29 March 2019
By Chris Dodd
The River & Rowing Museum was conceived during the Olympics in 1984 and opened by the Queen on 6 November 1998. Founder Chris Dodd concludes his exclusive series to mark its coming of age by taking a peek at the next 21 years.
As the RRM comes of age, what does its next 21 years hold? As I said at the beginning of this series, I awake to pinch myself on some mornings for confirmation that a mad idea grew into a unique institution in an iconic building. Writing these pieces has restored forgotten episodes and diverse rubbings against all manner of tales, and led me to speculate on the future.
The future’s no longer either up or down to me, so I put Sarah Posey, the recently-appointed director of the RRM, on the spot.
‘I’m excited about this year, and next year, let alone the next 21 years,’ she told me. ‘In November we’ll be opening a display about women’s rowing and installing the ‘Unbeaten Boat’ – the hull that never lost a race – in the Rowing Gallery. This is the pair used by Helen Glover and Heather Stanning to win GB trials, countless world cup and world championship races, several world titles and gold at London 2012 Olympics. It was also the prototype of the boat that bore them to their second Olympic pairs title in Rio 2016.
‘A reception and dinner on Friday 15 November will launch the exhibition and mark arrival of the boat preceding the Rowing Conference on Saturday 16 November. Booking details for these events will follow, and we look forward to welcoming Hear The Boat Sing’s contributors and followers to them!
‘Next year is Olympic year, and the museum is planning a project to mark the 2020 Games. Tokyo-on-Thames will encourage local youngsters and groups to engage with the sport through indoor rowing. To coincide with this, refreshed displays in the Rowing Gallery will address themes such as fitness, nutrition and training; Para-rowing; world rowing; and performance athletes.’
Sarah invites all-comers to visit and support the museum and concludes her look-ahead by invoking her school motto: ‘Onwards and Upwards’.
I also put the ‘future’ question to David Worthington, chairman of the RRM’s trustees. He says: ‘Reading Sarah’s exciting list of developments and activities, I reflect on how fortunate we are to have a museum dedicated to the sport of rowing – the only one in the world I believe – and such a committed trustee and management team supporting it.’
I like the tone of these responses, a breath of fresh air after some years when the museum appeared to have lost its way before the arrival of Posey and Worthington. My hope is that activities surrounding rowing, Henley and the Thames, and the collections and archives that support them, will continue to grow, to record, to educate, to entertain and to astonish – with a fine café attached. And perhaps the RRM will change its acronym to R&R, as HTBS’s Greg Denieffe suggested in a tweet for this blog.