Rob Clements teaching the new Visitor Centre volunteers at the lifeboat station
From the 7th December it is planned for the full RNLI Visitor Centre in Dartmouth to be open to the public. The retail side of the Centre was opened on July 6th and has been very successful; so much so that the shop has become one of the more popular RNLI outlets in the four months since opening. There has been a steady stream of visitors during the summer holidays and the 30 volunteers were practically run off their feet during Dartmouth Regatta and then again during the Food Festival in October. Important though the retail aspect is, the RNLI had declared from the outset that the primary aim of the Centre was to allow the space to be a “Flagship for the RNLI” and to concentrate on the Educational and Engagement aspects of the visitor’s experience.
The Edge design team, working with input from the RNLI, have arranged the space so, as you come in, the first welcoming impressions lead straight into an area designed to “Inspire and Engage.” Ahead you will see a foreshortened D class lifeboat. D 633, Pride of London Foresters from Southend-on-Sea. She was stationed there from 2005 -2014 and during her time there the volunteer crew rescued 173 people and saved seven lives.
Children will be able to climb into the lifeboat which will contain much of the equipment she carried when she was operational. It is planned for there to be a large cinema screen in-front of the boat to add realism to the experience. Beside her will be a low unit and posters giving information about the capabilities of the D class and a dressing up point for children and adults, along with information on the actual costs of the crew’s operational clothing.
A further low unit will display information on the services provided by the RNLI Lifeguards as well as the meaning of the various flags they use to direct beach users to areas of safety for swimmers and those on non-powered water craft. Information on other aspects of the RNLI, including Fundraising, will be displayed on posters and panels in the area.
Photographs of the members of the RNLI Dart Operations team will be on display, along with an explanation of the various roles within the team.
Facing the windows there will be a History Wall with facts and stories about the RNLI and other coastal rescues from the earliest days up to the present time and, around the corner, a large “Respect the Water” unit with an inter-active screen. This will introduce the concept of Community Lifesaving, highlighting the aim of the RNLI to halve the number of deaths by drowning within the next ten years and will be a further important area of the Centre aiming to “Educate and Engage” the visitors.
Passing on, you will come to a small enclosed Cinema area showing RNLI rescues, both locally and from elsewhere.
From the Cinema your path will lead you through the shop where there will be additional information on how your purchases can help the RNLI achieve its aims. By the door there will be a Community display. This will give information about the latest launches by the Dart D class and highlight forthcoming local events. There will be the opportunity to pick up information leaflets or the latest copy of Dart D’Tales.
During the quieter weeks of the year it is planned to encourage school and youth groups to visit the Centre. Early in the New Year there will be invitations to local teachers and youth workers, to show them what is on offer and how the next generation can be “Educated and Inspired.”