Byker Belle took to the water on Thursday – her builder Alex Finnegan tells us the story…
Today was amazing, Byker Belle squeezed through the narrow doorway and with a loud POP! she was free. A five foot wide boat escapes through a four foot wide door. How? -On her side, like a banana through a letterbox.
We had great press coverage today and my advice for press releases is to make up a dilemma. Byker Belle’s press release read “Local residents think that Byker boat will not fit through the Church doors”, not a word of a lie, one resident said he would “bring some butter because it was going to be tight.”
Second rule of press releases is – send the email at 10am, journalists will have just finished the morning news, after their break they sit down at their computer preparing tomorrow’s stories.
Third rule of press releases is – make it visually compelling. I sent a photo of the doorway but I knew Byker Belle would fit through. The participants knew Byker Belle would fit through the door (we had brought Gosforth Grace in). Even the ITV news knew the boat would fit though, yet they still asked me “what happens if the boat does not fit through? I said well, then the story is “eejit Irish shipwright builds boat too big for doorway!”.
About 50 people stood in the rain to watch the launch. Such a diverse group of folk, from local councillors to the Port of Tyne Harbour Master, many city council officers, disabilities support groups, representatives of homeless Charities, local people who had visited the project. Over 30 people had their turn on the oar.
Then there were those who built the boat, teenagers excluded from school, alcoholics and those recovering from substance abuse, they quietly took away the most from today. Pride is a powerful force, recognition and acceptance are processes for positive change. We are all just regular folk reacting to our surroundings. The smiles upon participant’s faces are the real outcome of this project, the boats are only bye-product.
I believe the St Ayles Skiff and the Coastal community rowing have a power to transform coastal communities in a way many may not have foreseen. As Ratty said “There is nothing — absolute nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
We will bring Byker Belle North to compete once we have sorted our road trailer, hopefully by September we will see you on the Tweed!
We will hope that the trailer can be found sooner and that Byker Belle will be seen at a regatta sooner than September.