Lightship LV21: Päivi Seppälä and Gary Weston
Built in 1963 Light Vessel 21 is a unique 40 metre steel-hulled lightship, the last of the renowned Philip & Son’s ships to be commissioned by Trinity House. LV21 saw most of her service off the Kent coast on the Varne, East Goodwin and Channel stations. After she was retired from service in 2008, we aquired her in December 2009 and have since been transforming her into a floating cultural facility designed to provide a range of services promoting and supporting the creative industries in the Medway area and beyond, whilst celebrating and honouring the maritime traditions of the vessel.
An integral aim of the LV21 project is to help rejuvenate the Medway riverfront and improve the public realm, bringing new life to what was once a busy commercial thoroughfare and establishing the lightship as an iconic landmark for Medway.
Why we decided to take part
We are always on the look out to expand our audience and share a piece of maritime history with the wider community and felt that Heritage Open Days was a perfect opportunity to test new ground. As there is no cost in taking part other than our own overheads, there were no reasons not to participate really. Rarely is there an opportunity to access such valuable marketing and PR support for free.
How Heritage Open Days made a difference
In 2012, LV21 opened to the public for the first time for two days over Heritage Open Days and attracted a record number of new visitors. Estimated 90% were first-time visitors and many have since returned to our other public events. Some have even offered their services as volunteers to help with the ongoing restoration of the vessel.
Favourite Heritage Open Days moment
There are many but we and the whole crew of volunteers really enjoyed meeting so many new faces across all age groups and with very different interests. The atmosphere of the event was very positive and it was great to see people enjoying their visit and taking part in our nautical activities. Some shared their own personal memories of LV21 when she was still in service, seeing her moored outside Deal at Goodwin Sands, or hearing her fog horns in the mist.
Advice to first-time participants
Make good use of the available marketing and PR support - it's very valuable in attracting new audiences. Make sure you've got enthusiastic friendly front of house staff or volunteers to welcome people in and provide information and answer any queries. And make sure you use the opportunity to collect valuable feedback from visitors to inform your future events. We also found that free cold refreshments and nibbles were greatly appreciated by the public. And most of all - just enjoy the experience!