4pm. Hawick is open until 5pm.

Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day:

All hubs and shops are closed.

New Year’s Eve:

Our Scarborough hub and shop close early at 4pm.

27, 28, 29 and 31 December:

We’re open for veterans and the public alike serving coffee, cake and company so do pop in!

Normal opening hours apply from 2 January.

How to contact us

Our social media channels will be unmonitored 22 December – 2 January. Please email us at enquiries@firstlighttrust.co.uk or call 0207 730 7545 if you have an urgent message.


Veterans Christmas Charity virtual cards

7 simple ways to help veterans this Christmas

While the run-up to Christmas is a time of celebration for many, it can be a tough time for some veterans. Remembrance Day commemorations often stir up painful memories. The risk of debt and homelessness can spiral. And Christmas on civvie street can still feel unfamiliar and confusing.

What we do to support veterans

FirstLight Trust helps veterans of the armed forces and bluelight services who need help getting back on their feet. We run hubs across the UK which are great spots for the public and veterans alike to enjoy coffee, cake and company. But each costs around £120,000 a year to keep going.

We’d also love to set up clinics, drama, art therapy sessions, Coping Strategy Sessions and Emotional Intelligence techniques. Plus expand activities like gym sessions and gardening.

How you can help

If you’d like to show your support this festive season, here are 7 ways you can raise essential funds to help military and emergency service veterans:

1. No time to send Christmas cards?

Don’t panic! Email, WhatsApp, tweet, Facebook message or print out this page’s header image instead and make a donation.

Virtual Christmas card

Link to large ‘instead of Christmas cards’ image

2. Buy our Sharpe merchandise

We’ve world-exclusive merchandise featuring quotes from the Sharpe series, written by our patron Bernard Cornwell. Sean Bean famously led The Chosen Men from The Rifles, battling Napoleon on TV.

Buy in person: Just pop into one of our hubs to see the full range.

Buy online: Our enamel mugs with the quote “You know what the trick of a long life is, Sharpe? Stay out of range.” can be ordered online.

3. Let Amazon give 0.5% to us

Sign up for Amazon Smile and chose FirstLight Trust as your nominated charity. Then shop using the Amazon Smile web address instead. Amazon will give us 0.5% of the amount you spend, at no cost to you.

4. Make a donation instead of a Christmas present

Clueless as to what to give The Person Who Has Everything? Why not make a donation on their behalf? Check out the many ways to donate, even if you’re in the USA.

5. Have a clear out

Are you clearing space for new Christmas gifts? Please take your unwanted clothes, bric-a-brac and homeware to our Redcar or Scarborough shops.

6. Pop in for a coffee

Take a break from your Christmas shopping at one of our coffee bar hubs in:

You’ll get a proper brew plus a friendly smile from our colleagues.

Staff celebrate the first birthday of Sharpe's, Gosport's veteran's cafe

7. Come along to our events

From monthly raffles to Christmas fairs, our hubs hold lots of great events. Pick up delicious home-made bakes as well as Sharpe mugs and bags. Check out what’s happening.

Thank you for your support and a very Merry Christmas from us all!

Sandhurst / Spanish Stand218 team in Richmond Park

Sandhurst teams up with Spain for tough challenge

A team of London-based friends take on a gruelling Exmoor race later this month to help ex-service men and women of the military and emergency services.

Soldier 30:30 sees team racing 30 miles or 30 km carrying a 30lb pack to raise money for FirstLight Trust. The charity runs support hubs across the country to help veterans struggling with issues such as debt, homelessness, loneliness and red tape.

“Jimmy and I were in the army together and have fond, well fond-ish, memories of long marches and cross-country runs at Sandhurst and in Germany,” explains team leader Ollie Leeming. “Pepe is a mountaineer and all-round athlete. Jose, who served in the Royal Guard plus Spain’s special forces, has run many marathons. So we’re confident we can succeed in the 30 mile run.”

Their team name Stand218 comes from “stand-to”, a formation carried out at first and last light. This defensive all-round group stance allows soldiers to be ready for battle with mutually supporting arcs of fire. So far the team have mainly been training individually. They have however covered 22km together in Richmond Park complete with “a very civilized coffee stop” and 47km in Exmoor. The next step is training to run at speed and carrying the weight of 27 basketballs while doing so.

