Ann Cleeves has a very personal reason for being grateful to the RNLI.

‘When we were first married, my husband was rescued after an accident at sea, and the lifeboat volunteers and crew gave us another 40 years together.’

That rescue took place when the couple were living on the island of Hilbre in the River Dee estuary.

Tim, who was warden on the island, was in a canoe with a friend, going a short distance from Hilbre to another small island, Middle Eye, when the canoe capsized. The tide was so strong it swept them out towards the Irish Sea. It was winter and quiet on the tiny island, but an eagle-eyed birder spotted the two and managed to raise the alarm. Tim was starting to lose consciousness and both were becoming hypothermic when the lifeboat reached them.

‘Without the inshore lifeboat he would definitely have died.,’ says Ann.

Ann’s latest novel, The Raging Storm, is the third in her Two Rivers series, set in North Devon, and it features a lifeboat rescue.

As this is the 200th anniversary of the RNLI, Ann is taking part in a special fundraising event at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe.

Great British Life: Ann's latest book features a rescue by the lifeboat crew. Ann's latest book features a rescue by the lifeboat crew. (Image: Panmacmillan)

She will be joined by Stuart Carpenter and Gillian Cole, two very experienced members of the Ilfracombe lifeboat crew, to talk about the sea and share their rescue stories.

The interviewer will be the actor, writer and producer Jack Holden, who has voiced three Ann Cleeves audiobooks, all from the Two Rivers series featuring Ann’s newest detective Matthew Venn.

It’s the second time Ann has visited the theatre for a lifeboat fundraiser. In February 2022 she took part in an event with the producer of ITV series The Long Call, which was based on the first Matthew Venn book and filmed in North Devon.

Greystone, the remote coastal village setting for The Raging Storm is fictional but it was inspired by Ann’s visit to Hartland Quay during the filming of The Long Call, when the actors and crew experienced high winds, rain and stormy seas.

‘It was a wild day,’ she says. ‘Hartland is so grey and bleak, especially then when it was blowing a hooley, so that’s where I was thinking of.’

The landscape always plays a central role in Ann’s books, and her settings in Shetland, Northumberland and North Devon are ones she knows well, and has a connection to.

Great British Life: Jack Holden, who took the lead role in War Horse in the West End, will also be at the event. Jack Holden, who took the lead role in War Horse in the West End, will also be at the event. (Image: Harry Livingstone)

She lives by the sea in Northumberland. ‘I just feel a lot happier being on the coast, I think, I like that feeling of being on the edge, of not being surrounded by land and other people.’

Ann’s North Devon connections go back to when, at the age of 11, she moved Barnstaple. Her dad was head teacher at Umberleigh Primary School.

‘He then moved from Umberleigh to Woolacombe school and we lived in the schoolhouse for a bit – we could see the Lundy lighthouse from the house, so it felt very much connected to the island and the water.’

Her links have also remained strong over the years. Her best friend lives in North Devon and she also visited Ilfracombe lifeboat station - after being invited in for a cup of tea.

‘They thought I’d be interested, and of course I was!,’ she says.

The charity’s anniversary coinciding with the publication of The Raging Storm was serendipitous, she says, so it made sense to do another fundraiser.

‘I’m absolutely delighted to do anything I can do to promote their work and support them.’

The Raging Storm: Stories from the Sea is at the Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe on Sunday, March 17 at 2pm.

Tickets priced at £15 will include a signed copy of The Raging Storm, access to the event and a £2 donation to the RNLI.