Tuesday, 31 May 2011


At the seminar talking about the new waterways charity set to launch 2012.

The annual waterways event. Crick. Sat, May 28. The hordes headed for the dancing gazebos of festival-fun and glam boats on the water... while the 50, or so, few took their seats inside the more sombre seminar tent at the festival. I sat near the back, a habit since school.

The panel was chaired by Richard Fairhurst (editor, Waterways World mag), with speakers - Simon Salem (Marketing Director, British Waterways) and Paul Roper (Inland Waterways Association).

"NEW" was the buzz word batted from the panel. The 'new waterways charity' will have new trustees, a new brand, new events, a new mood, new hopes, new-news.

Paul Roper publically announces from, and probably to, the IWA camp, "We will have to change our attitude". A weapons amnesty? (IWA is a campaigning organisation launched in 1946 to help keep our waterways navigable, with part of their role as a pressure group being to challenge some controversial BW decisions). Simon Salem gives weight to the magnificent task ahead, "We're working for the next 100 years, not tomorrow".

The rousting and refreshing tone must have silenced the handful of hobby-grumblers who traditionally turn up at events like this (where they can plebishly pop BW heads into medieval stocks and throw tomatoes). Nobody barked out loud with self-interest about their blocked Thetford or anything else they insist BW should put right for them. Perhaps the collective voice of the new waterways charity can leave the misery-mongers of yore out on a limb.

The earnest audience clung to the parcel of words unravelled by the panel, while the noise of Crick carried on outside. The festival hords, unaware, disinterested in the stuff of the seminar, symbolise the challenge for the 'new waterways charity' to engage the minds, hearts, skills and pockets of the waterways public, and the wider public. The job ahead is for us all to spread the word, and help build local volunteer bases for the future well-being of our waterways.

In 7 iconic words, Simon Salem lit the seminar's spotlight, "This is our, the waterways, big moment". The modest crescendo was usurped as 2 people wobbled into the tent with hot chips and cold chomping gums. Then all our empty seats filled in a flash as the new cohort arrived for the next seminar – 'Boat Buying and Ownership'.

Martine and I walked down the canal towpath, beyond the moored boats and the hum of the show. In the flurry of peacock-puffing waterways politics, it's easy to lose sight of what's so important to protect.


No comments:

Post a Comment