ARTS & HERITAGE – John Raycord

Main Award – John Raycord

John was the inspirational main awardee in the Arts & Heritage Category this year, for his unstinting commitment to Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust.

Please click here to watch his nomination video and below is his nomination, plus photos from the evening.

Volunteering Activity:

John started as one of our towpath volunteers but has since developed his own volunteer role of general site volunteer.

Reason for nomination:

This year John celebrates 10 years of helping boaters navigate through the flight of locks in Stourbridge. This is a role that he has discovered for himself through his passion for the canals and lock wheeling. Throughout the summer the canal network in the Black Country sees a variety of boaters of varying levels of expertise navigate the waterways including the flight of locks in Stourbridge and John can often be found with his windless helping people through the locks. He does not get paid for this but does it because of the joy that can be brought through helping others.

If you mention John’s name to any local boater they will know exactly who you are speaking of and will always have a good word to say about him. In fact many local boaters who know John will often ask for his help and ask him in advance to meet him on the locks at a particular date and time.

John is quite open about his learning difficulties and the problems he has speaking with people. However, watching John help people with the locks is like watching a completely different person. he speaks with great confidence if you ask him to explain Every one of the skipper

It was this passion for the locks that brought John to volunteer with us back in 2015. He first started with us as a towpath volunteer.

The Towpath Volunteers have been a real asset to the skippers, shop and catering staff. Being on the frontline running boat trips throughout the day and ensuring our visitors are kept happy is hard work and requires a dedicated team who can all work together. Our towpath volunteers are always on hand to help our visitors with queries making sure they have the best day out they possibly can. They collect tickets, make sure visitors have hard hats, assist people onto the boats as well as helping the skippers tie-up and cast off the boats. John fitted into this team really well, however his learning difficulties meant that he struggled with some of the tasks. However, John did not give up and the staff worked with John to find a way that he could still be involved with Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust.

Today John plays an invaluable role in his tailor made Site Volunteer Role. Every week John comes in on a Thursday and Friday and helps ensure the site is clean and tidy for the weekend. He will help the shop with deliveries and moving stock; throughout the summer months he has made sure the allotment garden has stayed watered; John will check that the leaflet holders are stocked up as well as going out and doing leaflet drops to houses in the local area; and more recently John has taken ownership of the second-hand bookcase, ensuring that the books are kept tidy and well stocked up. This is alongside the less glamourous jobs of clearing out the rubbish, sweeping the towpath, emptying bins and cleaning hard hats.

Every year we take the volunteers out on an open water boat trip where they have the opportunity to steer the boats and learn more about lock wheeling. This year John gave a demonstration to the other volunteers on how to operate the locks. This was a massive achievement for John; much of his adult life he has been told that he is no good and can’t do anything. Seeing John’s confidence develop over the last 4 years has been amazing. When he first applied John brought his support worker with him and really struggled to speak with me. To see him now very eloquently explaining how to operate the locks was inspiring, not only for me but also to the other volunteers who were with us on the trip 5 of whom were young people who also have learning difficulties.

Matthew, one of the volunteers said that he had really enjoyed hearing John’s talk and that he had learnt a lot from him on the boat trip about how to operate locks. Matthew is now our second site volunteer, who like John started off in the towpath role but who also struggled due to his own learning difficulties. Had John not paved the way for him Matthew may well have given up after his first few weeks volunteering. However, seeing how John has developed within the role showed us that there was scope for Matthew. Matthew is now in his 4th month volunteering with us and thoroughly enjoys it.