British Legion branch relaunches in bid to survive + VIDEO

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A GREAT British institution is struggling to stay alive.

The Royal British Legion has had a strong presence in Washington for many years, thanks to a thriving community of ex-service personnel.

Members of The Royal British Legion in Washington, George Stenhouse and Malcolm Pickering are promoting their relaunch to attract new members.

Members of The Royal British Legion in Washington, George Stenhouse and Malcolm Pickering are promoting their relaunch to attract new members.

But today there are only 23 members at the branch.

Now those members have announced a relaunch in an attempt to revive the club.

Often very busy and a central part of the community, the branch was so successful in the past it was able to fund the purchase of its own building.

Today, the building has had to be leased out in order to keep the branch in the black.

Malcolm Pickering, the branch secretary and treasurer, said discussions had taken place as to whether the club could continue to exist, before a decision was made to instead relaunch in a bid to attract new members.

He said: “It was in such a bad state, we had a meeting to discuss whether it could continue.

“We decided it could be relaunched, but we need to get some new blood.”

Key to the relaunch is the branch’s drive to attract new members, especially young people and those not from a services background.

“People forget, the Legion is open to everyone, not just ex-service personnel,” said Malcolm, a former Chief Petty Officer.

“We even have junior memberships for 12 to 16-year-olds who can then go on to be full adult members.”

Malcolm says it is a great opportunity for the area to restore some of its old sense of community and for people to meet like-minded others.

He said: “It’s got a very proud history, the Washington branch and it’s just been left to die.

“One of the problems is the building is leased out long term to somebody else. With enough members, though, further down the line we could maybe renegogiate with them.

“Members can also go to other clubs where there are more like-minded people.

“We want anyone who wants to ‘stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who serve’.

“I shouldn’t say this, but the booze is reasonably cheap.”

l The first meeting of the relaunched Washington Royal British Legion will take place at Legends, in Tyne Gardens on July 11 at 7pm.

Contact Malcolm for more information, or to declare your intention to attend, on 419 3819.

Twitter: @sunechomark