London Boaters was set up in 2008 as a means of keeping CCing boaters in touch with each other. The initial idea was pretty much a monthly night in a pub, catching up, drinking and discussing boat stuff or any other old bollocks.
The first Pyrate Regatta took place in August 2009 on the marshes behind Edmonton Ikea but afterwards the monthly meetings kind of dropped off. A sense of ‘job done’? Hangovers? Winter? Who knows.
In 2010 we had a go at recapturing the momentum. Day-long workshops were organised on topics such as 12v electrics, diesel engine maintenance, basic carpentry, etc. Again though, winter came round and everyone went into hibernation.
In the Spring of 2011, British Waterways released their Mooring Proposal for the Lee and Stort which, if implemented, would have driven most of us off the canals. London Boaters organised a meeting attended by around 130 boaters.
During the 12 week public consultation on the plans, small groups of boaters worked on research, strategy and media and legal issues. During this period London Boaters formalised a bit. Suddenly we were making decisions that had the potential to impact on everyone. It was agreed to make decisions based on consensus and the following mission statement and membership was defined.
“London Boaters act collectively to protect the homes and way of life of the people who live on London’s waterways. We reach out to all those committed to a sustainable future for our canals and rivers.”
“Membership is open to boaters who live on London’s waterways who wish to have a collective voice in support of the aims set out in our mission statement.”
Despite this statement no formal membership has ever been established.
As a result of the efforts of boaters in London and on the Upper Lee, BW withdrew their proposals in August 2011 and said that they would work with boaters to look at developing new moorings and improving facilities.
In January 2012 London Boaters agreed to work with Locality, a national network which supports community led organisations. BW are paying for Locality to support London Boaters to consider what it wants to do in the future and how it wants to organise itself. Locality have also employed two community organisers to work with London Boaters to listen more widely to the concerns of boaters who may not be on the email list or have any interest in meetings.
In the meantime groups of people are continuing to work on different projects such as setting up a credit union for boaters, improving waste and recycling facilities and looking for sites to develop new community managed moorings.
Locality have also supported boaters and other local community groups to form a new organisation to take on the man-agement of the Waterside Centre at Stonebridge.
So that’s a very quick gallop through where we’ve come from and what we’ve done. There are as many different views of what London Boaters should do as there are boaters; campaign against CRT, run practical workshops, have parties, run moorings, improve the canal etc. In fact there is no formal structure or membership and anyone can pretty much do what they want provided the they can find others who want to do it too.
There are also many different views about whether we should have a membership and more structure and accountability or not. If you’ve got an opinion on that or something you want to see happen, join the email list or come to a meeting and get stuck in. London Boaters is open to all boaters who live in London, whether on the tow-path or on a mooring.
You can join the London Boaters mailing list by sending a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org