The Stadium of Light will be the setting for an event first for the UK in April. 

The National Armed Forces and Emergency Services Event (NAFESE) will take place on Thursday, April 27, and it will be the first occasion the Armed Forces and Emergency Services have come together to hold a large-scale event of its kind. 

The University of Sunderland is the main sponsor for the event and will host a number of stalls and activities on the day, which cover everything from workforce development courses, that includes, eSports courses, fully-funded ESF courses, and degree apprenticeships. 

NAFESE 2023 is made up of three key sections. 

The Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club kicks off proceedings in Quinn’s Bar, alongside the NAFESE exhibition, which will feature zones for recruitment and training and a STEM Village for invited schools and colleges. 

The event is then rounded off with the inaugural Services Awards – a black tie celebration of the best in service from Armed Forces to emergency to volunteer. 

NAFESE sees a number of businesses and organisations come together to back the event idea and these include Veterans in Crisis, The Hygeia Clinic, Sunderland AFC, The Coastguard Association and Pathfinder International magazine. 

Over the years, the University of Sunderland has built substantial and enduring links with the UK’s armed forces and is currently a proud holder of the Armed Forces Covenant Gold Award. The University is committed to ensuring that any service personnel wishing to study for a degree or other qualification are supported to do so. Sunderland currently has 114 students with connections to the armed service undertaking University programmes.

This includes former service personnel on undergraduate and postgraduate courses, foundation programmes, independent learners, and apprenticeships.

Simone Bedford, Associate Head of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, and a Royal Air Force Veteran herself, says: “The University of Sunderland is very proud of our connections to the Armed Forces. We have a dedicated team to support staff and students with the transition from the military into ‘civvy’ street. Our Veterans and Reservists Network engages with staff and students to ensure we offer the best support to the military community at the university.”

Sunderland AFC will be hosting the event and Chief Operating Officer, Steve Davison said: “At Sunderland AFC, we recognise the immense importance of supporting all within our local and regional communities, including our veterans. The North East and the City of Sunderland has proud ties with the armed forces across many generations and that extends to the Club, so it is a privilege to be hosting the first NAFESE in addition to the continuation of our Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club, which continues to support many service men and women.”

Charity Partner for the event, Veterans in Crisis continues to produce great work in the city and founder, Ger Fowler added, “it is such an honour for the city to stage the first event of this nature. The area has great ties with the Armed Forces and our Emergency Services are well respected and so it is an ideal combination to cover both at one event.” 

Pathfinder International, an Armed Forces resettlement publication, is also backing the event and editor Mal Robinson echoed Ger’s sentiments. Robinson said, “it is quite a coup for the city of Sunderland to be honest to stage an event of this magnitude. It made sense for Sunderland AFC to be the first location, such is the good work they do with both forces and services communities and having three events in one only adds to the occasion.” 

Indeed, Sunderland AFC were the first football club in the UK to stage an Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club and this will be the seventh one to be staged at the Stadium of Light. 

The Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club will start at 0900 and also on a day of firsts, blue light veterans are welcome to attend and mingle with the forces veterans. 

The NAFESE exhibition begins at 0930 along the floor in the Montgomery Suite and adjoining areas and includes a recruitment zone for both those looking to join the forces and services and those leaving the forces and services and embarking on a new career. 

In addition to this, a STEM Village is also on show with several schools and colleges invited to attend on the day with engagement teams present. 

Exhibitors for the NAFESE exhibition include: Forces Pension Society, Sunderland Software City, Tyne & Wear Fire Service, Cleveland Police, Red Sky Foundation, MedCover, Timoney College of Chiropractors and many more with over 40 in attendance. 

Completing the event series is the 2023 Services Awards with awards categories for the best in service for the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, Police, NHS, Volunteer Services and Fire Service. 

For information on how to register for the exhibition and Services Awards information please see the link here – 

For any schools and colleges wishing to attend and for general exhibitor enquiries on the event, please contact the NAFESE team at [email protected]