It’s not often a houseboat inspires deep feeling, but for filmmaker Shauna Osborne Dowle, and the host of former inhabitants of the Rosemarie on the Penryn River in Cornwall, the times spent on the vessel have been special. So much so, that on hearing of the boat’s pending demise, Shauna set about recording the history of the houseboats and its inhabitants and even created HouseBoat TV. D&CFilm caught up with her to find out more
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I began to think about making this film, when I first heard that the Rosemarie houseboat was possibly, finally, beyond repair, being wooden and now so rotten that only the fearlessly brave or blindly stupid could pull her back from the brink of scuttledom. Not long after we started filming I was sad to find that all the rumours where true, and the houseboat had finally met her end. Although it was painful for me, I contacted the new owners of the boat and arranged to film her being broken up on the muddy beach in April 2009.
Since living onboard the Rosemarie as a small child in the 1970s, for a great many years I had taken delight in randomly finding her familiar wide hull moored up in various places along the picturesque Penryn river in Cornwall, perhaps with a different paint colour, sporting a new feature, or less an old one. At the time of these encounters I always wondered who was living on-board her, but I never had the courage to find out.
I was extremely sad after she went, as I felt some of my childhood memories where now gone forever, and quickly set about finding all the photographs I could to remind myself of those days. I wondered if the other people who had also lived onboard the boat had pictures of the boat, from over the years and decided to find out who these residents where and contact them, with the aim of collecting together all the memories I could about the boat.
It was a fascinating experience as all the former houseboat occupants turned out to be so interesting, and they too, where sad about the demise of the boat and were glad to share their feelings and their memories about her. Most of them where creative people, who had been studying either art or sculpture at Falmouth University, while living onboard the boat. Some were boat-builders, while others where musically gifted, and the bands who where to become associated with her, definitely had a folk theme.
The Rosemarie Band formerly Thistletown, was named after the boat and will provide some music for the soundtrack, from the album, which is also called Rosemarie. There was also Tim and Athene from The 3 Daft Monkeys gypsy, punk-folk band, who stayed on-board the Rosemarie Houseboat during the formation of the band. They were writing and practicing the song Wonderful at the time. Two of the Rosemarie’s former occupants, Pandora James and Judy Anderson, both began playing the fiddle while living onboard the boat. Both have at different times played with The Cornwall Fiddle Orchestra, which was started by Hudson Swan in 2007.
During the whole of 2009 I worked hard alongside filming to try to secure either funding or a broadcast platform for the film as I could see the potential for the project growing daily. I was working mostly alone with some goodwill from good friends; Nick Duffy providing some second camera angles and helping with interviews, Jaeson Finn, helping with still photographs and feed-back, and Mark Robinson providing fantastic time-lapse footage to order.
When it became evident that I was not going to get the funding I wanted to complete the project, and reward the contributors to the film. I re-directed my energy into producing a web-platform of my own; Rosemarie Houseboat TV, which I built as part of an ITQ (NVQ) level 3 qualification in website-design from BCS at the Digital Peninsula Network in Penzance.
Now I can screen the individual interviews at monthly intervals while I pull together the final structure for the film. This also leaves open the possibility for new material, photographs or individuals to add contributions, even at this late stage of development. It’s been a fantastic response, with everyone involved on the film so far, offering their time, talents and tales for free.
I guess this is a reflection of the depth of feeling people had for the Rosemarie Houseboat, and I would also like to do her proud, by keeping her memory afloat! So if you’ve got something you’d like to add to my film, or you want to see how the film is progressing. Take a look at HouseBoat TV, where you can also leave me a message or sign up to my blog via RSS feed.
• Check out Shauna’s HouseBoat TV