Lowestoft Christmas Day swim is saved

The 35th Christmas Day swim on Lowestoft beach. People in fancy dress brave the chilly North Sea. Pi

The 35th Christmas Day swim on Lowestoft beach. People in fancy dress brave the chilly North Sea. Pictures: Nick Butcher - Credit: Picture: Nick Butcher

The Lowestoft Christmas Day swim is to go ahead this year, after new organisers stepped forward to run it.

It had been revealed last Friday that the popular annual event had been cancelled after more than 30 years.

But, within hours of that announcement, a rescue bid was under way to save the swim and this week Sentinel Leisure Trust agreed to take over the event for the benefit of good causes in the town.

The trust's decision means that scores of people will once again have the chance to plunge into the chilly North Sea on Christmas Day, while raising hundreds of pounds for voluntary organisations.

It also comes as a welcome boost to the town after the loss of two of its biggest events – the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival and its annual carnival parade.

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Stuart Everett, managing director at Sentinel, which also runs the Waterlane Leisure Centre in Lowestoft, said he was delighted the trust was in a position to keep one of the town's biggest charity events going.

Mr Everett said: 'As a local charitable organisation which provides leisure services for local people, we felt a genuine determination to step in and save the Christmas Day swim, with a view to ensuring it retains a regular place in the calendar

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'The festive dip has not only been enjoyed by thousands of local people over the years; it has also raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for local charities.

'This is not just about a fun event, but also the good causes which benefit.'

Sentinel decided to step in after discussions with the swim's long-time organisers Mark Attenburrow and Lawrence Chapman who were happy to see the event saved.

Mr Attenburrow and Mr Chapman announced last week that they would not be organising next month's swim because of mounting work and family commitments.

Looking forward to this year's event, Mr Attenburrow said: 'We are very happy to hand it over to the trust and to see that the swim will not end.

'The organisation the trust has got is great, and they have a lot of resources they can put into organising and managing it.

'I think it is the right step as it will bring a different level of management to the swim and should help the swim go on to better things. I'm really pleased for the people of Lowestoft that it will continue.'

Sentinel's decision to take over the swim, which attracts hundreds of spectators, also means that one of the event's most loyal supporters could have a say in how it is organised.

Joe Annis, a director and trustee of Sentinel Trust, helped to set up the swim 35 years ago and has taken part in every one held so far.

Mr Annis and his fellow organiser Bruce Wayman asked Mr Attenburrow to get involved in the swim 33 years ago when he was a teacher at Denes High School, and he was joined by Mr Chapman.

Since that first event in 1978, the swim is estimated to have raised more than £150,000 for good causes, including local schools, clubs, charities and voluntary organisations.

Paying tribute to the two previous organisers, Mr Everett said; 'The Christmas swim has been kept alive in recent years due to the hard work and dedication of Lawrence Chapman and Mark Attenburrow.

'The Sentinel Leisure Trust would like to sincerely thank Lawrence, Mark and their families as they deserve the utmost respect and acknowledgment for their endeavour and level of commitment they have give for the good of the town.'

In April 2011, the trust was formed to run leisure services on behalf of Waveney District Council, including Waterlane and the lifeguards on Lowestoft's beach.

For next month's event, the trust has secured support from the Hotel Hatfield, which will host the swim, and the Lowestoft Lions, who will provide stewarding and collections.

The Lowestoft Volunteers Lifeguard Corps and Coastguard will also be on hand in a safety capacity.

Stephen Ardley, deputy leader of Waveney council and its cabinet member for green environment and operational partners, said: 'I could not be more happy and proud that Sentinel has stepped in to save this hugely successful annual event enjoyed by so many people from the town and beyond.

'The Christmas Day swim brings people together and shows real pride in the town. It is a genuine boost to have it back on the calendar.'

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said:; 'This is excellent news. I welcome the news and thank Sentinel Leisure Trust for stepping into the breach to run it.'

?The Christmas Day swim will start at 10am outside Hotel Hatfield. Registration forms are available from Waterlane Leisure Centre and The Journal/EDP office or online at www.splash4cash.org.uk

?The Rotary Club of Southwold and District's Christmas Day swim will take place on the beach below Gun Hill from 10.30am to noon.

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