Gillian Bolt - Volunteer of the Month April 2014

Created on 04/04/2014

Photo: WOW receives £800 from Toyota Manufacturing Ltd for printing new leaflets - Akihito Isobe, Deeside Executive Advisor, Gillian Bolt, IWA voluntary Youth Development Co-ordinator, Graham Hillier, Senior Manager

Gillian Bolt volunteers as IWA's Youth Development Co-ordinator and as Secretary and Web Editor for her local branch. She is constantly working to expand the resources available for IWA's children's activity and education programme, WOW. WOW provides great resources for use at home, school and at youth groups. In addition to this, there are often WOW stands at waterway events with great activities to keep the children entertained. Gillian explains why this is all so important and how £800 of funding will be used to make WOW even better.

When did you first become interested in inland waterways?

In 1986 we hired a boat on the River Thames.  At the time we had a sailing cruiser on the Dee Estuary on the Wirral but we were keen to see the Thames as well.

When and how did you become involved with IWA?
Just after we swapped our sailing boat for a small narrowboat in 1989 we visited the London Boat Show and signed on at the IWA stand! I also bought Tom Rolt’s book “Narrowboat” and immediately read it from cover to cover – and many more times since then.

What does being IWA’s Youth Development Co-ordinator involve?
Trying to promote the inland waterways generally and IWA as an association to the younger generation.

Why is it important to encourage young people to develop an interest in inland waterways?
We want to foster positive attitudes towards the waterways, particularly in urban areas where the canals are often seen as an easy target for vandalism. We believe that the waterways offer great potential for young people in terms of recreation and personal development by getting involved with boating activities, work parties and restoration where possible.

What is WOW and why is it an important feature of IWA?
WOW is Wild over Waterways and the activities are designed to help children learn about waterways history and the waterways environment in a fun way.  For example, children can colour in the roses and castles pattern, put it on the paper plate, thread coloured ribbon around the edge and they have their very own “lace plate”.  The accompanying display board tells the story of why lace plates were so popular with the working boat people.

Visit the WOW web pages and discover a range of activities to use at home, youth groups and much more!

Where can WOW activities be found this year?
Many of the hire boat companies will be providing our WOW activity leaflets for families on their boats; branches will be doing activities at their lock winds and local rallies. For example, at Norbury on the Shropshire Union in May, at Chester in early June at IWA’s National Campaign Festival, at Leeds at the Waterfront Festival, hopefully at Cavalcade in Paddington Basin and other local venues.

Do you have any plans for the development of WOW in the future?
We are constantly reviewing what we do and devising new activities that can build on what we had before. Last year we had lovely “build a canal bridge” kits made (by Peter Bolt) and they were very popular at their first outing at the Watford National Festival. We are currently working on activity leaflet No 3 which is Waterway Buildings and Structures and WOW has received £800 from the Toyota Communities Fund to support the printing so that we will have be able to give them away to even more hire bases and at events.

Are you involved with any other volunteer roles or projects within IWA?
I am Secretary of Chester & Merseyside Branch and I also manage the branch web pages and Facebook page. We also do waterway talks sometimes to promote the inland waterways.

What is your proudest moment as an IWA volunteer?
We ran free WOW activities in a very poor area in Runcorn, Merseyside. A very young mother came with four little ones, from the local tower block, all looking like they needed a good wash and I thought she wouldn’t stay very long. I was wrong – three hours later she came back to the start tent to get their little prizes. The children had done all the activities – several times – and she thanked me, saying what a wonderful time they’d had. Needless to say – they went home with bags of our prizes as well – we were thrilled.

What would you say to anyone considering getting involved as a volunteer with IWA?
It’s a very good way of meeting new people and widening your knowledge about the waterways generally. Hopefully you will also feel that you are helping to make a difference – however small – which benefits everyone.


Thank you to Gillian for this interview. If Gillian's expereinces have inspired you to get involved, take a look at our many volunteer opportunities to find one that suits you.

Want to read Tom Rolt's Narrow Boat? Copies are available from IWA's online shop.

Tags: Volunteer of the Month