The pair have been honoured with the RNLI’s Innovation Award for their efforts in raising more than £100,000 for the charity that saves lives at sea. They will officially receive the accolade at the RNLI’s Annual Presentation of Awards on Thursday (May 22) at the Barbican Centre in London.
James, who runs the successful Battersea Pie Station restaurant business in London, undertook the challenge of a lifetime in 2013 by swimming the English Channel to raise money for the RNLI.
If swimming the Channel wasn’t tough enough, James was determined to find other ways to fundraise and hit upon the idea of approaching British artist Tracey Emin about creating a painting and selling the prints to raise money for the RNLI.
Tracey said: ‘The answer was yes immediately. From my personal ideas about the RNLI, growing up with it and the fact I know it is a fantastic charity, it was really easy for me and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
‘I met James and knew he did this incredibly crazy, mad, brilliant thing of swimming across the Channel for the RNLI and it was just really commendable and really brave.’
Tracey drew upon childhood memories of the RNLI forged while growing up in Margate, Kent to create a painting of the seaside town’s lifeboat preparing to launch. The original painting fetched £30,000 and 250 prints were sold for £350 each, mostly to James’ network of friends.
On winning the award, Tracey said: ‘It’s nice to be thanked for what you do but I didn’t do it to be thanked, I did it to thank the RNLI. It’s always been part of me – something I’ve grown up with. It’s not something I learnt, it’s something I’ve always known.’
James, who grew up by the sea near Hastings, said: ‘It was actually my wife who got in touch with Tracey and said would you be kind enough to do us some artwork for the swim?
‘It’s fantastic to think that we’ve made a difference and we’ve been able to help the RNLI. It’s a huge achievement and in terms of the swim, I’m very pleased that we made it.
‘The RNLI do an amazing job and I know how tough the sea can be. The seas that they have to go out in are horrendous so I’ve got a huge amount of respect for them.’
James Vaughan, the RNLI’s Fundraising and Communications Director, said: ‘This is an wonderfully innovative piece of fundraising and this award is our way of saying a big thank you to Tracey and James for their creativity and the sheer hard work they put into raising money for the RNLI.’
‘Our supporters come from all walks of life, but the thing they all have in common is a passion to help our volunteer lifeboats crews save lives at sea. We simply could not carry out our lifesaving work without them.’
Notes to editors
• The RNLI’s annual presentation of awards takes place at the Barbican Centre in London on Thursday 22 May. Fundraisers and corporate partners are recognised for their contribution to the charity.
• A short film about Tracey and James’ story is available to download
• Other recipients of RNLI Supporter Awards will feature on RNLI social media channels this week, and will use the hashtag #ProudOfOurCrowd.
For further information, please contact:
• Lauren Hockey, Public Relations Officer on 01202 336134 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org