Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Helpers needed by boat festival

MORE volunteers are needed to ensure this year’s Thames Traditional Boat Festival is a success.

Organisers of the two-day summer event, which takes place on Fawley Meadows in Henley, say they are struggling with the demands of setting up and staffing it.

They need extra hands to install and signpost about 200 moorings and pontoons along the River Thames, help lay water piping for stalls and mark out the boundary of the festival site off Marlow Road and its camping area.

They also need people who can update and maintain the festival’s website, including its online ticket sales facility or help with marketing, running its social media accounts and attracting new sponsors.

During the event, which will run from Friday to Sunday, July 14 to 16, marshals are required to guide visitors to parking spaces, give directions around the grounds and check that guests are wearing wristbands to show they have paid.

The festival, originally called the Thames Traditional Boat Rally, was cancelled in 2014 after several committee members resigned and the site was flooded. It was successfully relaunched under a new name the following year.

But Robin Ford, who led the revival and played a key role in keeping it going, died suddenly earlier this month while many of his colleagues are scaling back their commitments due to age.

Lady McAlpine, of Fawley Hill, who joined the committee at Mr Ford’s request two years ago, said: “We only get access to the site on the Monday, which gives us four-and-a-half days to get everything ready. It’s an awful lot to do in a very short space of time.

“The person who sets up the moorings is 76 and only has one offer of help when it’s really a job for several people. He said last year would be his final year and although he has agreed to do it again, he can’t keep going indefinitely.

“It’s good to have people who know what they’re doing but many of our helpers are, quite frankly, getting old and we need to train some younger replacements. Throughout the festival, we will need enough volunteers so that we can frequently rotate roles as doing the same task for more than a few hours can become incredibly boring.

“We are helped by many young people, including the Henley Sea Cadets. but we also need volunteers who can be a little more authoritative. It rarely happens but people sometimes get in without paying and need to be told that it’s not allowed.

“My main concern is getting our costs down because they were huge last year and I’m sure we could reduce them through sponsorship. We don’t need money as much as services in kind, which reduces our outgoings.”

This year, it is hoped that Blue Bird K3, Sir Malcolm Campbell’s record-breaking speedboat, will return. There are also plans to increase the number of market stalls and children’s activities.

Lady McAlpine said: “This has been running for more than three decades but it wasn’t always at the heart of Henley. As a rally it felt more like a club whereas we’ve turned it into a community event for the whole family.

“The festival has been very successful since the relaunch and it would be a shame if it stalled because of a shortage of help.”

Anyone who can volunteer should call (01491) 574873 or email events@fawleyhill.com

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