Enfield Arts

Hinterland Project

We had a great time last week supporting the Canal and River Trust (CRT) Arts project "Hinterlands" in Enfield. Local artist Emma Gahfur worked with local primary school children to create an amazing open air gallery on the banks of the river Lea near Rommey Marsh nature reserve.

Around 90 children participated creating drawings and environmental sculptures in response to the river and landscape. We were able to provide a floating studio and refreshments for the hard working team.

The children loved coming on the boat. For many it was the first time they had seen inside a canal boat or had met people who live and work on the rivers and canals. Fiodra is featured in many of their artworks.

Hinterlands is part of a wider project aiming to "unlock the waterways’ potential as a ‘canvas’ for local activities and encourage arts partners to see them as an important place for new commissions, outreach and audience development"

Hackney Wick’s adventures in Plastic

Hackney Wick’s adventures in Plastic

Barge Fiodra spent the last few days of May at Sweetwater – a mooring for trading boats at Hackney Wick on the River Lea, right next to the Olympic Park  A great place for presenting our events on the theme of Plastic.

Local historian Carolyn Clark kicked off this theme with a fascinating talk entitled Plastic – The First 100 Years. She illustrated the talk with rare and delightful items from her collection of early plastics. We learned that industrial Hackney played a major role in the development of early plastics from the 1860s.

What particularly struck me was the urgency at that time to find replacements for ivory and tortoiseshell – elephants were being killed in their thousands simply to make billiard balls. One early plastics company, the producers of Xylonite, even featured a joyful elephant and tortoise in their branding!

Early plastic products were seen as desirable and durable commodities; a real effort was made to create beautiful, hardwearing items that people would treasure and even show off as the height of fashion. This is a long way from some of the ubiquitous, flimsy, single-use plastics we see today.

As we are now only too well aware, many of today’s plastic products end up in our waterways and oceans contaminating the environment and endangering wildlife.

Wanting to take some local action against plastic pollution, we were able to get some of the more enthusiastic members of our audience out on the river Lea picking up plastic litter, with the help of Moo Canoes and the Milk Float Café. Moo do regular free floating litter picks in collaboration with the Lower Regents Coalition, so do get along there if you want to do your bit.

Our plastic-themed events culminated in a screening of Albatross, a deeply moving film by American environmental artist and photographer Chris Jordan. For many years Chris has been documenting the impact of plastic waste on the albatross population of Midway Island in the north Pacific.

The resulting film is an extraordinarily powerful and meditative exploration of the lives of these beautiful birds, and the devastation wreaked on them by the hard plastic the chicks ingest. The film is being screened at the United Nations on 8 June, World Oceans Day, after which it will be made available as a free public artwork.

Moira Jenkins - First Mate, Barge Fiodra

Mindfulness of Boating

This article was published in the Canal and River Trust Boaters' Update 18 May 2018

Comments and feedback

I would be delighted to receive any comments you may have about this post or requests for further information about Mindfulness. You can email me on bob@fiodra.co.uk

Mindfulness of Boating

"With such a literal title this article doesn’t need much introduction. Boater Bob Chase, an experienced meditation teacher with over 25 years of personal practice, explains why boaters can benefit from mindfulness" Damian Kemp CRT

“Live the dream! Join the jolly boaters on the Cut.

The promise that owning a boat will free you from life’s worries is a potent one. It’s a message that suits boaters, boating businesses and organisations alike. We are all invested in this message to different degrees.

“Suggestions that it might, sometimes, be less than wonderful don’t get much air time and can be uncomfortable.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate the boating life; after all, I have lived on three boats spanning thirty years. My own experience is that, whilst it has its compensating joys, many cares followed me onto the boat and were added to by new ones.

“The phrase that came to resonate with me was “Wherever you go – there you are”. It neatly summed up for me the dilemma of seeking solutions outside of ourselves for internal issues. It comes from a book of the same name by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Jon is a scientist, a meditator and one of the founders of the Mindfulness movement.

“Stepping aboard a boat is often wonderful but even on an idyllic day can’t prevent a less than idyllic frame of mind popping up. There is so much rubbish! And why didn’t that boat close the gates behind them? GRRR! At a deeper level our anxieties, troubles and worries can also follow us, refusing to stay on shore.

“Boat living is also a compromise solution for many people. After separating from my partner my return to boating life was driven by finances as much as a love of the Cut. It has been tough at times and I know I am not the only one to experience this.

