“The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too”
Rose Schneiderman 1912, Womens Suffrage
The barge world has been dominated by men for decades, if not centuries. It has been a harsh world to exist in for many, however it was not uncommon to see the skippers’ wife aboard as his mate. Women have played an important role in the barges but often one that has gone unrecorded, dismissed and underrated, much like many other aspects of life. In todays world we have a small number of women who are of great significance to the barges but are still very much working within the restraints set by their male counterparts.
An opportunity has arisen to explore the possibility of having one barge that is taken care of by a team of women who have for a long time had barges in their life.
These women are wives of skippers who have been in the background for many years and know the industry as well as anyone. Many women in this world who have spent a long time going unnoticed and under appreciated for their support, advice and knowledge. It is not intended that the barge will be solely crewed by women, there are simply not enough at this stage to fill that role. However it is intended that the purpose of the barges’ existence will be decided, developed and run by a team of very capable women, for women to discover the very real peace and calmness that can be found aboard such a vessel.
Bread and Roses’ purpose will be to provide a community that can offer support and friendship to women who have suffered trauma or abuse, whether physical or emotional, historic or recent and will be able to come together aboard the safety of the barge and learn to face a different future through the gentle art of sourdough baking. The barge will be fitted out below as a practical but comfortable environment to explore this slow art form along with other cooking techniques. She will also offer a safe space to explore trust, develop friendships, accept support and discover how to move forward freely in life. Empowerment. A strong overused word these days, but in real terms, empowerment can be as simple as wearing lipstick for the first time and truly enjoying it, without fear of a negative comment no matter how small.
The barge will be working with organisations to allow a different experience for women and their friends and families to also participate in. It is impossible to move from a victim to a survivor to a real living breathing human being without bringing along those that you already trust. They need to understand what the road to recovering may look like and know the important part they play in that journey. Our biggest goal will be to have a woman arrive at a place, even for just a few hours, where she can find herself really laughing out loud with true delight and peace. To see someone move from a place of constant fear for herself and those she cares for, to feel safe enough in her surroundings and company, to experience a small piece of joy blooming within in her and letting that be released from her body for those with her to witness and experience the same freedom themselves.
The list of groups and organisations that could benefit from the barge setting up home for a few days in different places along the Essex Coast is sadly quite extensive, particularly those that do not have easy access to a facility or opportunities that would be able to be offered aboard the barge. From nationwide charities such as Women’s Aid, Mind and NSPCC to local women’s refuge centres, support groups, schools and local government services, we hope that by putting our arms out and offering our help to these organisations we will be able to help with the continuation and growth of their incredible work. The barge will act as a facility for these groups to use as an alternative space and experience to use within their work, and service those who need it.
May We Have Hope
Our hope is for these facilities to be offered at a rate that will mean the people who need it most will be reached, regardless of financial circumstances. In order for this to happen and to be a sustainable venture, funding will need to be raised. Therefore we propose that alongside the important work and safe space the barge will supply, May will also be host to some exclusive events for those who can afford a day aboard and are looking for a special experience to share with friends, while knowing that their generous contribution will go to helps others in need.
Together we can learn to laugh again.
One year. One barge. One goal.
Bread and Roses first of all has to rebuild a barge. A barge who herself has made a call for help.
Sailing Barge May was built in 1891 in Harwich in order to carry grain and flour to and from the mills of the East Coast to London. Her second owners were Tate and Lyle, a leading global provider of food, beverages and ingredients. If ever a barges’ heritage was more suited to becoming a floating bakery, May is the one.
However approximately £500,000 is required to rebuild her before anything we have proposed can even begin.
All of this will be possible if there is a real desire to achieve such a space. A space that can welcome aboard women from many walks of life, from all backgrounds who all have one thing in common, a need to find a way to recover. Not only to survive but to really bloom into the person they are meant to be. The fear that abuse creates is so deep rooted and cannot just be ‘got over’ or ‘put in the past’. It will not develop into a safe future without the tools, support and trust that the survivors world is now one that they can truly believe will be safe and bright, one in which those fears will never take hold of again.
Bread and Roses
Women are like roses. They are delicate and beautiful, but they are also determined to grow, to climb as high as they can, to recover again and again. Their thorns are there to support the plant, to grab hold of a steady structure they can grow alongside for protection. With a little care and love, roses will triumph with the most beauty and splendour year after year.
Why Sourdough? Sourdough needs nurturing and care, it needs passion and to not be rushed. Sourdough is not complicated, simply just flour and water, it is not time consuming but needs regular small actions and the results will be the most delicious bread time and time again. Bread with a real sense of achievement that reminds you to slow down and appreciate the simplicity of life again.