Friends of RTBP Autumn 2013 Newsletter

Friends of RTBP Autumn Newsletter 

September 2013

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Dear Friends of the River Thames Boat Project, 

It's been a busy summer - hard to believe the tinge of autumn is in the air.  OK, more than a tinge!  And it's been a busy season for the Venturer and for the Friends, one which isn't over, so some of the information below is preliminary.  School on the River in particular is still roaring along, with more bookings coming in.

But although the Venturer's cruising season is coming to a close, the fundraising season isn't!  Our work as Friends carries on and we hope you are all eager to h

One thing you can do is to source your Christmas cards from Mountbatten Cards, who donate 25% of the profit from sales of their Christmas cards to a charity of your choice, with the Boat Project one of their featured charities. Last year 14 people kindly nominated the Boat Project when they bought their cards, which are reproductions of paintings of SW London and include local landmarks, as well as views of the river and of the Royal Parks. A brochure arrived in the office a few days ago, from which a cheque unexpectedly fluttered out, reminding us that it was a suitably seasonal thing to include in this issue of the Newsletter!

Martha Tressler

Corporate Friends Cruise and Friends
Recruitment Evening

Corporate events are always a challenge with inevitable cancellations - one person even had to cancel on the way to us from his hotel, despite having flown in especially. The weather was also less than kind. But the food was great and we all had an enjoyable time. More importantly, we made influential contacts who were impressed with both the Charity and the Venturer. Duncan will report on Corporate Friends progress in the next newsletter. And yes, we have recruited Duncan Faircloth to the team (see the side bar). Not wishing to steal his thunder, but next year we hope to be running two corporate cruises.

The Recruitment Evening / Open Evening (it kept changing its name) was a very sociable affair and a great opportunity for Friends to meet and bring their own friends along. It has also resulted in a number of new Friends, some who signed up on the night and others who have joined subsequently. 

Trustee Jane Newman was very enthusiastic about the event and has requested that Mate Pete Gallon be our bartender again - apparently his measures were on the generous side!

Both events were focussed on recruitment rather than fundraising, but thanks to some generous donations we did make a profit. Thanks to all who came and all who helped out.

25 Years of Memories -
the very early days

This started as an idea for a one off article, but it rapidly became clear that there are a lot of great stories out there from the early years, and from later on, so this is just the first instalment in a series!

Derek Plummer - architect.  Derek had known Martin Emerson for some years when he attended the dinner in 1987, in his capacity as Chairman of the Twickenham Society, at which Martin took over as Mayor of Richmond.  At that Mayoral dinner Martin announced that his special project would relate to education and the river.  Note that the initial idea wasn’t specifically a boat!  Invited to join an early committee Derek remembers however that a boat was very quickly identified as the target, and the Gerja, as she was then known, arrived fairly soon after.  As an architect (not a marine architect mind you!) Derek’s role was a foregone conclusion.  He sent a couple of his assistants over to the barge to do some initial drawings and they couldn’t find a straight line anywhere - what fun! A bit different to their usual activities.  But they produced the requisite initial measurements and drawings and worked with marine engineer Simon Harris and Miranda throughout the conversion.  Derek carried on as a Trustee and Chair of the Management Committee for some years, until he could see the Project was in capable hands and thought it time for someone else to have some fun - but he is still a Friend!

Sir Peter Harrop KCB - from Trustee to Chairman to Honorary President.  Peter met Martin Emerson at an Environmental Exhibition staged by Richmond Council while Martin was Mayor. Got to talking about Martin’s community boat project - he remembers Martin saying ‘Richmond is the only Borough on both sides of the river - we need a community boat!’ Peter said ‘well I’m a sailor and ex-Navy’ and of course he was invited to join the team.  A couple of meetings later and the boat arrived.  He remembers a ‘little sail’ around Eel Pie Island with Martin and others when she first arrived, with a waterman skipper who battled to make her behave!  Around the same time Richmond Council provided a loan of £25,000, and John Ormiston, a trustee, put us in touch with his fellow oarsman, Mike Fothergill, who offered us office space. We were away!

