Back in 2004, Vladimir Putin was embarking on his campaign for re-election to his second term of office as President of the Russian Federation. This was some fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall which presaged the end of the Soviet Union and its hegemony in the region. It seemed that a different kind of Russia was awakening, open to the West and embracing support from EU member countries. Wendy Innes, a Northumbria University graduate in physiotherapy, spent eighteen months in the Ural region as part of her commitment to the VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), where she learned to play the balalaika.
A piece in the Chronicle described her activities, noting the upcoming tour by the Ural Gems, which Wendy’s parents Bill and Yvonne had organised to help raise money for the hospital at Ekatarinburg. It turned out that Allendale was the venue for the final concert of the mini-tour around the North East, and the Allendale Lions Club were the hosts for a delightful Russian Evening of music and cuisine.
We remember Maggie Shearer’s classic borscht, and then a dinner of possibly stew and various vegetables, accompanied by copious lashings of ultra-chilled vodka shots. After the dinner, a tumultuous balalaika concert was performed by the quartet of Ural Gems, straight from Russia, and by the end of the evening a final donation of £1000 had been raised to go directly towards funding better physiotherapy in the Ural region.
After such an evening, a real social affair with the double delight of raising money for what seemed to be an incredible good cause (not many people will remember that the Urals had been the site of a desperate nuclear accident, long before Chernobyl, and still bore the scars among its population), it was amazing that the Lions had sufficient energy reserves to concentrate on mobilising for the Charity Auction the following weekend.
But mobilise they did. The minutes of the business meeting of the 1st of November ’04 record that on this first village hall auction hosted by the Lions Club, Nigel Baynes auctioneered the entire day without a beer break, helping to raise a grand total of £3247 for good causes. That was in addition to the funds realised on the catering front by the ?Middle/?First School PTFA of some £300. But it was not an event that was ever likely to be memorialised with photographs. No, it was just another fund-raising effort put on by indefatigable Lions members who seemed to revel in philanthropic endeavour.
The photographs would have to wait for next year’s Charity Auction, 2005’s, which we shall hope to feature sometime later on in September here in this blog.
A year recapitulated in a month. That’s the idea of this blog, and there are only four more entries left in August to remember the incredible year that was 2004 in the history of the Allendale Lions Club.