Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Trust Triad in Third Sector pact with BW

British Waterways has announced its move into the 'third sector' and piloting the craft on this very doubtful journey will be the The
Kennet and Avon Canal Trust Triad made up of of absentee Chairman, David Rees, General Manager, Mike Rodd and their 'blagging-blogger', former BW employee, Terry Kemp who between them continue to steer the Trust into ever deeper financial chaos.

Speaking from his bunker in deepest Devon,
Chaiman Rees said: "A key feature will be the drive to attract more volunteers to the canal. We can achieve this by offering new opportunities and demonstrating that it's worth getting involved because there is a real chance to make a difference".

This man has no knowledge or interest in the K and A — or canals in general and in the few months that he has been Chairman he has already overseen the abandoning of the 'volunteer model' in two of the Trust's tea rooms which they now let out to the highest bidder because they could not run them at a profit with unpaid volunteers as staff.

You have to ask the question that if the
Kennet and Avon Canal Trust cannot run a tea room at a profit — what chance is there of them running a waterway successfully? The fact is that the only volunteers they can get are those that want to play on trip boats or with the two pumping stations and they manage to succeed despite the interference of the Trust administrators in Devizes.

The new trip boat, The
Kenavon Venture, that unlike the Trust's other three boats, has to operate within interfering distance of Mike Rodd and is not attracting very many paying passengers has, in the short time they have been running the boat, already managed to overheat the engine which has made major repair work necessary.

As with other major changes at the
Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, the membership will not be consulted — and this unelected and unrepresentative Triad will make fundamental changes to the role of this Charity and the membership will be presented with a fait accompli.

Unelected — surely not! Well the fact is that none of these three are elected members of the K and A Canal Trust Council. Mike Rodd is a paid member of staff, David Rees was parachuted in to become the new Chairman without any reference to the membership and he was co-opted on to Trust Council and immediately made Chairman. He will not actually be an elected member of Trust Council until the Trust

Terry Kemp's is a very interesting case because he resigned from being a Trustee at the beginning of this year — so that he could do two months paid work on a 'volunteering strategy' for the
Kennet and Avon Canal Trust — and then — surprise, surprise he was co-opted back on to Trust Council immediately the paid work came to an end. I am reliably informed that this is not inline with the spirit of the Trust's constitution that specifically excludes Trustees from being paid for work for the Trust. But then this is not the only area where the Triad, presumably with the support of the rest of Trust Council, pay scant regard to the K and A Canal Trust contstitution ... of which more later.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The K&A Canal celebrates 200 years — but not on Devizes Wharf

The K&A Canal Trust continues in its failing ways. The impression given by Messrs. Rodd and Kemp is that the 200th Anniversary celebrations for the Canal are being led by the K&A Canal Trust. This sadly is as accurate as most information coming out of their HQ in Devizes.

The fact is, that aside from the hugely successful annual Newbury Waterfest that is run by a very small band of dedicated Newbury Branch volunteers, the K&A Canal Trust is actually offering nothing of note to the celebrations.

This glorious sunny Saturday (May 22nd) was to have been the Trust's show case event on Devizes Wharf but sadly, as is so often the case in this organisation bereft of leadership, they were unable to get enough enthusiasm from their dwindling membership and they had to cancel the event. They blamed a problem over a licence from Wiltshire Council — but it is very strange that none of the many other events along the canal have the same problems and they are able to go ahead as planned.

There will be a major celebration at Great Bedwyn on June 5th where the village will re-enact the ceremony held in 1799 when the canal was opened as far as the village.

In Widcombe, Bath, a huge family fun day takes place on June 13th. This year visitors to Widcombe Rising are being asked to come in nautical costume and there will be canal-side picnics and a floating stage.
There is no parking near the event so visitors are being encouraged to walk to the party or come by boat.

The village has created a canal history trail and there will be a treasure hunt. A street theatre project with a water theme has involved young people and they will give a promenade performance on the day.

The internationally famous Natural Theatre are based in Widcombe and are keen supporters of the Rising. They will be very much in evidence at the event and there will be wandering musicians, top local bands, a camera obscura, women’s Morris, a punt on wheels, children’s creative activities, the forty ladies of the Handbags of Harmony in full voice, Chinese, Indian and Western foods and even a miniature cinema.

