Rick Barnes - Volunteer of the Month October 2016

Created on 02/12/2016

Rick (second from the left in the photo above) has been volunteering with IWA for nearly 20 years. He wears a number of different hats within the organisation, from WRG Finance Director to IWA Trustee. When not in important meetings, he can be found getting muddy in a lock in the Cotswolds...

How did you first become interested in inland waterways?

I have been using the inland waterways since a very young age.  Relatives had a boat and my family would plan walks to meet them, join them for day trips or the occasional overnight stay.  Then, in the early 1980’s, we borrowed the boat for a couple of weeks for a family holiday, and it was this trip that got me hooked.  We travelled around the BCN, the Stratford, the River Avon, the Severn and the Staffs & Worcestershire seeing all the old buildings, the countryside, and the manufacturing industries along the way.  On that trip I remember going past the end of the Droitwich Barge canal, seeing the derelict gates and wondering where that old canal went… and so many years later, I was pleased to find out! 

How and when did you get involved in volunteering with IWA / WRG?

I first volunteered with WRG in 1998 on… the Droitwich, working at lock 2 on the Junction Canal, right at the other end of the canal I had seen as a youngster while boating up the Severn. I had some holiday left over, and having read about WRG in the waterways press, I booked on to a week (with much trepidation), and with thanks to the many notable characters I met during that week, I came back later in the year to the mud-fest that was Salford Quays National.  A few years / Nationals later, I joined the site team of IWA Festivals at Beale Park in the incredibly hot summer of 2003, and have held a number of WRG and IWA roles ever since.  

What do you enjoy most about volunteering with IWA / WRG?

There are really a number of things… for example, the thing that attracted me to WRG in the first place – restoring a piece of our history so that it can once again be used.  Then there is the desire to help ensure that everyone has access to the waterways we have today, as well as hopefully a few more in years to come, so that we can all appreciate the mix of countryside and nature as well as the industry and architecture that the waterways pass through.  Finally, and I suppose the greatest reason… the really fantastic people that you meet both off and on the water. The waterways are a great leveller.    

You’ve recently been appointed as a trustee for IWA, what does this role entail?

To be honest – I am still finding out! 

I am hoping that it means that I can play a part, alongside all other volunteers, in making a difference for our waterways.  I hope that over the next three years (and maybe more) I can help provide the guidance and leadership to enable IWA to champion the protection and enhancement of what we have, provide sufficient challenge and support to other waterways organisations, whilst also looking to see what else can be added to the system in the future.

The role of charity trustees has been under the spotlight recently – do you think this may put some people off considering this sort of role?

You are right in suggesting that the role of Trustee has legal requirements and in recent times there have been investigations into the custom and practices employed in a small number of other charities. I personally feel that so long as we heed the combined guidance of the Charities Commission, our auditors, the team at Island House and the vast array of additional experience within the volunteers of the IWA committee structure, no individual should be concerned in this respect. From my perspective though, the most important part is that volunteers should not be put off from being involved in any aspect of the Association; whether it is with WRG on a weekend or week long canal camp, volunteering with a work party, becoming involved with a branch, region or national committee, or ultimately as a trustee.  It is one thing to be a member of a movement or an organisation, but the truly empowering part is to contribute and be involved.

As well as being a trustee, you are also on the WRG board – what motivates you to keep up the hard work involved in volunteering?

I alluded to it earlier, but it is a combination of different aspects; a love of the different environments that the waterways pass through and the differing architecture; the chance to utilise some of my career skills and knowledge for the benefit of the waterways; and finally of course the people… how else would I have met my then future wife apart from in a muddy hole under a derelict bridge on the border with North Wales??!


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