Dunnery talks charity, music and community ahead of CKDCF weekend

HE put Egremont on the music-scene map last year with his annual weekend and hopes for another spectacular this year – that’s right, FRANCIS DUNNERY is back another year and talks to RACHAEL GREALISH about his love of charity, music and heading home.

At home with friends: Francis feels at home in Egremont and will be performing his ‘Gully Flat Boys’ album in memory of the late John Lynn (Right) -photo by Robert Haile

At home with friends: Francis feels at home in Egremont and will be performing his ‘Gully Flat Boys’ album in memory of the late John Lynn (Right) -photo by Robert Haile

Though he emigrated to warmer climates of America, Francis Dunnery makes a yearly trip home to host his world-famous Charlie and Kathleen Dunnery Children’s Fund (CKDCF) charity weekend, on Friday October 21 and Saturday 22.

2016 will be the charity’s 14th year and each year Francis has one hope for the charity weekend: for everyone to have a nice time while making some cash for charity.

He said: “I just want for everyone to have a nice time.

“We will raise as much money as we can but I think it’s important that we understand that life is more than money.

“I think the experience and friendship of the weekend is important also. So I hope we can achieve some special feelings and raise some cash at the same time.”

The CKDCF was set up 14 years ago, in memory of Francis’ parents, and donates thousands of pounds to numerous charities in the community.

Francis said: “We are trying to make a difference in the community and let people know that there are people who give a damn about them.

“I think the biggest mistake that people make is to presume it only benefits the people who are receiving the money.

“I believe the people who give to the charity are the biggest benefactors. I feel great about the things the CKDCF and all its supporters have been able to contribute. It’s a great privilege to have an outlet for giving and contributing to other people’s lives.”

The CKDCF is not only a way of remembering Francis’ parents, but also late supporters of the charity.

Each year the CKDCF includes a walk around one of the lakes. In 2015 it was named the ‘Peter Watson Joy in the Rain Walk’ due to Peter Watson’s (Egremont 2Day’s late editor) dedication to the charity.

He said: “Peter Watson was a staunch supporter of the CKDCF since its beginning. I loved Peter. He was a very misunderstood man in the community. He had such a warm heart and a passion for his work.

“He was also brilliantly smart and I always enjoyed my conversations with him.”

This year Francis is honouring the memory of John Lynn who passed away last year.

Francis said: “I will be performing the ‘Gully Flatts Boys’ album in honour of my good friend John Lynn who passed last year.”

These days the former ‘It Bites’ front man is an honorary American – but will always keep his hometown at heart.

He said: “I love Egremont. I love all the characters there. I love the accent, the pies, the cream cakes and the scenery – I’m very comfortable with my Cumbrian background.

“I realize that we ‘Cumbrians’ are a little weird but generally speaking there is an ordinariness that I can relate to.

“I never felt authentic in Hollywood, its much easier for me to walk down Egremont Main Street and grab a meat and tatie pie and a newspaper at 9.00 am.

“Whether they like it or not, the Cumbrians are my people. I’ll be buried here when I die.

Rocking out: Francis brought big-name Robert Plant to Egremont for the annual CKDCF benefit concert in 2015 -photo by Robert Haile

Rocking out: Francis brought big-name Robert Plant to Egremont for the annual CKDCF benefit concert in 2015
-photo by Robert Haile

“It’s my home. In about thirty or forty years you’ll find my gravestone in Egremont cemetery with the words ‘Here lies Francis Dunnery, a fat bloke with a bald head’.”

The CKDCF weekend comprises of a welcome dinner on the Friday evening, the sponsored walk on Saturday morning and the concert in the evening.

But why choose a sponsored walk and a concert?

Francis said: “I think we just do what we can to get people to come. We use the skills we have. I can play guitar and I can walk, so that’s about it.

“If I could magic people to stop smoking or give up drinking then I would do a sponsored stop smoking and drinking. I can’t do much else.

No one wants to see me naked and I’m about as much fun as a caravan site.”

Last year Francis brought the biggest name to Cumbria since It Bites made the charts: Robert Plant.

Each year Francis draws musicians and artists from all over the world to perform and this year he promises a quieter event – but still ‘Robert Plant-sized’ surprises with line-up.

The Kings Arms Quintet are set to headline – alongside the man himself – with an interesting array of music.

The four-piece has Mike McVeigh on bagpipes, Les Fearon on bass, Paul Varah on guitar and big Tony Nolan on lead vocals.

Francis said: “I think this year will be a quieter event. I haven’t had the time to organize anything out of the ordinary so we may even have local acts play – but that’s great – and I will be performing the ‘Gully Flatts Boys’ album in its entirety.”

Francis may be the frontman of the charity – but he couldn’t do it without the volunteers that help make it happen each year.

Francis said: “Everyone who takes part in the event do so because they are giving people.

“In life there are givers and takers and the people at the CKDCF are all givers.”

Francis’ true desire is get more local people of the community involved in the charity.

He said: “I would love for more local people to get involved in the charity. That’s the one thing that I would hope to achieve before I hand over the reins to someone else.

“We are not supported by enough locals, even though the local communities get the benefits of the charity. I’m not sure why.”

Once local that’s been involved since day one is Francis’s school-friend, Mark Andrews.

Mark explained: “ I got involved originally, because my mam and his mam were friends – so I went to his mam’s funeral and he knew I had raised £2,500 for the Special Care Baby Unit through a charity auction of signed memorabilia.

“So I started just doing the auction, then over the years, ended up doing more and more.

“I now love meeting all our friends from all over the world in October – it’s a real feel-good atmosphere.”

The CKDCF charity weekend will kick off with the welcome dinner on Friday October 21 at the Seacote Hotel, St Bees.

This year’s ‘Peter Watson Joy in the Rain’ sponsored walk will be a different route – now around Loweswater – on Saturday 22 – and the benefit concert will take place in its usual venue of Egremont Market Hall on Saturday 22 at 7pm.

Francis said: “I would love for any locals to join in with our sponsored walk and also come to our concert on Saturday night.

“Everyone is welcome and everyone will be made to feel a part of the special weekend.”

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