The night before there is an evening musical picnic at the stunning Palladian Bridge in nearby National Trust Prior Park.

On Saturday July 17th the villagers of Bathampton and the boating community are joining together to celebrate 200 years of the K&A on Bathampton Wharf. This all day event will have loads of activities for the kids in the daytime and bands and films in the evening.

The event is being funded by the Parish Council and Bathampton residents have organised it with the help of members of the boating community.

KevThePipe is stage-managing the music event and he needs performers to get in touch soon so that they can be scheduled in. Contact him in person on 'Stanley', by email: or by phone: 07796 560476.

This promises to be the event of the year — so come on foot, by boat, on a bicycle ... or by car — but be there — you will not want to miss this event.

The organisers of these events have not allowed the K&A Canal Trust administrators to have anything at all to do with them. As a consequence they are all, undoubtedly, destined to be hugely successful.

The Trust's piss-poor organising ability is renowned — and they have shown that they could not even organise a piss-up on their new tripboat, the Kenavon Venture, that operates from Devizes Wharf, more often than not, with more crew than paying passengers!

On a recent occasion when they had a fully booked charter for a local boat club's booze and jazz cruise — the music and beer-loving boaters arrived to find that not only was there none of the special Wadworth K&A 200 celebration beer that they had been promised — but there was no beer at all on the boat because the Trust had not thought to stock the boat's bar.

Luckily the owner of the boat, who now leases it to the Trust for them to operate with volunteers, had some beer at home that was left over from when he operated the boat — and he delivered it to the boat so that the cruise could go ahead. The cruise was enjoyed by all of the jazz-loving tipplers — but no thanks to management of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Trees die needlessly as Trust Trash leaflets

The Spring issue of 'The Butty' magazine from the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust is a very interesting read. It is not often that you read a magazine that you need to 'read between the lines' to the extent that you have to in this one to actually understand what the real story is.

Anyway, as I have suggested before, all is not well at the the failing K&A Canal Trust and massive savings have had to be made for them be able to meet their huge staff costs. We are told that this is the last issue of the magazine in its present form.

A story by Charles Reiss attempting to justifying changes to the way the Trust communicate with members says, among other things, that they need to move away from 'dead tree technology'.

Very interesting - because there is a 'news in brief' headlined 'New look for Trust leaflets' in the magazine that says that the K&A Canal Trust leaflets have been redesigned and the information updated by a team from Crofton Branch.

Sadly, I am very reliably informed, that in their use of 'dead tree technology' to produce the leaflets -trees were sacrificed needlessly.

After spending many months putting together the leaflets the hapless team made such serious mistakes in information in the leaflet that 75,000 large colour glossy leaflets had to be scrapped and re-printed. Not very good use of members' subscriptions and definitely not very environmentally friendly.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Kemp's jig continues

Is there no limit to the mayhem that the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust's blagging-blogger, Terry Kemp, can cause along the length of the K&A Canal?

He has just announced that after spending countless thousands of pounds of grant money on the PACT Centre in Pewsey to provide an art gallery, meeting rooms and IT access for villagers, the Pewsey Area Community Trust, of which he is a leading light, is to sack its staff and shut up shop after only three years.

Happily for Kemp this will not leave him idle as his jig continues along the canal to Honeystreet. He is also a leading light in the Barge Inn Community Project that has just got £270,000 from the village SOS project run by the BBC and the Big Lottery Fund.

They intend to use the money to buy the lease of the pub. Heaven help this popular canalside pub - because if Kemps previous ventures are anything to go by it will not be long before that folds in chaos.

Alongside this venture he has his business 'Facilitating People' ( which he runs with former BW cronies. Strangely if you want to volunteer with Kennet and Avon Canal Trust you have to email "" and not the Trust's offices in Devizes.

Could it be that Mr Kemp sees himself as the volunteering supremo in the BW/K&A Trust alliance that he, General Manager, Mike Rodd and absentee Chairman, David Rees are trying to engineer? I think perhaps he does and I wonder what Rees and Rodd are hoping is in it for them.

K&A Canal Trust - not very enterprising

K&A Canal Trust Enterprise - a sad, sad journey into financial ruin

Although the K&A Canal Trust are still advertising on their website for volunteers for their cafes - the truth is that they do not need volunteers for the cafes because they have already let their cafes to commercial operators.

