Yesterday we went to Napton for the AGM of the Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club (as was). Sarah E kindly picked us up from Birmingham New Street and we drove there with her. There was a lot of meeting, and not enough socialising, but there were lots of important things to be discussed. We heard from two of the new Canals and Rivers Trust trustees and they answered questions posed to them by members. Most controversially, there were changes to the constitution that needed to be voted on.
The club, founded in 1966, was originally the Narrrow Boat Owners Club, because back then, all the narrow boats were what we now term 'historic'. Some time later (in 1989 in fact) it became the Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club. The club is "dedicated to preserving the working heritage of our canal system, from the boats themselves to details of the waterways on which they travel". Last year, we joined the club. As we don't own a historic narrow boat, we would not have been allowed to join in the past, but now all those who support the aims of the club are allowed to be members. Continuing this trajectory of inclusivity, the committee proposed changing the name to the Historic Narrow Boat Club, in recognition of the fact that many members are not fortunate enough to be historic boat owners. This also serves to project a more positive image of the club - especially important if it is to have an impact in the newly formed Canals and Rivers Trust. (Historic boats, with their greater depth and width provide a vital first warning system about pinch points and shallow areas on the waterways)
The new name was voted in successfully, but there was a wider issue which concerned some - if non owners were to take on the majority of committee positions, what then? There were impassioned speeches from both camps, but in the end the motion to fix the proportion of owners in the committee at no less than 75% was overturned. We were glad to see this, not least because some of the current dedicated committee members are not owners and would have to leave! It also represents an understanding of the fact that you do not need to own a historic narrow boat to be passionate about them! There are those who part-own or just spend as much time as possible getting involved (like us!) and those who work with these boats but simply can't afford to buy one of their own.
The remote location (with regard to public transport) of the event meant that we had to leave earlier than we would have like in order to get home at a reasonable time and the length of the negotiations meant that there was less socialising than in some years, but it was good to be there and to represent the young working boat enthusiasts.
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