This double bill tells the stories of the young women who took on the challenge to manage a pair of boats and 50 tons of cargo. By the beginning of WWII, the inland waterways were in decline.  However, the war brought a brief renaissance as boats were a more economical means of moving war materials and supplies.  Whilst there were plenty of boats, there weren’t enough good crews.  The Women’s Training Scheme taught young women the basics of boating over two three-week round trips (London-Birmingham-Coventry-London), and helped to keep the canals running during the war.  Isobel’s War is a solo play written and performed by Kate Saffin based on the experiences of the wartime trainees.  Isobel doesn’t think that rolling bandages and serving tea in the leafy suburbs of Oxford counts as proper war work, then she spots an advertisement and encounters a world she didn’t know existed.  Idle Women and Judies is written and performed by Heather Wastie – it started as an audio piece (commissioned by the Canal & River Trust) based on the wartime memories of three women. Wastie has now added a collection of short poems and songs celebrating the work and adventures of the women.

‘The stories, or at least the existence, of the trainees are known to many boaters and waterway enthusiasts but few beyond the towpath know they even existed never mind what they did.  We are recreating this journey to celebrate their achievements, recognise their contribution to the war effort and explore their relationships with the indigenous boaters.  We think it’s important to make this journey with these local stories so that we can share the history that is on the audience’s doorstep – or at least the nearest bit of towpath or the pub.’

If you’d like to book the show for your club, village or community hall, or pub we are available over the autumn and winter. Spring and summer 2018 we’ll be touring by water including the West Midlands and northern canals. We can perform in almost any space, our technical requirements are minimal and we have a number of options for managing the finances – if you’d like to know more email us at admin [at] and we’ll send you a tour pack with all the detail.

We can also include creative writing workshops, reminscence sessions and work with local schools by arrangement.

Read more about the background to Idle Women and Judies and Isobel’s War

Want to read more? Here is a collection of resources: books, articles and links