So incompetent is "Enterprise Ltd" - the trading arm of the K&A Canal Trust - that they cannot make a profit with a staff of unpaid volunteers. So they have let the cafes to commercial operators - who they describe as commercial partners. One can only assume they have done this to 'get round' restrictive lease agreements that preclude sub-letting.

So both the Trust Cafe on Newbury Wharf and the Bradford on Avon Wharf Cafe are being run by commercial firms who have no connection with the K&A Canal Trust and the K&A Canal Trust is now planning to allow a commercial business to open up a cafe in the upstairs rooms of the K&A Canal Trust office building on the Wharf in Devizes.

This is particularly interesting because the K&A Canal Trust does not, at the moment, have a lease agreement on the building.

They did, in the past, have an agreement with the now departed Kennet District Council (who themselves sub-let the premises from WCC) for them to be used for 'recreational and allied' purposes).

There is no record of the K&A Canal Trust negotiating a new lease agreement with Wiltshire Council - so one would have to assume that the same restrictions exist on use of the premises — and they will continue until Wiltshire Council and the K&A Cannel Trust negotiate a new lease agreement. Any plans to sublet space in the building would have to form part of a new lease agreement for the building - an agreement that yhey do no have at the moment.

There a question mark over the validity of the agreements that the K&A Canal Trust have entered into at BOA Wharf and Newbury Wharf with commercial operators As far is BOA is concerned it it believed that BW are the landlords and - as we are rapidly moving to the situation where BW and the K&A Canal Trust are one and the same - it probably does not matter - even if the existing agreement precludes sub-letting.

As far as Newbury is concerned the landlord is probably West Berks Council - but it could possibly be Newbury Town Council - anyway it is highly unlikely that it was the intention of the council that they would want to let the building at a peppercorn rent for charitable use - for that charity to then let it out to the highest bidder to a commercial operator.

There is much more to this sorry saga - of which - more later...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Canal Trust cash crisis

The latest issue of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust magazine, The Butty, is now on the news stands and it paints a desperately sorry picture of its Council's ability to organise itself and the Trust's finances.

The magazine reports that before Christmas they sacked the office manager in a desperate attempt to balance the books and they set up a committee who's sole aim it would seem was to get rid of The Butty (a magazine enjoyed and respected by users of the canal) to further this desperate quest to save money.

A committee was formed chaired by unelected Trustee, retired hack, Charles Reiss, diminutive general manager, Mike Rodd a paid member of staff and Terry Kemp, who's risible ramblings on his Vodafone blog are bemusing all who can be bothered to read it.

This terrible trio produced a report that managed to insult and alienate Trust members and Reiss justified their refusal to consult with Trust members by saying that the committee had decided what they were going to do and so any consultation with members would have been as he said, 'at best a pretence'.

So if you are a member of the K and A Canal Trust take note - the people on your Trust Council don't actually care what you think. They want your money but they don't want your opinion. Do not make the mistake of thinking that there is even the 'pretence' of democracy in the K&A Canal Trust.

Not many members of the K&A Canal Trust know that they now have a new chairman. Not before time some will say. But what a very, very strange choice they have made for this vital position.

After ousting the last chairman, Brian Poulton, a couple of years ago with a vote of no confidence they were unable to find a replacement from within their own ranks. An extremely well 'spun' story in the national press said that it was a deliberate decision to run the Trust without a Chairman but it seems clear that they were unable to find someone from within their own ranks who was able to take over the job - how sad is that?

After looking around for two years or so they finally found someone to take on the role — they parachuted in David Rees. I am reliably informed that he lives in Devon and he has absolutely no interest in the K&A Canal or any other canal for that matter.

So you would have to ask what his motivation is in taking on the Chairmanship of the K&A Canal Trust and why the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust Council is so desperate to get someone to take on the job with such a background.

I am looking into this man's background and connections and I will let you know what I find out. It all seems very odd.

Trust in the future?

The Kennet and Avon Canal is in a desperate state and the organisation that saved it from closure and dereliction and worked to restore it is now shaming the work done by those campaigners who saved the canal. The K&A Canal Trust should probably be given a decent burial - with the hope that a more principled organization can then be formed that is capable of looking after the interests of the users of the K&A Canal.