Miranda Jaggers - from general dogsbody to Executive Director.  Miranda was on her boat at Eel Pie Island in early summer 1988 when she saw an unconverted barge moored alongside a pub opposite, being used as an extension of the pub garden, and asked what it was.  Laughter – “that’s the Mayor’s barge – it will never work!” Dug out a flyer she had filed away some time before about the ‘Mayor’s ecology boat’, called the number, got Martin - did he know how his barge was being used?!  He said ‘if you’re that interested, come to the next meeting’.  A few meetings later it was decided that the only way the Project could carry on was to have an employed organiser. Miranda was looking for a change, and the rest is history as they say. She started work 1 April 1990 (and that was no joke…). Within two weeks she was fielding calls from the BBC in complete secrecy about the Challenge Anneka programme (which Martin had investigated some time before).

Carolyn Smith - advisor on disability requirements. Carolyn was a physiotherapist at the Royal Star & Garter when Martin called looking for advice on his new boat.  She found herself on the organising committee - her first memory is of many meetings...  Among other things she made sure the two loos were set up as mirror images (as well as a few other key bits of advice important to our clients!).  As a Management Committee member (as well as some crewing) she had the advantage of a dual perspective, also bringing client groups.  She remembers the joy and excitement of the early journeys with the Royal Star & Garter residents, especially the residential trips. And she has now appeared on the Friends’ organising team!

The Great River Race

The Venturer from a different perspective! (Photo by Anthony Holley, other photos in this article by Anthony Holley or Martha Tressler)

The forecast was gloomy but in the end the weather gods were fairly kind, although the crew got a bit wet while setting up the boat at Richmond (Paul, has your phone dried out yet?) and apparently the gazebo went flying right at the end after I had left.  There were about 40 on board - Friends (14 of them), Friends’ partners and their friends.  We were delighted to welcome our Corporate Friend on board for the first time, Bassam Al Jazy (Al-Jazy Shipping of Jordan) with his wife Suhad.  Nine people did all the hard work, crewing and setting up the boat and providing a scrumptious spread for lunch.  The catering was provided by Anthea, ably assisted by Carolyn and Elaine, with Alison marshalling the guests and a boat crew comprising Peter, Keith, Miranda, Paul and Linda.

Before the competing boats arrived we were treated to a ‘row past’ by the Royal Row Barge Gloriana, and then shortly before 3:00 those that had been rowing over 20 miles from Docklands began to stream past.  One special boat showed up at about 4:00 - the Lillan with our own Graham Jaggers, Peter Finch and Hilary Pickles rowing hard!  (And if anyone feels inspired to reward their effort you can do so to the benefit of the Charity at: link.

This was primarily a Friends social event but it doubled as a successful recruitment opportunity with a number of people expressing an interest in becoming Friends at the event; several took away membership forms. This was undoubtedly aided by Louise Sibley’s rousing speech reminding everyone that the services provided by the Venturer could not be offered at a price affordable to our clients without fundraising efforts including those of the Friends.  Oh yes, and there was a profit of over £500 to add to our fundraising target!

Many thanks again to all the people who worked so hard to provide such an excellent event.

Skipper’s Update

We seem to be on the last leg of the season – I can’t believe after the heat wave we’ve had this summer that I would be putting the heating on for clients before the clocks go back but that’s what I had to do on Monday…..autumn is in the air !

And what a season… which started earlier than I can ever remember on 19th January with Kingston Young Carers renaming the boat. Their second cruise later that week was memorable because it snowed!  March saw the first of our School on the River trips before Easter came around, which means the start of crew training – ten new volunteers were recruited and put through their paces in preparation for the busy season ahead.

With the days getting longer and the weather warmer, May proved again to be a popular month for our clients to enjoy a trip on the river.  Headley Court (funded by Lest We Forget) now regularly brings wounded service men and women for a therapeutic day out on the Venturer. These trips are especially rewarding when you meet someone during their treatment and then again post treatment and see the progress they are making.

