Lynda Payton - Volunteer of the Month December 2014

Created on 05/12/2014

Lynda Payton is the Publicity Officer for IWA Northampton Branch and is currently involved in the organisation of the Branch’s Festival of Water, planned for 2015. Her interest in waterways began at school when she was tasked with the project of disappearing London. She recorded what remained of the Surrey Canal, which sadly has now disappeared but is pleased to see that her feelings as a schoolchild that all the canals would follow suit did not come to fruition. This early curiosity led to a life of boating and later an involvement with IWA and many other groups as a waterway volunteer. Read on to see how inspiration early in life has resulted in her now thoroughly enjoying volunteering.

When and how did you first become interested in inland waterways?

A school photography project in the 60s. Armed with a camera and rolls of black and white 35mm film, we were despatched to record disappearing London. There was a lot of post-war re-building going on at the time.

My uncle ran a pub opposite a wharf and canal basin in the Old Kent Road that was about to be built over. I spent a happy summer snapping away and cycling the route of what remained of the Surrey Canal between Peckham and Camberwell. Some of it was still in water then. It’s all gone now. Wish I could find those rolls of film…

Why do you think our waterways are so important?
Our navigable waterways represent amazing feats of engineering that spawned an industrial revolution, drove economic growth in the 1800s and saw the emergence of a closed community of working boat families with their own colourful form of folk art unique to Britain that survives and thrives as boat decoration today. As such, our waterways are a national treasure and heritage asset to be enjoyed, nurtured and protected, and they continue to be an important generator of prosperity. Back in the 60s I was saddened because I didn’t think they had a future. I’m so pleased I was wrong.

In your current volunteer role on IWA Northampton Branch’s committee you are in charge of publicity, what does this generally involve?
Where do I start? Anything from promoting the waterways in our Branch area, publicising Branch events, talks and meetings, creating posters and flyers, writing press releases, liaising with local tourism bodies and LEPs, giving or arranging radio and TV interviews, updating our Branch web pages, to maintaining our Facebook page and putting out the occasional Tweet. Social media is an important means of communication these days and I reluctantly had to get to grips with it. It’s all about getting the message across and ensuring IWA gets positive coverage in the media really.

In August 2015, IWA Northampton Branch is hosting the Festival of Water. This must require extra work on top of what Branch volunteers already get up to. Has the planning already started and if so what have you been doing as part of this?
The idea of holding a festival to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the building of the Northampton Arm was mooted back in 2013 and we had our first exploratory meeting with the IWA Events Team a year ago. Branch volunteers and IWA Event Committee members have “buddied” up to tackle different roles, combining experience with local knowledge. Not surprisingly, I’m working alongside Gemma Bolton at HO on publicity.

I’m not quite sure how it happened but I’m also working with Ian Bliss, EA Anglian Region to explore possible sources of grant funding for the event. I guess I should know better. If you suggest an action at a meeting - you get the job!

Why are events like the Festival of Water important from a publicity point of view?
Events attract visitors to and encourage wider community engagement with our wonderful waterways, as well as promoting our waterside destinations. They are an opportunity for local and national organisations such as canal restoration groups, canoe clubs, other water based activity groups and IWA to promote what they do. Hopefully, as a result more people will want to learn about our rich waterway heritage, walk or cycle along our canals and rivers, go fishing, get involved as a volunteer or even get afloat.
Events are also key to recruitment of new members and they can be important income generators contributing valued funds towards IWA supported restoration projects.

Would these events happen without volunteers?
Probably not in quite the same way. Volunteers bring enthusiasm, a wide range of skills, resourcefulness, commitment, fresh ideas and an ability to make things happen against all odds, often on a shoestring or a very challenging budget. They exude energy and passion for what they do and I’m glad to say it can be infectious. Which is just as well really, as IWA can do with as many volunteers as it can get.

You are obviously busy and, like many IWA committee members, volunteer with a number of waterway trust and societies. What keeps you interested in volunteering roles linked to the waterways?
I’m not sure I have an answer. I didn’t join IWA until the late 1990s although I’ve been boating since 1974. I’m a relative newcomer compared with some, and all I can say is, the novelty hasn’t worn off yet. I’ve met and made some very good friends on the waterways and learned lots of new skills as a result. As long as volunteers can make a positive contribution to the well-being of our waterway network and ensure they continue to be there for future generations to enjoy, I’d like to be involved.

What was your proudest volunteering moment for IWA?
Sharing a megaphone on Butcher’s Bridge with Sonia Rolt at the Save Our Waterways Rally at Braunston in 2007 protesting against government funding cuts to the waterways. Sonia was inspirational, campaigning even then, well into her late 80s. It is a privilege to have known her.

What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering for IWA?
Stop thinking about it and do it. It’s very rewarding and fun. You’ll meet lots of new friends, learn new skills and get involved in activities you’d never thought of doing before.


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

Tags: Volunteer of the Month