“An exhibition of model boats,” they said, “in St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Amble.”
“Ok,” I said, “I’ll drop in and take a look.”
I had no idea what to expect. I was pretty confident that it would amount to more than a few bits of balsa wood and some Airfix kits, a good way to spend part of a bank holiday. You can say that again. Nothing could have prepared me for the astonishing display of skill, loving care, attention to detail and fascinating variety of craft, beautifully made, compellingly arranged and hugely fascinating, even to a non-nautical person like myself.
My son-in-law, who most definitely is a boat enthusiast and professional boat-builder, could hardly be torn away.
From a full-size coble built by a local fisherman for his grandson to a minute specimen, over 100 years old and powered by a primitive engine (called a ‘pop-pop boat’ apparently), all of local traditional boat-building was there.
And so were models of Royal Naval fighting ships in amazing and accurate representation, historic craft and ships in bottles, not forgetting a ship in a light-bulb from the Coquet Island Lighthouse.
I went round it all twice, slowly, and even so I wish it were still there so that I could go round again. I learned that there were more varieties of craft, ancient and modern, than I could have possibly imagined. And more enthusiasts than I had realised.
A number of those enthusiasts were there throughout the exhibition, willing to share their knowledge and background with eager enquirers. Their presence only enhanced the already remarkable atmosphere of this exhibition.
Amble is a town whose whole story revolves around boats, whether for recreation, fishing or life-saving. The presence of boat yards and the history of the place both put boats and their design and usage right at the heart of the community. The thing about this exhibition was that you could feel that heart beating.
The church itself offered a warm, welcoming ambience, and clearly people felt at ease there, whether accustomed to the place or not.
There must have been hard, committed work to collate and construct it all, and thanks are due to all the volunteers who exhibited and built the exhibition.
Lots of Amble people were dropping in to see their own or their friends’ or families’ contributions. Visitors, too, enjoyed the spectacle, as well as the extremely moreish refreshments.
And here’s another thing. In a neat twist of creative logic, this essentially community-based event was a means of profiling the planned developments of the church, which will see toilets and a kitchen/servery installed so that more celebratory occasions can be hosted and generated there. See its Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/pccofamble
I, for one, am eager for the next event.