Blades battle through the night for charity fence-athon

Sports Editor Mark Sleightholm reports on Newcastle Fencing Club's efforts to raise money for charity

Mark Sleightholm
19th February 2018
The marathon gave beginners a chance to try out the sport. Image: Newcastle Blades

24 hours of solid fencing saw Newcastle’s Fencing Club raise money for charity and introduce the sport to a wealth of new fencers.

The marathon session took place at Newcastle Fencing Centre, a large, cold warehouse in Benfield Business Park.

The event was held to raise money for two charities: the Newcastle Fencing Trust and the Lee Spark NF Foundation. The Foundation aims to support and raise awareness around necrotising fasciitis, a bacterial infection that can cause serious damage to skin tissue and the body’s organs.

A quarter of the money raised will go to the Fencing Club itself, to support their beginners' programme and encourage more people to take up the sport. The rest of the money will be split between the two charities. The Club decided to donate money to the Lee Spark NF Foundation because of the illness of former club-member Laura Mason, who also served as Newcastle’s Athletic Union Officer from 2012-13.

Aside from a £10 entry fee, the marathon was open to anyone. Max Sharp, the club’s president, explained: “We’ve opened it up to anyone so they can come down and try fencing and get involved if they want to.”

The marathon took place in a cold warehouse in Benfield Business Park

Normally beginners’ sessions for the club are held in the Sports Centre, and members only head down to Benfield when they’re in a squad. The marathon, therefore, gave them a chance to try out the sport with electric equipment and dedicated fencing facilities. “It’s really good experience,” explained Sharp, “it’s one of the best fencing centres in England, so it’s great for a university to be able to use it.”

As well as encouraging beginners along, the Fencing Club used the marathon as an excuse to engage with the local community. From 8:30 on the Saturday morning under-13s took to the piste, and other sessions were arranged for different ability levels.

A big part of the marathon consisted of tournaments to keep the club members going through the tough night shifts. Navneet Kandhari, a longstanding member of the Fencing Club, won the foil competition, while Matt Dugher won the sabre. Seven core members kept the marathon going through the night, with “lights and a smoke machine set up”, copious amounts of haribos and even a Pitbull hour from 3-4 in the morning.

By the time the marathon was over the exhausted club members were torn between going out to celebrate their success or going home to bed. Several members tried both and napped in the pub.

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