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Julie Gibbon: award-winning volunteer – Tyne Valley CRP


Julie’s Twitter handle, @ManyHatsJulie, says it all. She has been involved in campaigning for improvements in rail services for over 20 years, and as group secretary, was a founding member of the Tyne Valley Rail Users Group in 2000. Throughout much of this time, she has been heavily involved with major projects such as the Campaign to Re-Open Gilsland Station. In January 2017, Julie formally joined the board of Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership as company secretary before subsequently being made a director. Her knowledge of how communities work, skills in fundraising, and extensive network of contacts have proved invaluable to the group.

Examples of her work

Haltwhistle’s Waiting Rooms

Each platform at Haltwhistle Station has a wooden building dating back to the early 20th century. Part of the buildings are used as the current waiting rooms, but most of the space has been locked and out of use since the 1960s. In Spring 2018, Julie identified a potential capital fund to kickstart the project, and within weeks had sought permission from Northern to explore potential new uses for the buildings and start work on an outline business plan.

The project, costed at around £500,000, has proved to be a massive undertaking, especially considering the complexities of the rail industry and funding targets, but Julie has driven it from the start. Her colleagues state that without her “knowledge, fearlessness and determination” to improve Haltwhistle Station, including developing much-needed business facilities for the town, the project would be nowhere near the stage it is today.

Having engaged them in the plans, Julie is now seeking to develop projects with other station stakeholders, including the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society, who themselves have ambitious plans to reconnect their line back to the mainline station.

Promoting the area

Julie’s passion for the Tyne Valley, and specifically bringing people in by rail, shines through. Seeing her on a stand at Community Rail in the City in Glasgow, or at the Northumberland County Show, is a demonstration of her commitment and energy, as she greets people and answers questions on a wide range of topics. It is her passion for the area that drives Julie’s involvement in the Gilsland Station project, and she has drawn down funding for everything from people counters on railway crossings to business feasibility studies, also approaching local MPs for support and presenting to relevant managers in Transport for the North. Julie also played a vital role in the partnership’s successful bid to Cross Country to fund a Tourism Development Intern in partnership with Northumbria University.

Developing relationships

Outstanding volunteers in community rail share their address books and effortlessly develop new working relationships, and the partnership has made so many links in the Tyne Valley and beyond as a result of Julie getting out and talking to people. She manages the Old Booking Hall at Haltwhistle, where she has actively encouraged diverse groups to make use of the building, such as a chair yoga class, a meditation group, and the wonderful Platform Painters. She has also been key in the partnership playing a leading role in local Christmas and Easter events.

Julie is described as a superb company secretary, producing detailed minutes with clear actions, keeping all the other directors on track, gathering agenda items and writing funding bids. She applies equal attention to detail in the role which she undertakes for the Tyne Valley Rail Users’ Group with equal diligence. Away from community rail, Julie is also involved in the Haltwhistle Partnership, the Kielder Water Sailing Club, and is a volunteer for Hadrian’s Wall National Trail.

Describing Julie, a colleague said: “Her voluntary work for all organisations does not stay in silos, there are connections to be made and the partnership benefits greatly from Julie’s experience in these other fields. Somehow, despite a packed diary, she still finds time to make exceedingly good cakes. But then she is ‘Many Hats Julie’!”