We have been blessed with a fantastic summer which confirmed just how valuable the canopy is in protecting vulnerable clients from the sun as well as the rain.

There has been plenty to see on our daily trips up and down river including the construction, then opening, of the new Walton Bridge, commemorated with the burying of a time capsule which included an RTBP cap, mug, and leaflet. Who will be there to see them dug up in 50 years time – me??? There was also the removal of the old Walton bridges, the construction of the new Molesey weir, occasional appearances of the Royal Row Barge Gloriana, the construction of Kingston Riverside and our new mooring….

As we head into autumn, it looks like October will be busy with our School on the River programme and the chance to introduce many more young people to the delights of the river.

Peter Oldham

25th Anniversary Cruise

On 4 September a new type of cruise took place.  The ‘25th Anniversary' morning cruise brought together some of our long standing funders with senior members from client groups and some clients themselves, hosted by Louise Sibley, Chair, and Executive Director Miranda Jaggers.

Guests included Jonathan Monckton (Director of Richmond Parish Lands) and David White (Clerk to the Trustees of Hampton Fuel Allotments), both groups who are core supporters of RTBP, and Di Gregory (Captain of the Ladies  Golf Team at Royal Mid Surrey – see the article about her fundraising for us in the last issue).  From client groups we had Alan and Margie Lenton, Trustees of Lest We Forget, Laurie Wills and Barbara Chalcroft of T.R.E.E.S and Maureen Payan, founder of HANDS (their first booking pre-dates our computer-based booking records!).  From INS there were four guests (carers and clients), and on the crew was Nigel Williams, once an RTBP client (when a Young Carer), and now volunteer crew!  

A highlight of the event was the introductions, with funders hearing first-hand from client groups and individual clients how much they value Thames Venturer’s service. With that, a gloriously sunny day and skipper Pete's immediate concession to a client's request that we 'go downstream because we have been up', the cruise was a great success and more such will be planned. 

Client Feedback

Some information put together for a grant monitoring form that shows how the Venturer helps:-

Last year we sent monitoring forms to the group leaders of our disabled, disadvantaged and elderly client groups and received feedback from 56, of those:
  • 80% reported an improvement in clients’ communication

  • 71% reported an improvement in clients’ movement

  • 73% reported an improvement in behaviour.

We also sent monitoring forms to the Richmond Young Carers support staff, teachers of all our school groups, 3rd Hampton Cub and Beaver leaders:
  • 100% reported an improvement in pupils’ understanding of the river and the environment

  • 100% said they would recommend School on the River to colleagues and friends.

We also received many thank you letters and cards from individual clients and group leaders.

“I would just like to say how much everyone who went on the trips this year enjoyed and benefitted from them.  All the crew and the volunteers were brilliant, they couldn't do enough for you.  They were all helpful, informative and extremely considerate which everyone appreciated greatly.  I would like to thank everyone at the RTBP”

“Our day out on the river was delightful.  Made especially so by Peter the skipper and his volunteer crew who went out of their way to be helpful to our volunteers and showed kindness and understanding to our passengers. The river was beautiful and our group was comfortable under the new cover and able to enjoy the fresh air, nature and river scenes on our trip to Shepperton.  Thank you all very much for making our day special!”

Venturer Photography
On four summer evenings this year, the ‘Thames Venturer’ has taken just a short break after her normal day’s activity, and set off again with groups of photographers aboard. Participants get a two hour cruise on what has been described as an ideal platform for photography, open and stable; they also get food and drink, and access to the experience and knowledge of a pro photographer. Well, me anyway…

We don’t offer formal tuition, but encourage questions, the answers to which can be opened up to whoever is interested, and of course conversation among the guests, whatever their ability. On this basis it was delightful to see two people, who never met before, helping each other out with the complexities of the Nikon menu system, in Portuguese…

The cruises normally start and finish at the dock in Kingston, but this year we added one to coincide with the Twickenham River Festival, which went from… you guessed it: Twickenham!

We were also delighted that a group of ten from the Roehampton Photo club joined us for one evening, with a very impressive array of gear. BUT we allow absolutely no gear snobbery aboard, you just need to actually have a camera, and enjoy using it!

