Great Things Will Be Made Members’ Post

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Yesterday, I publicly announced that the RNLI haven’t been able to give me the go-ahead to resume my visits to lifeboat stations this year.

Now, I’m writing these words — dear members of The LSP Society — to let you know what I’ll be doing in just 10 days’ time.

The project is about to extend even deeper into lifeboat life in a way that I never would have envisaged, simply because I had no idea that some of the bonds I would make with people would be so strong.

But, first, let’s rewind a little…

As I’ve said before: when my journey came to an abrupt pause on 16th March 2020, our initial review date of 30th April 2020 seemed like an eon away, even though it was only six weeks.

“It is temporary and will pass” I said in this video at the time

…but none of us had any idea how things would unfold, did we?

30th April 2020 passed by without contacting the RNLI because it was clearly pointless to try and arrange anything.

Fast forward to March this year when I emailed the charity to assess the lay of the land, proposing a return to the coast for The LSP in September.

That seemed a sensible proposition but we both agreed that it remained hard to plan anything at all. Even a year down the line, Covid was — and still is — an ever-shifting entity. So, we agreed to reconvene in July.

The delicate conversations and emails were gently batted to and fro. The weeks rolled by.

My contacts at the RNLI were trying their hardest to marry up everybody’s needs but, as lifeboat stations remain closed to the public, the understandably frustrating picture was still fuzzy.

At times, there were extended periods of radio silence, which were crippling and spoke volumes.

I noticed there had been a switch in my demeanour too. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, I consider myself to be quite an energetic person. When it comes to earning a crust, I reckon 80% of my time is dedicated to creative output and 20% to the general mechanics of running a business.

Once I’d successfully built and published our LSP Society app in June, the 80/20 split slowly flipped the other way round and my creative spark started to wain.

The pandemic has been hard on all of us in so many ways. I’m proud of how I coped during those first 15 months and the prospect of resuming my travels provided light at the end of the tunnel.

March 2022 seemed like an awfully long time to wait if that wasn’t to come to fruition, though.

You may remember that I’ve previously mentioned visiting independent lifeboat stations as a Plan B but, in all honesty, the more I sat with the idea, the less comfortable I became.

I sure know that the independent lifeboat stations carry out the same excellent lifesaving work but it somehow seemed a little off-piste — not quite in keeping with the project or aligned with my childhood passion for the RNLI.

It’s a notion I may return to one day, but not yet.

So, I hung on for the RNLI then hung on some more. As time spilled into September, I was suddenly in a precarious position and could soon be in danger of not being able to arrange anything.

By the time it got to the middle of last week, I became acutely aware that even if the RNLI did give me the go-ahead, it would be too short notice to pull together the itinerary for the stations themselves.

For example, what if some of the volunteers had other plans and really wanted to be a part of the project? That would be disappointing for them and for me.

To my mind, a week’s notice was far too short. Apart from the odd crackly signal breaking through the airwaves, the radio silence continued.

For the sake of my mental wellbeing and my livelihood, I had to take the helm and steer a new course.

SO, WHAT NOW?

As I came to the realisation that I simply wouldn’t be able to visit lifeboat stations again this year, my mind was completely frazzled.

I needed another idea. A really good one that fitted the bill.

Kath and I chatted it through late one evening last week. She now tells me that she could see crash and burn written across my face. I wasn’t in a good way.

It was time to take a moment to pause, to strip things back to basics.

“What about revisiting all those people you’ve made such great connections with over the years?” Kath said. “After all, the project is ‘about the lifeboat volunteers, for the lifeboat volunteers’, right?”

Right.

The simplest ideas really are the best and I knew that was it — yet again, the answer was right under my nose. Another lightbulb moment.

IT WILL ALL BE ALRIGHT

Many people have told me that I would always be welcome back and there was one couple that immediately sprung to mind: Howie and Sandra from Loch Ness.


Coincidentally, my portrait of the Loch Ness RNLI women has also made it into the newly-released official trailer for Launch! — keep your eyes peeled at the 1 minute mark


After meeting them at the lifeboat station to make their portraits with the crew in 2018, they invited me up to their home “for lemon drizzle cake and Colombian coffee” in a small hamlet high above the shores of Loch Ness.

