Many of our readers will know of the wonderful Irish heritage walking tours that Greg Quiery has written and run (see our event listings for three this Festival). Many more of you will have seen the incredible work that Laurence Westgaph has been doing with the Black Slavery Tours (search ‘Laurence Westgaph’ on Eventbrite.co.uk). Each offers an incredible route in to learning about Liverpool’s relationship with migrant communities, tethered to the land. So, what about tours involving the method centuries of migrants arrived in Liverpool? By water. That’s precisely what we’re working on with The Pride of Sefton, a 60-foot widebeam canal boat.
A beautiful boat
A leisure trip aboard The Pride of Sefton will see you travel the hidden waterways of Liverpool. Taking in the beautiful countryside and urban landscapes between Stanley Dock (at the rear of the Titanic Hotel) and Brunswick Docks, sailors savour the breath-taking sights of the majestic Three Graces and the Royal Albert Dock.
Operating primarily from Liverpool’s Stanley Dock, our operation is unique in so far as we are not ‘a charity that operates a boat’, but ‘a boat that is a charity’. From our mooring, we provide trips for private hire customers and concessionary trips for charitable community organisations. All funds raised from the private hires is invested un the upkeep of the boat and funding charity and community group trips. The boat is skippered and crewed by volunteers who have all undertaken training offered via the National Community Boats Association.
The Pride of Sefton was built in Liverpool by Aintree Boats. She’s carried some distinguished guests following her launch in 2010; namely Her Majesty the Queen. Along with the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles, they all travelled aboard during the Queen’s jubilee year (2012), the first time all three senior royals had travelled together on a single vessel.
The Sovini Group (which provides quality construction, property and facilities services to the public, not-for-profit and private sectors) formed a charitable arm to save The Pride of Sefton from hard times in 2016. Whilst The Sovini Group do not provide the boat with direct financial support, they are responsible for a huge volume of ‘backroom’ support in areas such as health and safety, compliance, financial oversight, administration and public relations.
Our ambitions are to preserve and create awareness of this cultural tradition and to share our waterways’ heritage, whilst providing maximum benefit to marginalised, disadvantaged or excluded communities. We offer free excursions across the Liverpool Waterways, to charitable organisations and groups, ensuring those who may may benefit most from this community asset get to experience our culturally unique service. The team also train groups to become part of our volunteer team, helping to improve prospects and promote inclusion for people with diverse lived-experiences.
We continually reach out to disadvantaged members of society, providing diversionary activities for young people and helping tackle loneliness amongst older generations. The problems of loneliness and lack of social interaction for older generations are an increasing concern. Social events, such as excursions on The Pride of Sefton, can improve mental and emotional wellbeing, lower depression and decrease anxiety.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we utilised the HM Government’s Cultural Recovery Funding to diversify and develop our plans for long-term recovery. This allowed us to implement a programme of digital inclusion using dance, poetry and film and create workshops and educational packages, for Merseyside’s school children about the history of Liverpool’s canals and waterways. Additionally, we created a Black Lives Matter agenda to uncover and recognise the history of the slave trade in Liverpool. We’ve undergone training to expand our team, capacity and ability, developing a comprehensive funding strategy to help us become more viable and sustainable in the long term.
This year we will be operating jam-packed historical tours across the Liverpool Docklands, educating passengers about the roots of our city. During the tours we’ll share how the canal system works, providing information on ‘Leggers’ (running canals through tunnels) and the dangers of child exploitation. The tour will also teach passengers about the slave trade and the tobacco, cotton and sugar industries, amongst others, highlighting Liverpool’s rich history and the importance of the industry, shipping and distribution across the canals.
The tour, meandering across the beautiful Liverpool Docks and past landmark architecture -such as the Liver Building and Tobacco Warehouse- will also describe how Liverpool was once one of the biggest ports in the world and one of the greatest global influences.
We will focus on Liverpool’s maritime heritage and the development of the city and culture, ending with a visit to National Museums of Liverpool’s Slavery Museum at the Royal Albert Dock and/or Museum of Liverpool, where guests can discover more about our heritage and culture.
As we develop, we will share information on An Gorta Mór (the Great Famine) and how it impacted the city of Liverpool. When the Irish Famine began, an estimated 1.3-1.5 million people crossed the Irish Sea in ‘coffin ships’ headed for Liverpool. Most of the seven-and-a-half miles of Liverpool’s docks were dug by Irish immigrants. Known as Navvies. they were famed for digging out and building hundreds of miles of canals and railways across England; without them we wouldn’t have our famous Royal Albert Docks.
Tours will compliment a commercial programme of pre-booked trips from groups and parties, outside of schools, which will contribute to the offer of this unique service. The Pride of Sefton is available to take out all year round and our amazing team of skippers and crew are on hand, ready to take you on a tour through Liverpool’s hidden waterways.
The Pride of Sefton will be a venue for a Mersey Mash Mixer and will host limiyed tours on our Family Day. For more on this, click here.