The key attraction, apart from being given ‘permission’ to do nothing other than take pictures for a couple of hours, is the evening light on the Thames, and we are seldom disappointed by the results which we ask guests to send to us. 

And as this is being written for the Friends Newsletter I should also mention that the Friends numbers have been increased by at least two who were introduced to the Venturer through Venturer Photography!  

John Frye


Some stats to highlight how much is going on with the RTBP:

In the 2012/13 season (year to March 2013) we had:
  • 1869 passengers, of whom

    • 554 had a disability,

    • 722 were schoolchildren participating in School on the River, and

    • 51 were young carers.

  • 3,212 total visitors to the Venturer, and

  • 4,793 volunteer hours.

In the current season, so far (more to come):
  • 117 trips booked on the river:

    • 85 Accessing the Thames, Living and Learning Afloat, Linking People Afloat

    • 25 School on the River (700 children)

    • 4 Venturer Photography cruises

    • 3 Friends events

  • Number of locks gone through - 340

  • Number of teabags used - 1,917!  (Well, ok, I added the 17 to an estimate of 1,900…)

And there are currently 70 active volunteers - 54 crew and 16 non-crew - with 10 crew new this year.


Corporate Friends Cruise and Friends Recruitment Evening
25 Years of Memories - the very early days
The Great River Race
Skipper's update
25th Anniversary Cruise
Client Feedback
Venturer Photography


Don't forget about the AGM on 19 November at the Twickenham Rowing Club on Eel Pie Island.  We hope you can come, and if you aren't already a Member that you will be joining shortly.  We hope to see you on the 19th.


We now have a Lifetime Friend classification. Someone asked whether they could be a Lifetime Friend, and we thought for a minute, and said – of course! So a donation of £1,000 now means you can be a Friend for life…

We have also signed up our second Corporate Friend - Cargostore. This is part of our Corporate Friends recruitment program - more updates from Duncan in the next newsletter.

Friends Website

The Friends Website is now live. This will be the place for the latest news and information on the Friends.

We would love to get your feedback on the site, either via our email or hit the feedback button on the website.

Duncan Faircloth, newest member of the Friends team with responsibility for Corporate Friends. Duncan says 'I joined the project as a new crew member about 14 years ago and have really enjoyed trying to make each outing on the Venturer a good day for the clients.  I have been a Member of the Charitable Company for nearly 10 years and was surprised but delighted when Paul asked me to join the Friends team.

Louise Sibley thanking the Friends at the Great River Race for their important contribution!

Friends Statistics

Membership has grown to 73 (+6) since the last newsletter and the number of Corporate Friends has doubled! (to two). Our annual income from Friends subscriptions is now almost £8,000 plus £2,000 from Corporate Friends.
Alison Oliver, Friends CFO

Can you help?

If you have ideas about the Friends, if you would like to help run it, or simply provide feedback on how we can improve things, then let us know.  Drop Alison a line:

The golf day described in the last issue resulted in a cheque for £5,317, seen here being given to Miranda by Di Gregory.  We'll have information next time on the final numbers from a year's fundraising by Di and the Royal Mid Surrey Ladies Golf Team.

Newsletter Feedback

Please keep the comments coming.  If you have any suggestions regarding what you want to see more (or less) of please tell us.

If you have any specific ideas for articles please say so - fundraising activities, stories about the boat or the clients, whatever!  This is your newsletter - feel free to contribute to its content!  Email

Contact us:

Phone: 020 8940 3509

Friends of the River Thames Boat Project
Supporting the work of the River Thames Boat Project - raising funds to provide access to the river

Registered Charity No.: 1080281
Registered Office:
66 Hill Rise,

Richard Robinson getting to grips with his new camera on the last VP cruise!

Unless otherwise stated all photographs in this Newsletter are courtesy of John Frye (© John Frye Photography, John is a RTBP volunteer and co-founder of Venturer Photography.
Copyright © 2013 Friends of River Thames Boat Project, All rights reserved.
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