The Medway Queen Preservation Society (MQPS) in England, The Association Tourville in France, De Steenschuit and the VDAB in Belgium/Flanders created a European partnership about Maritime Heritage, Social Inclusion and Tourism. They all come together under a European project called Heroes 2C. The first 3 organisations are building replicas of historic ships belonging to the 2 seas area. They were joined by the VDAB who is specialised in social inclusion aspects. We aim at using the maritime heritage sector as a tool to enhance social inclusion and tourism in the 2 seas area. The MQPS is building the Medway Queen, Association Tourville is building The Jean Bart and De Steenschuit builds The New Belgica. The project is made of 3 main activities dealing respectively with Social Inclusion, Maritime Heritage and Tourism in the 2 seas area.
The first activity aims at developing educational and training activities achieving the mix between maritime heritage and social inclusion techniques. In this activity we are exchanging professionals, apprentices and volunteers to share about the involvement of socially and economically excluded people into a reconstruction project. We are organizing visits to schools, on site and we wish to connect the 3 shipyards by ICT in order to raise awareness about our common project. Following the first exchanges of staff we have done in the past 12 month, the VDAB has organised the first workshop on Social Inclusion in France where the partners have shared their experiences on this subject. Partners have committed themselves to improve the technical and soft skills taught to the trainees and apprentices. We wish these people find their way through society after their training and we will start evaluating the results of this activity in the next 6 month to continue on improving our training.
The second activity aims at delivering a high quality reconstruction. In this activity, we are exchanging professionals on different construction, building and finishing techniques. The reconstruction of the ship is done by professionals, trainees, apprentices, volunteers and specialised colleges using environmental friendly techniques. The partners will join forces and will create part of the ships for each other. We also aim at creating a network of professionals exchanging on technical possibilities. Like Tourville, The Medway Queen and De Steenschuit are now settled in their new shipyards and can welcome workers from the other projects. The Medway Queen has hired 4 instructors and 9 apprentices in different trades. 3 full time professionals and 7 to 8 trainees per month are working on the Jean Bart. The construction of the New Belgica will start again from July 2012. We are giving to all participants the opportunity to go and work on the other ships abroad.
The third project activity aims at using the reconstruction of the ships as a tool to improve tourism and Maritime heritage awareness. In this activity, we are opening the shipyards to the public while the ships are reconstructed and we will create a film showing the reconstruction. We will open visitors centres in the shipyards and link them all together via webcams and information screens. We will also organize tours promoting the visit of the 3 ships and organise events to promote them. Association Tourville has welcomed thousands of visitors since the project has started. The Medway Queen and the New Belgica visitor centres will be open to the public in April 2012. All important phases of the reconstructions were recorded and short films showing the construction and people stories will be shown on-line when the project website will be set up.