There’s a story in itself because, believe it or not, I spent many a summer there during my teens in a croft owned by my school teacher and mentor Gareth Burnell — first as a student on school expeditions then as an assistant instructor when I left the school.

It was Gareth who got me into kayaking and, believe it or not once again, the sea kayak I paddle today used to belong to him.

Anyway, I digress…

“How will I know which house is yours?” I asked Howie following his kind invitation.

“Because I will put a large RNLI flag over the gate!” he replied in his booming, smiling voice.

Sure enough, there was the flag. He’d made it easy to find and it was very strange to drive past the croft to get there.

We spent a wonderful afternoon walking, chatting and laughing before saying our goodbyes, after which I made my way along the coast to Buckie.

I really regretted leaving, so soon just when it felt like we were getting started.

Howie and Sandra, 2018

I tapped Howie a text right away asking if I could come back to stay with them so that I could hear more of their story, and to make some photographs and audio recordings — in essence, a more in depth documentation of lifeboat life.

Within moments he sent me this reply, which I’ve copied and pasted just as he wrote it:

“Jack this is your home to, Just make your plans, we will fit round you, be a pleasure to spend time with you, come Hungry, all the best, Howie and Sandra.”

It made me well-up. I immediately felt reassured.

Jack: “This is great news, Howie. Thank you so much. Out of interest…and just thinking aloud at this stage…how are you fixed for the last week of this month?”

Howie: “It’s all good, just come when you will, We just want to see you in good Health, it will all be alright”

Jack: “This is just what I need to hear right now.”

Howie: “We are solid with you, You are nearly as crazy as us, we believe in you.”

Goodness me.

As I said to Howie, that certainly was just what I needed to hear in those moments.

So, that’s what I’m doing! I’m going to stay with Howie and Sandra for the last week of this month. I’ll make glass plate portraits of them in their surroundings as well as record conversations with them too.

I already know from my previous visit that there’s a rich story to be told and I can’t wait to share this deeper look into lifeboat life with you.

I don’t consider this as a separate project, by the way, but more an extension of the stories I’ve already shared and the photographs I’ve already made. Think of it as The LSP+.

I have the sense that this is going to be a very special week and, as you can tell, I’m pretty excited about it.

Great things will be made and it’ll be hard to imagine how they didn’t exist before.

FORESIGHT?

On that note, I also have the strange sensation that I can see the photographs and hear the recordings as if they already exist.

As I expect one of my friends and patrons will testify, I had the same sensation in 2015 ahead of my visit to Penlee. I described my vision for the photographs I was going to make at the old boathouse to her as if they already existed — the old slipway, Raymond and Dudley looking out to sea and Patch silhouetted in the doorway.

My strong vision for the work felt both exhilarating and bizarre. When the plates were made, they were utterly as expected.

It was as if I’d navigated my way to their existence.

Strange, huh?

Anyway, it’s great to feel like that about this mission too and I can’t wait to share it with you.

On that note, you’re the only people I’ll be sharing it with for the moment and The LSP app will be the best place to follow along.

In time, I’ll decide how to incorporate the photographs and recordings into the project proper but, for now, this dimension to the project is just for Howie and Sandra, you and me.

I hope it’s a suitable ‘thank you’ for sticking by me, particularly through the pandemic.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Many of you have kindly been thinking about how you can help further but said that you don’t really know how.

Well, it occurred to me that there is a way you can help (as well as the ways that you already are, of course)…

I always want new people to join The LSP Society because it creates a predictable and sustainable income.

So, a great way to help would be simply to keep talking about the project to other people both online and offline — tell them how great it is and what a special online community we’ve been building!

Please send people to the homepage to find out about the project or to The LSP Society page to signup.

If you need help with any of the language, take your lead from the things I write in and around these pages but if you’d like some guidance, feel free to drop me a line or send me a direct message via The Boathouse.

I can even send you some leaflets to hand out if you would like me to.

That’s all for now. I hope you like the sound of this deeper dimension to the project and thank you once again for all your kind words of support lately.

Wishing you fair winds and following seas,

Jack

P.S. Just as I’ve come to the end of writing this blog post, I’ve received an email from the RNLI with the official answer that it’s a no. I’m very glad I followed my heart and got on with making my own plans. Time to make great things…

Selfie, 2018

If

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7. Finally, if you have any questions about your membership or my work, feel free to email me.

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