“The bonds and memories you make in the military are like no other. Although we have become civilians these bonds don’t diminish,” says Ollie. “We’ve taken on Soldier 30:30 as we feel that ex-military and emergency services people can be some of the most vulnerable in society. The mental health challenges they face are compounded by the sense of isolation felt when leaving the services. We’re excited to be able to help by racing in good company in a beautiful part of the world.”

Soldier 30:30 begins on 13 October. Donations to Team Stand218 can be made at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/soldier3030

Team Flight help veterans through the gruelling Soldier 3030 challenge

Cleared for take-off in Exmoor to help veterans

An arduous Exmoor race lies in the sights of a team from Lancaster later this month to raise money to help veterans struggling with issues such as debt, red tape, loneliness and homelessness.

Soldier 30:30 involves racing 30km or 30 miles carrying a 30lb pack. One of these teams is Team Flight, made up of supporters of FirstLight Trust, a charity which helps ex-service men and women of the military and emergency services. The team of Lancaster-based veterans include one Royal Engineer, one Royal Signaller, two veterans from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and one medic who served 22 years.

“We all met through the FirstLight Trust hub on Market Street in Lancaster. Improving our fitness levels to take on such a gruelling event has been a great way to boost morale and self-esteem,” explains team leader and hub support coordinator Gary Parish. “It’s been a while for some of the team since they’ve competed in this type of event. We are most looking forward to completing Soldier 30:30 and not getting lost!”

Their training has involved hill walking in Halton, Staveley and Pendle Hill with some sponsored runs thrown in for good measure. With 80% of the team playing for Burnley Veterans, Burnley F.C. In The Community offered weekly sessions focussing on core strength and cardio fitness. Another team member works for Lancashire Adult Learning which has led to a partnership with FirstLight Trust through the training.

“The Lancaster community has been so supportive already,” says Gary. “Strawberry Gardens Pub in Heysham hosted a Race Night for us. This raised nearly £700 thanks to their efforts and raffle prizes and race sponsorship by Phill Hayward, Design & Form Ltd, Ribbon & Rose, The Market Cobbler, R. Prestons Quality Butcher, Tony Smith, Joinery & Building, Town & Country Outside Events, Trevor and Maz Ford and Glyn and Lee Ord. We’d also like to thank personal trainer Naomi Green from Burnley F.C. Also Tilbeas Bistro in Burnley have looked after us very well when we needed to refuel after our workouts. We just hope to do everyone proud.”

Soldier 30:30 begins on 13 October. Donations to Team Flight can be made online at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/team-flight or in person at the FirstLight Trust hub at 63-65 Market Street in Lancaster.

Photos from the opening of new Hawick cafe for veterans

Piping in hot coffee at new veterans’ café in Hawick

A veterans charity’s first Scottish café hub has started brewing up a storm in Hawick. It’s run by FirstLight Trust which helps former members of the armed forces and emergency services who may be struggling and aims to be a welcoming spot for the public and veterans alike. The FirstLight café hub’s official opening was attended last week by local councillor and Hawick Provost Watson McAteer, MP John Lamont, charity trustee Lady Jane Grosvenor and veterans.

“Civvy street can be a lonely place for ex-military and people who’ve worked in the police, fire and ambulance services,” says Dorinda Wolfe Murray, founder of FirstLight Trust. “Our café hubs are designed to be a friendly spot to enjoy a chance to meet up and chat whilst enjoying coffee and cake.”

The café bar, Sharpe’s, sits within the FirstLight hub on Hawick High Street. It takes its name from the soldier played on TV by Sean Bean. It offers a range of coffee roasts from the Baytown Coffee Company, specialist Tea Pig blends and delicious treats including scones. Borders Council gave a grant towards the coffee machine and white goods. The charity plan to use the café hub as a base from which to run modules to help ex-military and blue light veterans get back on their feet. Hawick follows in the footsteps of five English café hubs and more are planned for Scotland.

“Given how welcoming the local community have been, it was an honour to use the local Hawick Tartan ribbon in our official opening ceremony,” says Dorinda. “Roddy the piper began the celebrations and then Busker’s Bunnet Folk Band performed ‘Where the Blood Red Poppies Grow’, written and sung by veteran Tam Knox. They’re generously donating all proceeds of their CD on sale at the hub to us. Our motto is ‘Have a treat, help a veteran’ and now that extends to music lovers too!”

The FirstLight Trust café hub can be found at 1–3 High Street, Hawick TD9 9BZ. It’s open Monday – Saturday 9am – 5pm.