Stoke-on-Trent's Spitfire appeal takes off with gala dinner at Hanley's Potteries Museum
ORGANISERS behind an appeal to restore a Spitfire are hoping their fund-raising efforts will take off with 'one of the finest gala evenings ever seen in Stoke-on-Trent'.
Operation Spitfire has set itself a £1 million target to renovate the Mk XVI RW388 housed at Hanley's Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
It also wants to create a Spitfire cockpit simulator, which will then be used to help generate further cash for the appeal.
Now tickets have gone on sale for a gala dinner and entertainment at the Britannia Stadium to boost the total.
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Operation Spitfire chairman Julian Mitchell, the great nephew of the Butt Lane-born Spitfire inventor Reginald Mitchell, said: "The simple restoration of the aeroplane itself was a good thing, but there's an opportunity to do an awful lot more and that's what this event is about."
Mr Mitchell, from Newcastle, added: "We have got a lot of excitement and endeavour and effort, but we need the money."
The latest fund-raiser will see diners enjoy a lavish meal and bid for rare memorabilia such as a compass from a Lancaster Bomber and copies of Sir Stanley Matthews's autobiography signed by legends like Pele as well as the great man himself.
It will be compered by Potteries stage star Jonathan Wilkes and the auction will be led by comedian Nick Hancock.
Spitfire enthusiast and fund-raiser Neil Gilson, of Brown Edge, said: "It will be one of the most wonderful gala evenings Stoke-on-Trent has ever seen.
"There will be an air commodore attending – one of only three left in the country.
"We have got search lights going across the Britannia Stadium and 20 plus air cadets are going to form a guard of honour for all guests."
The Spitfire, commissioned in 1945, was donated to the council-run Bethesda Street museum in 1969 by the RAF in recognition of its inventor's North Staffordshire roots.
Experts say that without restoration it will eventually fall apart.
Fund-raisers estimate they will need £1 million over the next decade to cover the costs of maintaining the plane, which is credited with saving the country from a German invasion during the Battle of Britain. Stoke City chairm an Peter Coates has already donated £20,000 towards the appeal. Tickets for the gala event, priced at £40, are available by calling 07902 156860.