Fun in the field raises thousands for military charity

The Fun In The Field non-profit event in Berwick St John, close to Shaftesbury on the Wiltshire-Dorset border, this year has raised a staggering £25,000 for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, with a little help from local, Guy Ritchie.

The event, held at the end of August, started off as barbecue for friends, but progressed over the last eight years into being a massive fundraiser – and a lifeline for some attending veterans.

Organised by Royal Navy veteran Gary Hall and his wife Yvonne, plus Colour Sergeant Ian Smith RM, and the Fun in the Field Admin Team, the event spans a long weekend of music, games and camaraderie.

Gary said:

“It started off with us having a few friends for a barbeque and we realised that our garden wouldn’t be big enough. Before we knew it, we had hundreds of people coming and had to ask for the use of a field.”

The event is similar to a mini festival, with around 500 people attending. There were live bands, children’s entertainment, a galley kitchen (nods to the Naval traditions), a bar and hog roasts, to name just a few of the activities on offer. The bar was supplied by Gritchie Brewing Company, a local brewery owned by Guy Ritchie. Gritchie did not charge for the hire of the bar equipment and provided the beer at a reduced rate, so all profits went straight to the charity.

Yvonne says:

“We made a Facebook page eight years ago and the attendance just snowballed from there. We do all our own organising and couldn’t manage to run it without our wonderful team of volunteers.”

The event is private, open only to serving persons, veterans and their families, and local residents are also invited. There is a strong military tradition, with a Memorial Board to those ‘Fielders’ (attendees) who have passed away, with a bell being rung twice in their honour, after which, there is a minute’s silence, the Last Post, then the partying begins in earnest.

Gary said:

“We are very mindful that the event doesn’t get too big. Our ethos is to bring like-minded people together in a field to have some fun and share their own  stories. It’s like a big family coming together. People meet again after being on ships together, or in regiments.

It can be tough leaving the Forces, but this event gives people the chance to connect and have a bit of banter about the military life they shared.  

“It’s humbling to hear people sharing their mental health issues, and our event helps them to get through that by making them feel connected to everyone in the field. That’s why we do it, and that’s why we raise the money for SSAFA.”

Over the last eight years, the Fun In The Field team have doubled the amount they raised for the charity at each event. This year, the weekend raised £10,000, but also, the Team raised an additional £15,000 from two sponsored walk events, one being the 13

Bridges Challenge in London, headed by Gary Woodford and his Fun in the Field team of 25

and the other, headed by Denzel Simpson, and his team walking from Fareham to Berwick St John, bringing the 2023 total to an outstanding £25,000.

Yvonne said:

“We could not have done this without all our wonderful volunteers and Fielders. We’d like to thank our bosses, the Dineley family, who allow us to use the field and the locals, who always fully support us and help us make the event successful and are so kind and welcoming.”

If you are interested in joining Fun In The Field next year visit their Facebook page for details

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