Southsea firefighters stage huge 16-act Guildhall show for hundreds of pensioners from across Portsmouth
IT BEGAN with fire crews cooking a meal for a small group of vulnerable pensioners at their station.
But the so-called Firefighter's Show proved larger than ever yesterday as it marked its 39th year and its third outing at Portsmouth Guildhall.
More than 360 pensioners from various clubs and high rises across the Portsmouth area were invited to enjoy lunch and performances from more than a dozen acts as the spectacular returned.
They were shuttled to the venue by volunteers driving First buses, where a sumptuous spread of tasty snacks and tipples awaited – served by firefighters and prepared by their loved ones.
For five years the community get-together has been a mainstay on Violet Tobitt's calendar.
Dressed to the nine, the 81-year-old from Brunel Court said: ‘My friend is a fireman and that’s how I came to know about this.
‘I've kept coming along ever since because the firemen put on such a wonderful show – they dress up and there's children singing sometimes. It’s something I always look forward to.’
As the party grows it welcomes new faces every year. George Hainey, 68 from Copnor, was one of them for 2020.
‘I heard of other people going to what they call a fireman’s show over the years, so one time when I was passing Cosham Fire Station I popped in and asked,’ he said.
‘A man in there was so helpful and friendly and he organised to get me two tickets.
‘Now I’m here I can see the spread they put on is amazing, and I’m all for anything to make old-age pensioners’ lives a bit happier. I can say that because I’m one of them!’
Among the roster of entertainment, singing and dancing duo Kirsty Stephens and Graci Whelan were drafted in to recite classics from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Kirsty, 19 from Whiteley, said: ‘My dad, Dave, is a watch manager at Southsea Fire Station so when he got involved he asked if I wanted to come along.
‘I know how excited people get about getting a ticket to this, so it's lovely to be here myself.’
Graci, 18 from Portsmouth, added: ‘It’s incredible to get to show what we can do in front of all these people.’
The event is organised by Southsea Fire Station every year, with helping hands from other local firefighters.
Vince Nicoll, a firefighter on the station’s Blue Watch, said: ‘There's silly acts, professional acts and people can’t wait for this to happen every year.
‘What started as something small is now huge, in a highly-respected venue, and it runs very smoothly. All the firefighters love it.’
Heaping praise on to his firefighters for their efforts, chief officer for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service, Neil Odin, added: ‘They do such brilliant work with people in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas and this is a particular target audience for us, because of the vulnerable nature of these people.
‘We love to show them a good time and while we've got them we try to educate them on fire safety and anything they may be at risk from.'