This Trust had so much to report at its third Annual General Meeting at the Alexander Centre on 25 November that speakers had to keep to a strict timetable to stop the meeting over-running.
Following a heartfelt minute’s silence in memory of Arthur Percival, a full house of over one hundred members heard a brisk round-up of the past year’s work from the leaders of the Trust’s various working groups.
Tremendous progress has been made on the Purifier building, which now has a three-phase electrical system, sanitary facilities and kitchens, and houses a block maker, a dinghy maker, the Shipwright’s Hall for the apprentices, and a room for meetings and public events. Work on a new staircase and new glazing is under way. The value of the work has been recognised far beyond Faversham, with the project and its volunteers receiving a number of prestigious awards.
The building is now ready for the launch of one the Trust’s primary objectives, a training scheme for shipwrights. The audience was told that the long process of preparing course materials and modules, based on the classic yacht Mayhi which until recently could be seen in the Shipwright’s Hall, will soon be completed, and funding is in place.
Recruitment of the first trainees will begin in early 2015. Under the guidance of master shipwright Simon Grillet they will learn the skills of their trade by constructing a copy of the Mayhi, before progressing to work on other vessels. The Mayhi copies will be sold, helping to make the scheme self-funding – there are already buyers lined up for the first two.
The Purifier building is also becoming such a popular community venue that a formal booking system has had to be introduced. The past year’s events have included the Faversham Society’s Open House Scheme, the Let’s make the creek work for Faversham exhibition, the Nautical Festival, the Artists’ Open House Scheme, and most recently the Brents Community Association’s Picture the Creek exhibition which attracted nearly 450 people over one weekend.
It is also being used for Creek Learning, a six-week programme developed by the Brents Community Association, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and run in partnership with the Trust, with input from many other community groups and local businesses. The aim is to help local long-term unemployed people to develop employability, IT and life skills and to expand their horizons.
The Creek provides a valuable focal point for several aspects of the programme, including a project at the Purifier building for participants to design and build a punt for the Friends of the Westbrook to use for clearing weed on Stonebridge Pond – a great example of a joint community initiative.
Just four weeks into the first Creek Learning programme, four of the 14 participants have already been offered full time work, some are doing voluntary work and others are looking into setting up a new business.
The Trust is now reaching out to a wider audience, with public events including a Barn Dance, an evening of sea shanties, a sell-out series of ‘Tea and Talks’ during the winter and spring, which it plans to re-start in 2015, and a new project with the local secondary schools, Raising Heritage Awareness.
As a reminder of our recent maritime heritage, the AGM was brought to a lively close with an illustrated talk by Professor Hugh Perks about some of his dramatic and amusing experiences when working on Thames sailing barges in the 1950s.
After the meeting, chairman Chris Wright said: “Work is going on all the time and it’s easy to take it for granted. It’s only when you add it up like this that you realise how far we’ve come. We’ve faced up to the doubters and shown we can deliver the goods. Seeing how much we’ve done in just three years, with volunteers and virtually no public funding, it gives us great confidence in what we can achieve in the future.”