Special ‘sofa’ concert raises cash for mountain rescue team

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Turning their Hemel Hempstead home into a pub and watching live traditional Irish music from the comfort of their own sofa saw members of one family raise more than £250 for Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (LMRT) recently.

This unusual fundraiser was hosted and created by the family of West Hertfordshire lecturer Ian Bell, 60,  who died on Ben Nevis in August 2015.

Not only did it help to support the Fort William-based rescue team who searched to find Ian when he went missing on the mountain, but it proved to be a night to remember for the 30-strong audience who squeezed into the family living room to share a special evening of music.

Supping Tring Brewery ale, tucking into home-cooked food  and sitting side by side on sofas, armchairs, bean bags and cushions in the modest-sized living room, the audience was treated to an intimate show from uillean piper, pianist, composer and multi-instrumentalist  John Devine and his son, Joe, on guitar and banjo.

‘We wanted to find a fun way to raise funds for the mountain rescue team. Enjoying great music at home was the answer,’ said Ian’s widow, Julia.

‘Our musician pals agreed to perform and support LMRT. It certainly was a very special moment shared.’

The intimate personalised performance has inspired the family to host further music nights in the future.

‘The music was so special,’ said Julia. ‘Nothing beats sharing memorable music with people you know in your own comfy living room. It really was incredible.’

In August 2017, the family raised £1,000 by staging ‘IanFest’ – a music event in their back garden – and also raised a further £1,000 with the support of a collection at their local cinema – the Rex.

‘We cannot forget the dedicated work of the LMRT who searched to find Ian when he went missing on Ben Nevis,’ added Julia. ‘We met the team last year and were astounded by their work. All of them are volunteers. Every one of them is devoted to their rescue service.’

This year sees the 50th anniversary of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team.   For half a century they have been carrying out rescues on Ben Nevis and the surrounding mountains, attending rescues day or night, 365 days a year and in all weather conditions.

The mountain path on Ben Nevis alone is used by 70,000 to 100,000 people a year and is in constant use by tourists, regular hill-walkers, runners, charity fundraisers and climbers among others.

But, as Julia points out it also, very sadly, provides a steady stream of casualties suffering everything from minor sprains to serious and fatal injuries.

LMRT relies on fundraising to continue its essential work helping such unfortunate souls.

‘We will continue to fundraise for LMRT,’ said Julia. ‘They are all exceptional individuals and their families are behind them to support their voluntary work on the mountains.

‘Later this year we will hold another IanFest in the back garden. Until then, we just want to thank John and Joe Devine for their music, time, energy and support for this mini fundraiser.

‘It was so much fun and sharing music with mates and family was a great way to lift the loads of life, have a good time and, most importantly, remember dear Ian and the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team.’