“Mindfulness has become a way of looking after myself, during both good and difficult times on the Cut. I learned meditation years ago and now teach Mindfulness on my boat. Mindfulness of this and that appears almost everywhere these days. I would say look beyond the hype and talk to someone who practises Mindfulness. Find out what they think.

“Acknowledging this gap between how we want the world to be and reality is central to Mindfulness. Focussing on the present moment can help us notice this gap and our reactions to it. The teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says “When you drink tea - just drink tea”. That is, to intentionally focus on what you are doing and your present moment experience without judging it. Easy, huh?

“So for us boaters we can start by: just steering the boat when we steer; just lifting the paddle, when we lift a paddle and Oh! when someone takes your mooring space, smile at them and see how it feels.”

Bob Chase May 2018


Please feel free to email me your comments. I will add them to this post: bob@fiodra.co.uk

Find out more

The Mental Health Foundation is a good independent source of information on Mindfulness and Mental Health. They have a clear explanation, a list of teachers and an online course that may be of interest to cruising boaters.

Finnish Tales on Fiodra

Sarah Liisa Wilkinson

Sarah in full flow with her story "The Girl, the Snake Witch, and the Grinning Castle"

‘Sarah Liisa is one of the most exciting new storytellers on the scene. She has an extraordinary ability to craft language, using imagery, rhythm and rhyme to conjure vivid landscapes and compelling characters.’

Cathleen McCarron, Royal Shakespeare Company

More storytelling with Alys Torrance on Friday 4th May 

King’s Cross, here we come!

We are moored up in Alperton at the moment getting ready to bring Fiodra down to King’s Cross over the weekend. The weather, amazingly, looks fine for the trip. We hope it stays fine for our “residency”.

We have some great new events in our programme. I have always wanted to host storytelling on the boat and now we have two impressive storytellers with shows for adults.

Alys Torrance will be presenting her show “The Rising Cost of Cabbage”. A reworking of the ancient  Rapunzal story.  Come and let your hair down listening to an old tale with a sharp edge (and musical bottles).

Sarah Liisa Wilkinson is an English/Finnish story teller with a Finnish story to tell “The Girl, the Snake Witch, and the Grinning Castle”

We have Cinema too. You can vote for a film on one night or come along to the popular Wes Anderson movie: The Life Aquatic.

SPECIAL for Kings Cross will be daily screenings of two films about the Regent’s Canal, made almost 100 years apart. Barging Through London (1924) and The Cut, a film poem made in the spring of this year. Along with a short talk on the history of the Regent’s Canal we hope this will prove popular with visitors to the Kings’s Cross area.

Hope you can come and say hello

Bob and Moira









Canal Laureate on Fiodra

We were so happy to welcome Canal Laureate Nancy Campbell on board this week for an evening of poetry, and the première of The Cut filmpoem. The Cut is a collaboration between Nancy and the Canadian artist Pierre Tremblay made along the Regents Canal.

This was all rounded off with some jolly audience participation, as we made sentences around canal-boating terms such as ‘tip cat’, ‘tumblehome’, ‘crumb drawer’ and ‘starvationers’. Keep an eye and ear open for Nancy in the coming year. We are looking forward to some more watery words.

Floating Yoga!

Our first yoga class on Fiodra today. Freezing outside but snug inside, warmed by the wood stove. Frankie took us through an enlivening sequence of postures with a mindful focus on the body and breath. Something I really needed after such a busy couple of weeks in Merchant Square.

Much love to Frankie and all the floating yogis! I hope you enjoyed the end of session popcorn? Maybe that’s why we all want to do it again? BobX

Derek Pratt, photographer and author, pops-in

I have seen and admired Derek’s work in many magazines and books over the years. I didn’t expect him to turn up for a gander at FIODRA and a chat last week. What a lovely chap and what a delightful chat.

Derek is a photographic legend on the cut. He began photographing the canals and rivers in the early 1960s. He is the author of nine books on various aspects of the waterways and co-author with waterway historian Anthony Burton on another eight books. He helped launch a new monthly waterways magazine Canal Boat in June 1996 was their main features writer and photographer.

For those of you who don’t know his work, take a look at his awesome website/photo library




Irrepressible Woman

Kate Saffin in mid flow on International Women’s Day. Bringing to life remarkable women of the waterways and their stories. Look out for her new tour this spring.