Nobody could have imagined it or even dreamed it. The Big Learner Relay, at time of print has raised over £60,000! We interview the ADI behind it all and get some exclusive information for what to expect for the Big Learner Relay 2015!

You’ve raised an astonishingly huge amount of money for Children in Need. More than anybody could have anticipated. Could you confirm what the final amount is?

Louise Walsh ADI: There may still be a few pennies to come in and I’m aware that some instructors still have some fundraising events planned, but I can safely say we have smashed our target of £5,000! Last nights recalculation came to a whopping £61, 215.32 !!

What do you think the ADI industry as a whole can take from the Big Learner Relay 2014?

Louise Walsh ADI: My hope is that the ADI industry can take away and build on the immense sense of pride we should all feel. The Big Learner Relay soon became much more than a relaying of a top box. The cascade of friendship, support, respect and camaraderie was a joy to be part of. With a joint sense of purpose and a desire to do some good the ADI industry did themselves proud.

Outside of the benefits of raising money for Children in Need, what benefits were there for the ADI industry as a whole in the BLR 2014?

Louise Walsh ADI: Working together, communicating and networking can never be underestimated. Many involved will tell you great stories about how The BLR has raised their profile locally and already led to further opportunities. BLR’14 is just the start of many possibilities and I will be working on some of these over the next year… All for the greater good.

Some driving instructors felt left out this year, for example those in areas where the route didn’t go through. What would you say to them for next year?

Louise Walsh ADI: When we planned the route we knew our criteria right from the start… 14 days, 8am till 8pm… In November… Finishing on CiN appeal day/night. We then tried our best to get to as many areas as possible, covering England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, making sure we represented a wide selection of our industry… Independent instructors, franchises (local and national) trainers, special needs, motorbikes, trailer and lorry training! A total of over 2,300 miles! We couldn’t have done any more. Many ADIs found ways of getting involved even if they couldn’t join a relay leg. Take Swindon and the Isle of Wight for example – they convoyed locally and many had spotty cars, donating substantial amounts to the overall total. We will do our best to involve those areas that showed enthusiasm and support this year when planning next years route. Individual ADIs also fundraiser, went spotty, showed support and got themselves into local media despite being miles away from a relay leg. A massive thank you to those ADIs who also traveled 1,2 or even 3 hours to join in! Real stars!

The pressure is already on for BLR 2015 to be bigger, better and to raise even more money. How are you going to cope with this pressure, for example are you expanding the number of people on the board, or setting up regional boards etc?

Louise Walsh ADI: My randomly picked Commitee have been there from the first ideas to the very end. Their support has been invaluable. We have a ‘wash up’ meeting planned at the beginning of December. Yes, next year promises to be even bigger but one thing I have learnt is that a core group of dedicated people and a central point of admin and logistics is vital. This won’t change.

The question everyone’s been wanting to ask… how did it feel sitting in the Queen Vic, and is Shane Ritchie as much of a cheeky chappy in real life?

Louise Walsh ADI: Friday night in the Queen Vic was one of the most surreal experiences of my life! Every now and again I would be struck by the enormity of the invitation. Of all the hundreds and thousands of fundraisers out there The BLR had been chosen…( 1 of just 3 asked!) I was also very aware that I was representing thousands of instructors and that’s a massive responsibility. I wanted to do you all justice. As for Shane Richie… He’s a genuinely nice guy!


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