Monday, 3 October 2011

The boat freaks: Fran and Roelofje....

Vyvian Raoul chats to aerial-performing boater Fran Hyde of Collectif and then…, who can frequently be seen leaping through the air above her home and performance space

Fran Hyde and Roelofje are the penultimate boat-boater combination in our series; every boater we’ve interviewed so far has asked us: ‘Have you spoken to the aerial performers, yet?’. Well, now we have — one of them at least: Fran is the boat owner and her performance partner Lucie N’Duhirahe joins her in the air for shows.

Fran’s boat allows her the freedom to perform wherever she stops on the canal — Roelofje is a highly mobile, to say nothing of highly unique, stage. It also allows her freedom from the constant bombardment of exhortations to buy that confront the average capital commuter — a little mental breathing space.

We caught up with her — hungover and out of gas, but happy — outside of the Constitution in Camden…

Name: Fran Hyde
Age: 27
Place of birth: Blackpool
Occupation: Aerial performer

Name: Roelofje (pro. roo-le-fi)
Age: 108 (started life transporting sand around Holland in 1903)
Length: 13m (42.65ft)
Place of birth: Holland
Top speed: “Don’t be silly…”

Lots of people have considered living on a boat: what sets you apart from lots of people?It’s a real romantic idea. But I think people realise that the reality of it is that it’s not as easy as living in a house. You don’t have a washing machine, and you’ve got to light a fire, and sometimes you run out of gas when it’s cold. And it just depends if you care about that or not, or what your priorities are. Also, lots of people talk and don’t do anything.

What are your boating bounds?Every spot has its good points and bad points, I tend to fall in love with every place once I’m there. It’s really nice outside the Constitution, but generally I prefer east London. I roam between Kensal Rise and Tottenham Hale, usually

What does your act look like and where can we see it?We’ve got a rig set up on the boat: two ropes hanging in a U-shape and two people. Lucie is usually the catcher and I am usually the flyer, though sometimes we swop roles. Playing on the towpath is amazing because people don’t expect it and are generally already in a good mood. I love doing street shows and passing the hat. People can be quite generous and it’s great to meet them after the show and see people’s initial reactions.

What do you make of British Waterways proposed plans to put a curb on cruising in its current form?British Waterways are wrong to say that it was never the intent that cruisers should have jobs and families. People have lived on the canals for over 100 years. In Defra’s report on the future of the waterways, people living on the waterways were not mentioned once. There’s got to be something wrong about that.

Is there a difference between continuous cruisers and those that moor?The sense of community between cruisers is stronger; people always need help, life can be hard and there’s a mutual understanding. Although living on a mooring is more comfortable, it’s less community-focused. I lived on a mooring when I first got a boat and it was a bit like living in a car park. Plus cruisers get to move our boats all the time, which is loads of fun!

Why is living on water in London so attractive?It’s an escape, like a piece of countryside in the city. The amount of advertising we have in cities is dangerous and affects us so deeply without us ever really realising how much of it we face every day. It’s so good to have a free space, a space to breathe, and I hope that doesn’t change. I heard rumours of Barclays ‘sponsoring the canal’. I hope this doesn’t provide advertising opportunities for them — although, I can’t see why else they would do it?

Have a look at Fran and Lucie’s truly amazing aquatic aerial show...

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