Woodbridge Riverside Trust
Chairman’s Report November 26th 2021
The Covid Pandemic has had many bad but also some good influences on WRT and the Longshed.
During the months from March 2020 to Early August 2021 we were obliged to at best operate very infrequently if at all.
All of the projects that we facilitate and events that we had planned were put on hold during the whole of that period.
It must be noted that during the early stages of the pandemic lockdown the contributions of the Friends of the Longshed were what kept us alive and able to continue with the upkeep of this amazing facility. Thank you!
The better news however is that since late August 2021 following the lifting of most of the restrictions for Covid, the groups using our workshop facilities, that is the Ships Company, and the Coastal Rowing Club have been able to meaningfully progress their projects. To a lesser degree the Just 42 Youth group have also been able to carry out some spasmodic work. The Replica ship can be seen to have moved along quite considerably and the St Ayles Skiff is at the painting stage now and should be complete by the end of the year.
Also, during the shutdown period, we were fortunate to be awarded grant aided funds, which together with our own resources, allowed us to carry out improvements to the John Gibbins Gallery. The improvements included the installation of a sound and dust reducing glazed screen wall between the gallery and workshop areas and the enhancement of the Gallery conditions with the installation of Air-conditioning and circulated fresh air systems to give a quality environment in compliance with both NHS and World Health Organisation requirements for Covid 19. A new floor covering has also been fitted to further improve both the appearance and ambience of the area, and new black out blinds and an Emergency Evacuation chair have been installed.
My thanks to Bradley Higgs, Pat Clark and Nancy Clay for their considerable efforts in obtaining the grants and to Mike Sutton for ensuring we knew about possible Covid-related statutory grant opportunities. I would also add a special thank you to Bradley for his professionalism is steering us through a difficult year financially.
The Gallery improvements have permitted better use of the facility with a wider range of classes, exhibitions and talks taking place. In fact, even during the pandemic the Gallery was used when the County Council hired it for a Covid Testing Station for a few weeks.
At the end of June and before we were fully open again, we were able to hold a pilot of our new Schools education programme called “Follow the Ship”. Much of the early development of this programme is down to Sam, Nancy, Mike and Pat, with the help and experience of our recently appointed Education Officer, Heather Sheehan, and Joe Startin from the Ships Company. Our good friends the local Anglo-Saxon re-enactors were also involved. Three of our local primary schools took part in the pilot, and the feedback was superb. As a result, and working with the Ship’s Company, that programme is now being refined ready to offer to more schools in our catchment area and, in time, beyond. We plan to devote one week each school term to the programme.
Since the end of the lockdown, we have hosted three amazing exhibitions, by The Suffolk Craft Society, Margaret and Roger Bacon and our own Deben Discovery exhibition all of which were visited by large numbers from far and near.
There is still work to be done to finish the improvements to the Gallery to make it the perfect venue for further community projects. But we already have return bookings for the two craft exhibitions, weekly rehearsals by The Rabble Chorus, Art and writing classes by Coastal Learning, Talks and regular Woodbridge Town Council meetings, to name but a few. More talks are being planned to start in early 2022
We propose to increase the storage space to both the gallery and workshop, to purchase and fit a small stage, enhance the gallery lighting and fit a powered dropdown screen. We also hope to instal some sound proofing and air conditioning in the office facility. There is also a need for flood protection at both ends of the Longshed following inundations with two inches of water over the whole floor after severe rainstorms. Quotations have been obtained and forwarded to WTC for their action.
Our Tapestry group have been working diligently throughout the Lockdown and as you will see we now have several panels finished, framed and on display. Further panels are in production. The final number of panels will be at least 30 and will tell the story of the Longship from around 400 AD and will include elements from 17th century Woodbridge (Elizabeth 1st era) and the construction of the Replica ship, here in the Longshed, its launch and sea trials. Many thanks to the ladies for their amazing work.
Our Gift shop has been a great success through the energies of all concerned in its operation, it has some wonderful gifts, cards and items of interest and a great attraction to visitors to the Longshed. Our gratitude is extended to our shopkeepers.
We have, as you may know, our beautiful half size replica of the Sutton Hoo ship, Sae Wylfing. She is at present moored in the town harbour by the slip way but she will shortly be landed, taken into storage and covered over for the winter. Watch out for her on the 5th of December when she will be rowed from the yacht club to the Town quay by 9 ‘Santas’
One perhaps less known aspect of the Trust’s work is that we act as ‘promoter’ for off- site community events such as “Opera in the Park”, which we have supported for two years in a row now, and may well do so again.
So, we are busy.
The committee have worked extremely hard throughout the year to ensure that the Longshed is both a viable and interesting place to visit and an integral part of the community and the Waterfront. My thanks to each and every one of them for their efforts.
I must especially thank those friends and helpers who have turned out to steward during both our opening hours and during the exhibitions.
Finally; a cry for help. In order for us to further expand our activities and events and to open more days of the week during the spring and summer We desperately need more stewards and other volunteers who feel able to do the odd job, to assist those who turn out on a regular basis. We also need more committee members as associates and as trustees to give us the confidence that when the time comes for us to relinquish our duties, this wonderful community space will continue to provide facilities and enjoyment for the people of Woodbridge and the surrounding area for the remaining 32 years of our lease of the Longshed. Any help that you, a member of your family or someone that you know can give to WRT will be much appreciated.