Friends of RTBP Autumn Newsletter
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Dear Friends of the River Thames Boat Project,
We are reaching the end of another season - although as Peter says just below the 'season' continues to stretch and this year will have been almost 9 months long! And Pippa tells me that the boat will have been used on a record breaking 146 days (for 155 'activities' as there are sometime two in one day). So spare a thought for the team looking after her and the Charity, who have a very short window in which to repair, spruce up, improve and plan for the next season - not to mention have a brief break themselves!
In this edition in this newsletter we have the first of what we hope will become a series of volunteer profiles. So many people help out and work so hard for the charity - where to start? Our very own “staff photographer” John Frye seemed an obvious choice. And we haven’t finished profiling the Trustees, there is a lot more delving to be done there.
A quick heads up about some research being done by our new intern (see below). You will be receiving an email in the near future with a list of potential funders. Edward would like to know if any of the Friends have any contacts with those organisations. More information in an email in early November.
From the Wheelhouse
School on the River (SOR) is a major and growing part of the Charity’s activity – from a handful of trips when it started to an estimated 40 bookings for this season. 2014 also saw the launch of the new Eco Venturers day with the boat moored at Kingston, focusing on sustainability, and giving schools a different offering to which classes can come back a second time.
As autumn settles upon us, it's hard to believe where the year has gone! I've had to look back at the diary to remind myself of all we have done in what has been our busiest season to date. The season kicked off with an education day for Hampton Hill Beavers on 21st February followed by our first cruise after the floods had subsided on 8th April. Our season will close with a final cruise on 4th November followed by a School on the River on 12th November.
The progress of time is marked by the completion of the power station redevelopment, our new mooring, and the first year of passing underneath the impressive new Walton Bridge. Highlights are best captured by the clients and their positive feedback, and the number of times clients’ hats blew off into the river meaning the crew could show off their hat over board recovery drill!!
In a month's time we shall be in dry dock at Sunbury, inspecting the health of the Venturer and making her shipshape for the winter and forthcoming season. As our season extends, this has become one of the few opportunities we have for repairs and renewals. David Bell will once again be leading the engineering works which this year includes refurbishment of the steering.
Next year's calendar is already filling up with bookings for our ever expanding educational programme - note to editor to include an update from Gemma in the next edition. (Editor – already planned!) Over the winter we shall be planning some new cruises to offer client groups, and working on some modifications and improvements to the boat for passengers and crew. I hope to bring you news of these in the spring.
On the strength of the success of the Sail 4 Cancer weekend (see story in the last issue) we will be running another one in the spring, and I am looking at ways to celebrate 25 years since the original refit.
Here's hoping we have a kinder winter on the river than the last one…
Peter Oldham, Skipper
A Client Story: School on the River
Crawley Ridge Junior School, Camberley has been coming to SOR every autumn since 2001. The Year 5 classes came every year, but earlier this month Year 6 came back to the pilot of our Eco Venturers day. Laura Smart, Year 6 Leader, talked to us about how important School on the River is to her students.
Laura told me how the children both enjoy and learn from their day out on the river. Some have never been on a boat and many have never seen the Thames. But they clearly remember what they have done – the Year 6 group this year remembered not only what measurements/ experiments they had done last year but even what the results had been, and also the names of the crew!
School on the River focuses on river geography and science - testing the water quality of the Thames, experimenting with rock and soil filtration, learning how Teddington lock and weir work, and investigating the effect of the tide on the foreshore. Laura described it as a ‘detective’ approach – investigating and figuring out how tides and man made structures affect the foreshore.
The Eco Venturers day adds a new perspective to the programme. Laura’s class did an Eco Audit of the Venturer - discovering solar panels to generate electricity, enjoying a tour of the engine room, and interviewing the crew on our water consumption! They discussed what else could be done on the boat to improve sustainability, then went back to their school and did the same thing there the next day. This is an important part of how Crawley Ridge uses the SOR experience – it isn’t just a separate day out, it is embedded in their curriculum with activities before and after the visit linking to the learnings from the day. Laura said that SOR is especially valuable because the RTBP team works with the school, listens to their feedback, and applies it so that SOR addresses the school’s educational needs.
The day also looks at waste reduction with the children weighing and analysing all the waste generated from their lunches. This measuring and data analysing activity is used in maths lessons, and reports about the day are also written by the students for english class. And in learning about energy efficiency and water consumption the pupils experimented with wind-up torches and radios, calculated a day’s water consumption (and tried to carry it!), and learned about the Open Water Heat Source Pump System at the new dock now using the Thames water to provide heat to the new development nearby (see article in the Spring Newsletter) – neatly linking to the water temperature work the students had done during their visit the previous year!
One of the best things about these days is that everything links together. And the students love it – being on the boat, seeing other boats go by and the wildlife on the river, and learning from our amazing volunteer crew.
I asked Laura if she thought they would all be back next year and she said without a doubt that both the Year 5 and Year 6 visits would now be an annual event!
An 'Eventful' Summer...
The Teddington Festival 27 July
It was a glorious day, the sun was shining and the band was playing (actually several community choirs, dance groups and an excellent Doors tribute band took turns playing on the Lock Island). The sunshine and the variety of fun things to see, do and eat triggered the flood of people, and in 5 hours 1,824 people came on board the Venturer! This is almost twice the number we have ever had on board in one day before.
