John Brice - Volunteer of the Month September 2016
John has been involved with IWA for over 30 years. He is a keen advocate of the waterways and his current volunteer roles include Fundraising Officer for Chiltern Branch and Waterspace Manager at Rickmansworth Canal Festival.
How and when did you first become interested in the inland waterways?
It was back in 1972 - Geoff Percy, an old school friend, lived on a converted Woolwich working boat, Halifax, at Iver on the Slough Arm. Each year he took Halifax up North on holiday and asked for my assistance to crew with him to get as far as Tring, I enjoyed the experience and crewed on several occasions.
In 1984, my sister-in-law Liz persuaded me and my family to join her family on a canal holiday. We booked a Black Prince 8 berth narrowboat on the Llangollen Canal and had a wonderful time and by now we were hooked on canals.
The following year we bought into a self-managed narrowboat ownership scheme.
When did you first become involved with IWA?
Soon after our boating holiday we found out about some evening meetings held in Amersham about canals and boats. Wishing to know more we attended these monthly meetings held by the then South Bucks Section of the West Herts IWA. I joined the IWA in 1985 and within the first year I was elected onto their committee as publicity officer and later became their Chairman. Under my term as Chairman we sought independence as a fully fledged branch, I was instrumental in setting up the new branch in 1990 that we named IWA Chiltern Branch.
You are currently the volunteer who looks after fundraising and waterways events for IWA Chiltern Branch, what does this role involve?
Yes, I have an all-encompassing title of Fundraising & Waterways Events Officer. I probably got this job because I like making money and I enjoy a good festival! The Rickmansworth Festival is the biggest event that IWA Chiltern Branch is involved in and is one of our major sources of income. Whilst our fundraising team are selling boat jumble in the Aquadrome, I will be on the towpath managing the Waterspace Team who will be mooring up and welcoming the 120 visiting boats arriving over the weekend. We also work with other IWA branches within the London Region to jointly represent IWA at the Slough Festival held at Bloom Park on the Slough Arm. A joint presentation as well as being a more coherent approach, reduces the work load for each branch.
In August I organise a Lock-Aid event at Marsworth, a useful fundraiser for the branch, but importantly an opportunity to meet some of our members on the towpath, and to recruit new members.
I also recruit and organise volunteers for work parties and festivals and hall bookings for our meetings.
What do you think makes a good waterways event?
Everyone enjoys a well-run event, so good organisation goes a long way to achieve that. For a canal festival a good balance of entertainments for all the family, interesting food stalls, a well stocked real ale bar and some sunshine make for a good day out. The benchmark for how good is a waterways event is ultimately judged by how happy visitors are when they go home.
What is the best waterways event you have attended as a volunteer or visitor?
It would be unfair to list just one favourite festival because I’ve been to so many good ones and they all had something different to offer. The ones that stand out were the 1993 IWA National on the Nene at Peterborough, it was big, something for all ages and terrific evening entertainment put on by WRG, plus a beer tent with more ales than a CAMRA festival. The Wendover festivals for many years held at Tring were consistently good, run more like a friendly country show, we volunteered and made many friends there. Then there is Rickmansworth, you could suspect me of being biased on this one, however it has a broad spectrum of family entertainment and with four stages and fifty acts with music and theatre to suit all tastes I can confidently state I have not been to any festival that puts on more entertainment. At last year’s opening ceremony Richard Parry declared Rickmansworth as the best family canal festival in the UK.
Why do you think it is important for IWA branches to fundraise?
I believe in canal restoration. Restoring our heritage is important but not the only reason; every mile of restored canal provides a linear mile of national park that provides leisure opportunities for boating, walking fishing, cycling and of course a home for our wild life, as well as bringing social and economic benefits to the community. The IWA supports more canal restoration projects than any other boating organisation; that sort of commitment requires some serious fundraising, that’s why we do it.
Do you have any top fundraising tips?
Always collect for a specific project or restoration, it will be easier to get peoples support if they know what their money will be spent on, and you will get more in the collecting bucket than just saying I’m collecting for IWA.
Have something on your stand for the kids to play with, then you will get the opportunity to talk to the mums and dads about membership etc. without too much interference from little Billy!
What is your proudest IWA moment?
Being presented with the Richard Bird medal, a proud and humbling moment being told that your colleagues actually think you are worthy of the award.
What would you say to someone considering volunteering with their local IWA branch?
Just do it, you won’t regret it. I have been volunteering for over 30 years, made lots of friends, got me into boating and seen this country from the waterside… what are you waiting for?
Find out more about volunteering with IWA or search our volunteer directory.
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