Vehicle on its side with smashed windscreen surrounded by trauma and extrication team wearing full orange high viz and helmets. The teams are working to get people out of the car (this is a simulation as part of the UKRO challenge)

Festival of Rescue to astonish crowds on Newcastle & Gateshead Quayside

On the 17 and 18 of September spectators on Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside will be in awe of the 2021 UKRO Challenge – Festival of Rescue being hosted by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

The free, two day family event will provide the opportunity for 300 competitors from 25 UK fire and rescue services to showcase their lifesaving skills in and around the River Tyne; there is even a team from Luxemburg taking part in the Water Challenge.

The Festival sites will be open from 8am until 5pm on both days including Newcastle Quayside; Spillers Wharf; Baltic Square; and Baltic Mill (BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art).

The sixty-seven entered teams will battle it out across five key disciplines – pitting their wits against each other as they look to go head-to-head, and be crowned the very best in their field.

The Festival of Rescue is being held in partnership with all five local authorities in Tyne and Wear with each authority supporting one of the UKRO challenges.

In particular, TWFRS are working closely with Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council to pull out all the stops to ensure The Festival of Rescue is one of the standout events of the summer. They are helping to facilitate the event on Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside.

The five disciplines include:

  • Vehicle Extrication (in partnership with Newcastle City Council)
  • Trauma Care (in partnership with Gateshead Council)
  • Urban Search and Rescue (in partnership with Sunderland City Council)
  • Rope Rescue (in partnership with South Tyneside Council)
  • Water Rescue* (in partnership with North Tyneside Council)

* The first day of the Water Challenge will take place at the Tees Barrage in Tees Valley and the second day will be on the River Tyne.

The challenges promise to be amazing for spectators to experience as they will perfectly use the land and water locations to create a wonderful atmosphere – all amongst the backdrop of the world-renowned bridges and architecture.

The Festival of Rescue is also a superb platform for the attending fire services to exchange expertise of good practice and take part in education workshops.

On the Friday, water safety campaigner, Rebecca Ramsay will be at The Festival of Rescue. She will be discussing about the importance of water safety having set up “Doing it for Dylan” after her 13 year old son tragically died whilst swimming in open water on July 3, 2011.

Chief Fire Officer, Chris Lowther of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“The Festival of Rescue is going to be a fantastic occasion that everyone in attendance will remember for years to come. The scale and ambition of this two day showcase will be a lasting legacy for the North East and our partners as this is the biggest event of its type ever to be staged in the United Kingdom.

“The focus of the festival is to celebrate the skills, dedication and devotion of our firefighting heroes, who put their lives on the line to keep the public safe from harm on a daily basis.  It provides a national stage to shine a spotlight on to those specialist disciplines that prove critical during real life incidents and emergencies.

“This promises to be an action-packed programme for all of the family and will also provide an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the fire and rescue service, from recruitment through to fire safety; and I can think of no better place in the world for the challenges to take place than on the banks of the River Tyne.”

As a charitable organisation UKRO (United Kingdom Rescue Organisation) prides itself in advancing professional rescue through the direct benefits from the rescue challenge, education workshops and the UKRO Academy.

The UKRO challenge is an annual event that is staged in a different city each year.

Neil Odin, Chair of the UKRO and Chief Fire Officer of Hampshire and Isle of Wight FRS said:

“We are all very much looking forward to this event. It is the highlight of our year and to be able to host it at such a fantastic venue is very exciting for all UKRO personnel.

“We would like to thank all involved at Tyne & Wear FRS along with our fantastic UKRO volunteers for enabling this event to take place after such a difficult 18 months for us all.

“A fantastic welcome awaits you all and bring on the event!”

As well as the Challenge, TWFRS will also offer spectators the opportunity to visit the Community Engagement Village, where both residents and businesses will receive some great help and advice on keeping themselves, their homes and their businesses safe. There will be recruitment information and fire safety demonstrations on-show through the two-days.  One of the engagement themes will focus on deliberate fire reduction and arson protection for businesses.

Councillor Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Transport at Newcastle City Council, said:

“As a former firefighter with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service I am thrilled that the UKRO event is coming to our great city.

“The stunning River Tyne and historic Quayside will provide the perfect backdrop for firefighters from across the UK to showcase the incredible skills, bravery and determination that is built into every single one of them. I know the locals and visitors will be astounded by the displays and competition that will feature in this event.”

Councillor Angela Douglas, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure and Chair of Gateshead Community Safety Board, said:

“We are very proud to support and host this special event which will not only showcase the skills of our emergency services to the public but acts as an important reminder that we have such a dedicated fire and rescue service who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us every day.”

There will also be the opportunity for people to have their Covid vaccination in the Community Engagement Village (no appointment required).

For further information about this year’s UKRO event please visit