Sunderland War Horse audiences raise £8,000 for Poppy Appeal

Actor Paul Simpson, who plays Major Nichols in War Horse pictured with Marcus Hawthorn and 'Joey' with the poppy garland.
Actor Paul Simpson, who plays Major Nichols in War Horse pictured with Marcus Hawthorn and 'Joey' with the poppy garland.
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THE equine star of an award-winning stage show has been presented with a garland of poppies from the Royal British Legion.

Joey, who’s been wowing audiences in War Horse at the Sunderland Empire, was given the gift in recognition of the thousands of pounds raised for Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families.

Each year, the theatre chooses a charity to support with collections at the end of shows, and so far generous patrons have raised nearly £8,000 for the Royal British Legion.

Marcus Hawthorn, northern area manager for The Royal British Legion, says the money will go towards funding the charity’s vital services.

“We have a huge amount of support for the charity in the North East, not just financial, but in the warmth of support,” he said.

“We’ve just had the total in for the Poppy Appeal 2013 and there was over 1.1million raised in the North East alone. That’s an increase of 4-5 per cent from this time last year.”

Marcus said it was fitting to receive the Empire amount so far from the cast of War Horse, a play which focuses on one man and his horse as they are both thrown into the trenches of the First World War.

He said: “On the surface it’s a story about a hunter battlefield horse, but he becomes a metaphor for the human suffering which happened during the war.”

Collections will continue at the Empire for the rest of the year in aid of the charity, which provides £1.6 million every week in direct welfare support – that’s over £83 million each year – and responds to over 170,000 calls annually for practical help, advice and support.

The legion is dedicated to providing a wide range of flexible support services, from helping a young widow through an inquest to ensuring that an older veteran can stay independent in their own home.

The charity also assists beneficiaries with debt issues, the provision of household goods and housing repairs and maintenance.

In the last year, the legion has helped 1,200 serving personnel, veterans and their families across the North East.

Marcus added: “We are delighted that Sunderland Empire has chosen the legion as their beneficiary charity for 2014. Every penny they raise from bucket collections will help us to continue providing practical advice and support for the whole Armed Forces family whenever they need us.

“We are extremely grateful to the Empire and hope the public will dig deep to support our year-round work within the service community.”