It begins to get very strange 6 days in and maybe in the 70 mile mark hot at dawn and with not much sleep. Yesterdays networking and sounds of sense making leave a feeling of achievement and purpose understood. We may have got the creative industries onto the agenda in this part of the world by our actions and interventions. Again its the effort made that seems to connect.
Sitting in the river front pub bed and breakfast chewing toast and reflecting on the qualities of fried tomatoes I see the project manager walking the quay. The project manager looks into the window and quickly looked away, I am sure she caught my eye but my wave was blanked. She has already asked me by email to amend the day’s story I wrote yesterday to protect her. I have tweaked it but the issue remains that key stakeholders missed the chance to witness an exemplary bit of creative connecting schools, communities and terrain yesterday. Why important people missed the events with the school children at Hullbridge is a question to answer. I suspect the project manager’s failure to grasp the big story or at least to undertake the strategic and day to day management/logistics work needed to deliver it, is at the root of the problems we keep hitting.
After the failure to sort arrangements getting the children to the riverside on Tuesday, today was the last chance for the two schools to communicate visually across the river from North to South Fambridge. This time the logistics and risk assessments seem to have been resolved and we were looking forward to another ghost crossing event. The public element for this one has completely evaporated with no advance preparation at all, we promote it is as we walk along.
After the silent altercation with the project manager I found the others at breakfast and we walked out into the sun and up the high street to the converted station, opening today as artists studios. The trains still run and the rail company community team were to walk with us. So we did, all flags flying, well they would have been if we had enough flag bearers…a further issue around the failure to grasp the practicalities of the story we are telling. It needed to translate into a flag bearer for each community flag. The great and the good of Burnham are well behind this, we seem to run into the Mayor at every occasion. Ali and Mike met him there for the opening of the studios.
Our walk began skirting the marina and a visit to the good ship adrift on land, the Flaneur, and on and out to the river defences. I remembered the recce walks when we talked of samphire and fennel, both growing clean and translucent green along our way. A calm walk: I drifted feeling the wind, hearing the wind in the silk I was carrying. Power in the air, a force to lift and bend me, grass seed smattering my boots again and snickering at my shins. We walked until the North Fambridge boat house came into sight, passing old Creeksea…such a Dickensian name…and the north side of the ghost crossing there. A restored Thames barge moored and a Torquay dredger pulling up shellfish from the mud.
We carried the code and The Box, inspiring us with the thoughts and words of the Hullbridge school children.
After some phone calls to tee things up we walked on with all flags flying again, Helen and children arriving from the North, Cold Norton, and at last we saw Stuart and his Ashingdon school group mustering on the top of the river wall. The code was handed over and the community flag presented. Not much of an opportunity to tell the story it all represented. A stage management issue for the future and definitely part of the failure to articulate the wider narrative. The Cold Norton children strangely kettled in a space marked out by carpet tiles some distance from the quay side, armed with flags, binoculars and clip boards. Stuart signalled the start with a klaxon and slowly wonderful order emerged from the chaos. Real learning was taking place as the children deciphered the letters and the messages using the code we had brought.
An old couple with a young one walked past onto the jetty, wondered what was going on and the man remembered as did the Mayor yesterday of the rowing boat ferry from North to South. The South Fambridge jetty is long gone.
The exchange continued intensively with children on our side clearly on task and working at it. The frustration of misunderstanding passed and the event wrapped up with sounds of understanding across the river. Big shouts, waves and cheers as the two groups of children greeted and moved away from the water separating them.
We walked up the lane now with 7 flags to the Ferry Boat Inn. The threatened thunderstorms have held off and a cool wind blows from the west, lifting the leaves. Beginning to feel the end of the walk approaching. The Box was right this morning about avoiding big holes.