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Setting Off

From the family album…


I’m a landlubber. Kate is a live-aboard boater. We first encountered each other on Twitter in February 2016 and – fast forward at break-neck speed! – we are about to embark on our third tour of a show we cooked up together, Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways.

My love of canals started as a child when my family owned a Fellows Morton & Clayton narrow boat called Laurel. We had many adventures and holidays, during which we slept in the cabin Dad had built over the hold. Mom learned how to do graining and traditional canal art so the stern cabin could be restored in traditional style. I loved the sound of the Lister engine. Sleeping in the stern cabin was fun as a child but it wasn’t a popular place to sleep because a trip to the toilet involved a major excursion into the modern part of the boat. There is so much I could tell you about those days, but this blog is not about that.

Tomorrow we begin a journey the wartime trainees did over a three-week trip. Our journey will take three and a half months. But in fact the journey has already begun. It started with Kate’s idea – “I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before!” – to Recreate the Journey, then went through the painstaking completion of an Arts Council funding application which took many many hours – no, days, possibly weeks! After the euphoria of receiving the acceptance letter, we then set about organising the tour. The grant enabled us to employ a Tour Manager and a PR company (more women at work), run community events and workshops, and write and rehearse new material, with director, Milla Jackson. Since beginning work on the funding application it has been non-stop.

I cannot begin to tell you how much work is involved in organising a tour of around 50 performances. However, we are gluttons for punishment so we decided to produce a book of all the material written so far as well. Copies will be on sale throughout the tour and are not available from any other outlet (at the moment). There will be mugs on sale later in the tour, plus another rather special piece of merchandise made specially for us. You will have to wait and see what that is!

Kate and I will be travelling on Kate’s boat, Morning Mist, from the beginning of May and we are extremely lucky that historic narrow boat Tench will be with us for the entire tour, thanks to owner, Alex, and steerer, Heather B. Tomorrow we will set off from Bull’s Bridge (now Tesco visitor moorings), the original location of the dry dock where the boats were maintained, and where the boats would begin their journey during WW2. Coffee will be served at 11.30 and at 12.00 there will be a short performance before a bite to eat, then Tench sets off at 1.00pm.

So amid all the venue booking and liaison, putting together copy and designing the flyers and posters and delivering them, ordering merchandise, doing interviews etc etc etc, we need to be ready to give top notch performances. Oh, and there’s the small matter of getting to the venues by canal. One thing’s for sure, this will be an adventure unlike any other and we’re ready for it!

Heather Wastie

21st April 2017

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