Tall ship sailing – getting out to where the magic happens
I had my first ever trip to Liverpool at the weekend to visit MAST and after a few weeks of looking forward to it, going to one of the cities that without doubt helped put the Great into Britain and continues to do so today, it was even more exciting than I hoped it would be.
I was speaking at an event for the Merseyside Adventure Sailing Trust (MAST) whose byline is ‘Creating the environment to enable young people to develop themselves.’ – I don’t think the Trust could be based in a more appropriate city which has had it’s fair share of ups and downs and setbacks – in common with so many of Great Britain’s towns and cities through the ages.
The thing to do is provide a way to help people, or cities or towns, to help themselves and redevelop a new way of doing things and a new way of seeing themselves – perhaps even as just ‘ordinary’ people and places that do ‘extra-ordinary’ things. We can all sit there whining and crying about how things are not fair, whether that is a capsize at sea, or whatever it might be, but the measure of us all is how we rise to a challenge, be that one we choose to take on or one that is inflicted on us.
To me, Liverpool encapsulates that, and I
suspect a shining example of that is the Albert Docks where MAST operates from. When it was constructed the Albert Dock was considered a state of the art docking system built almost entirely from cast iron, stone and brick it was designed to be fireproof, and on completion was the world’s first non-combustible warehouse system. Amazing.
It provided 1,290,000 square feet of warehouse space, water area of 7.75 acres, that’s around 5 ‘Anfields’, 23 million bricks and 47,000 tonnes of mortar! But the quality and size still ended in abandonment and dereliction as no matter how well built or how cutting edge something is – the world still moves on and we have to move with it, or fail.
The docks – go and visit – such a buzzing place, brought back to life
In the end the docks failed. Yet it is on failure that we can build success and after years in the doldrums, bomb damage in the war, silted up docks, and decay – the true character and spirit of Liverpool, of people, came to the fore and the creation of the Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC) in 1981 was part of a new initiative launched by the then Conservative government that earmarked the regeneration of some 800 acres (3.2 km2) of Liverpool’s south docks, by using public sector investment to create infrastructure within an area that could then in turn be used to attract private sector investment.
The MDC was not directly responsible for regeneration programmes but rather acted as an enabler, guiding the development process. Upon its formation it immediately created an initial strategy for the area placing a high priority on restoring those buildings that could be restored & demolishing the rest, restoring a water regime within the dock system (including the removal of up to 40 ft (12 m) of silt) and general environmental landscaping.
Jim Graves – visionary, ‘ordinary’ man doing extra-ordinary things
Now the place is a vibrant, thriving area combining history with the Merseyside Maritime Museum (click here) and current with shops, bars, restaurants – literally buzzing with energy and optimism and attracting in tourists from all round the world – from my brief experience, The Beatles play an unsurprisingly significant role in that as does Liverpool FC – no disrespect to their neighbours of course!
To me this is much the same process as MAST follows under the incredible leadership and vision of Jim Graves the founder and driving force bringing together a team of volunteers to do what it says on the tin – to enable young people to develop themselves. Many people are held back be self doubt and/or a belief that they cannot do more or be more than history has shown them today – and why would they? A bit like redundant docks, they were built for a purpose and that purpose has gone – how could they be anything else?
Well that is where the brilliant work of Jim and MAST comes in – they give young people the opportunity to see the world differently, to see themselves differently, as part of a crew in an amazing environment, a tall ship out on the ocean. Your past has no place there – it was what you do in the here and now – nobody is judging you and everybody is simply expecting you to be part of the crew, step up to the new challenge and ultimately walk away with new perception of yourself. – yes, we are ordinary people and it is ordinary people that do extra-ordinary things.
To me we are all ‘ordinary’ people and it is ordinary people that do extra-ordinary things – and extra-ordinary can be just as much trying to row an ocean in under 30 days or stretching ourselves in some other small way to unlock more or our potential. Jim and MAST are the enablers for that for 300 or more young people every year, that is 300 young people who can have their lives changed by a pivotal event of going out on a tall ship – and coming back as an ambassador that change, rebuilding, recovering from failure are all possible if we can see we have a choice.
Jim Davies OBE DL, Co-founder of DWF LLP and High Sheriff of Merseyside made this telling comment on Jim Graves and his work, ‘As High Sheriff of Merseyside, I am privileged to meet some extraordinary volunteers who help to make this wonderful County the inspirational place it is to live work and importantly play! MAST under Jim’s superb leadership provides an experience which has literally changed the lives of countless young people. Building on the maritime history of Liverpool, Jim and his Team have inspired thousands of ordinary young people to test themselves to achieve truly extraordinary results. I salute Jim, his team but most of all the thousands of extraordinary people who have taken part in his fabulous sail training voyages!’
Earlier in the day Jim had also run a display at the Liverpool Maritime Museum which was opened by Sir Michael Bibby Chairman of the Bibby Line Group lines.It was great to meet so many passionate and enthusiastic people making the effort to turn out and support MAST – not least the Liverpool High Sheriff Jim Davies who spoke eloquently and entertainingly about the value of volunteers and the spirit generated by them in Liverpool. It also shows the regard in which Jim and MAST are held.
It was great to meet so many passionate and enthusiastic people making the effort to turn out and support MAST – not least the Liverpool High Sheriff Jim Davies who spoke eloquently and entertainingly about the value of volunteers and the spirit generated by them in Liverpool. It also shows the regard in which Jim and MAST are held.
That is exemplified by the comment made by Nigel Kirkwood, “We all saw the inspiring presentation from Ian Rowe and his experiences of Ocean Rowing. He said: “There are only ordinary people in the world…” and went on to say “it is ordinary people that do extra-ordinary things”. Amongst thoughts of yellow buckets and blisters (those there last night will know what I mean!), I have reflected on these comments. Perhaps there is one “ordinary person” amongst us all that has done “extra-ordinary” things…Jim Graves works tirelessly for MAST and the youth of today. If I may, I would like to thank Jim for the invitation to yesterday’s celebration, and to nominate Jim as one of those “ordinary” people that has done, and indeed continues to do, “extra-ordinary” things.”
The excellent food was followed by a visit to the newly rebuilt from derelict, steam tug ‘The Danny’ – again another symbol of regeneration and growing something new from the past – she is amazing, click here to have a look at the website. It exemplifies the importance of team work with the volunteer lads acting as stewards on the evening and meeting the Chief Engineer and witnessing his passion for, I think, ‘110 year old twin reciprocating steam engines’ was brilliant! The Danny even gets its own beer brewed by The Titanic Brewery and a couple of those have come home for later sampling!
And my little part to play? Doing my Atlantic Experience talk for Jim and MAST at a dinner with some of their key supporters and volunteers to give them an insight into what it was like trying to row across the ocean; the key part being, as ever, to try and enable everyone to recognise that challenges like that are in fact what ‘normal’ life is all about – handling the hard times, celebrating the achievements and not least just finding a way to keep going if the boat capsizes!
Liverpool shows the spirit of just keeping going and breaking barriers – through good times and bad, through tragedies and celebrations – the city just keeps going and with Jim Grave’s vision plus the help and support of those in attendance so too will MAST keep doing amazing work. Crack on!
Click here to visit the MAST website.