They came for a tour of the boat, to play fund raising games on deck, for a cup of tea and home make cakes and to see the exhibition of water and boat themed water colours by Keith Knox and photographs by John Frye down below. Our volunteers did a great job raising almost £600 on the day and we are very grateful to the festival organisers who donated another £200 as we were one of their sponsored charities, along with the RNLI and Twickenham Sea Cadets. All in all a fabulous day.
Walton Heritage Day 13 September
The same format as the Teddington River Festival – fundraising games on deck, an exhibition of river paintings by Sue Bailey, photographs by Pamela Chapman-Burrell and John Frye, and teas and coffees served from the galley. But this time Lloyds Bank lent a hand! Having donated vast numbers of cakes, biscuits, tea and coffee, staff from the Twickenham and Teddington branches of Lloyds worked like trojans serving them to our visitors. We are very grateful to the Bank as they also matched the £360 we raised on the day. And the Festival organisers generously chartered the Venturer for two community groups who joined the Venturer in Kingston for our outward journey to Walton and then for the return to Kingston.
The Great River Race 27 September
It was another wonderful Great River Race. We had a full house with 40 guests on board the Thames Venturer for lunch and thanks to the indian summer a glorious day was had by all. Stella Benjamin won the picnic basket in the race sweepstake and we raised over £700 for the Charity. In addition, although Bassam Al Jazy couldn’t attend this year, he once again made a very generous donation of £5,000 from Al Jazy Shipping (one of our Corporate Friends).
Volunteer Profile: John Frye
Some ten years ago Louise Sibley told her friend John Frye about the Boat Project and asked him whether he was interested in becoming involved. He had ‘messed around’ with boats a bit – acting as crew on cross channel sailing trips and the like. Having said yes he next found himself lying on his back under the Venturer in dry dock painting her hull – an encouraging introduction! His second experience was to act as photographer on the cruise down to London when the Venturer went to the London Boat Show on a freezing January day – pictures of the crew in their new RTBP jackets, of the boat going under Tower Bridge, all with very cold fingers!
It wasn’t until that spring that John did his crew training and set off on his first cruise as crew. That proved to be a fateful day as it was the cruise on which the Venturer’s steering failed. The passengers were safely offloaded and sent home by train and the crew managed to fix the steering and get the boat back to dock – by about 7:00 that evening. A lesser man might have begun to wonder whether volunteering for the Boat Project was really a good idea… But John carried on, fortunately for the Charity, as he has become one of our core volunteers with a number of strings to his bow!
As a professional photographer John regularly brings his camera on board, providing pictures that have become increasingly important as the digital world means images are used more and more - in the Annual Report, on the Charity website, in this Newsletter, and on websites such as Flickr – to give a face to the work we do. And then about four years ago, while acting as bow crew with Paul Boyd, and together with Louise Sibley, the idea that became Venturer Photography was born. This included bringing in his wife Jacqui who kindly ‘volunteered’ to cater for these trips.
Now John runs three or four VP trips each season, as well as continuing to work as regular crew, act as Charity photographer on numerous occasions (having set up our Flickr site so those images can be shared), and do various other things that come along! John’s business network group organised and ran a successful salsa dinner and dance with half the money raised donated to the Project and he was instrumental in organising several fundraising events last year. No wonder that John was presented with the Charity’s ‘Core of Commitment’ volunteer award in 2013 - a new award to recognise the commitment and effort given to support the work of the Charity!
New Research Intern
Edward Bonsu joined the Charity in August as a part-time research intern, in a part-funded position under the Santander employability scheme run by Kingston University.
As part of the Friends organisation we run fundraising (and hopefully fun!) activities for the Friends. As we continue to grow we are looking for more ideas (what kind of evenings might we do?) and some help in organising events. If you have any suggestions and in particular are willing to assist, please let me know. And I can confirm that by popular request there will be a repeat of the curry evening in the new year.
He will work with us until the end of the year, to create a database of potential sources of funding for the Charity. He will investigate, assess and record grantors and trusts that might help with core, project or capital funding (i.e. for our ongoing work and for development of our boating facilities). He will also do some initial contact work, create a calendar for applications and start the application process for Miranda to take forward.
The Charity is a new world for him. He graduated from Kingston University last year with a business degree (first class) and he sees the job as an opportunity to help him develop his business skills - in particular learning about how charitable funding works.
Edward said ”working in the not-for-profit/charity sector is new to me, but I am enjoying the challenge. I have great teachers in the office and I have learnt a lot so far; I feel my confidence grow as I adapt to my job role. I admire the foundations of the Charity and our charitable works, and that motivates me to be of great help in finding potential sources of funding to help us meet our objectives.”
We are delighted to welcome him on board and look forward to benefiting from his research!
The offer to charter the Venturer for an evening cruise was made available to Friends this year. This is definitely a summer months activity but it is never too early to start thinking about next year. I can thoroughly recommend it, and so can my guests - it was a great way to celebrate a wedding anniversary! If you are interested in making a booking please contact the office and let them know you are a Friend.
Anthea Wilkinson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Visit to Watermen’s Hall
The present Watermen’s Hall was built in 1780 being designed by William Blackburn for the Company. It is the only original Georgian hall in the City of London.
Miranda is organising a trip on Monday 26 January to see Watermen’s Hall in the City of London. The tour shows you around the Georgian Hall and includes stories about the long and varied history of the watermen and lightermen of the River Thames. If you are interested please contact the office.
In 1514 the earliest Act of Parliament for regulating watermen, wherrymen and bargemen received Royal Assent from King Henry VIII. In 2014 the Company of Watermen and Lighterman is celebrating the 500th anniversary of that Act. The Company is a working guild and is still actively involved with the life of the river and those that work on it.