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Boat of Hope’s next stop: Liverpool Cathedral!

Following his successful solo row across the Atlantic, Bernie Hollywood OBE JP, introduces the ‘Boat of Hope’ exhibition to visitors at Liverpool Cathedral, from Saturday 27 May to Sunday 4 June. 

Bernie Hollywood, a charity guru and social entrepreneur from Liverpool, entered the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge with the aim of shining a spotlight on the continued rise of child suicide and depression across the UK and around the world.  

Noted as the world’s toughest endeavour, this solo journey saw Bernie row 3,540 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, culminating with his arrival in Antigua. 

A cause close to his heart, Bernie has extensive personal experience with the mental health struggles of younger people and wanted to see if engaging with children and students through the medium of the creative arts and active adventure was possible. The purpose of the ‘Boat of Hope’ was to open a conversation about feelings around mental health. 

During the journey, which lasted over 100 days, Bernie’s trip was fraught with danger, technical issues, illness, injury and loneliness. Despite this, he remained resolute in his determination, wanting to understand how alone people can feel when they experience depression and low mood. 

The boat itself, which has the word ‘struggle’ on one side and ‘hope’ on the other, a journey of mental health, can be related to Bernie’s journey. 

Bernie said: “Every time you see somebody, even ourselves, we all have a story behind what you’re looking at.  And that’s really an important point. When you do meet somebody, remember there’s a story behind that individual that you don’t know.” 

The boat rowed by Bernie Hollywood across the Atlantic, the ‘City of Liverpool’, was named in honour of his late father and grandfather, who spent their entire working lives at the Port of Liverpool. 

Measuring 7 metres x 2 metres, it will be available for visitors to view, resting at the heart of The Well at Liverpool Cathedral. 

Bernie said: “This boat has been round the whole of the United Kingdom. It’s been into 50 high schools, 50 primary schools around the UK and we’ve actually engaged with the parents and the teachers who’ve actually come in the boat and get they need to have a better connection with their children. 

“Although they may think their children are well and physically fine, they don’t really know what’s going on up here (in their minds). They found that using the creative arts, getting the children to talk about how they feel, was just a huge relief for them as well.” 

With the support of ‘Boat of Hope’ ambassador Natalie Reeves Billing, alongside her social enterprise Split Perspectivz CIC, the project has featured a host of activities and resources for children and young people. A children’s picture book, called ‘Bernie and Boatie’, was developed to engage primary school-aged children and is available to purchase from the Liverpool Cathedral shop. 

Natalie said: “I started to write books about children’s mental health, about feelings and how to notice them and observe them in each other to make a kinder world. 

“When Bernie approached me, this was something that was right down my street, or it ‘floated to my boat’, should I say! 

“From there I did the book. It was a difficult one because the demographic is young children, it has to be interesting. So, I mixed fact with fiction. 

“We had the physical toil of 3,000 miles that they have to travel, but we also had some sea monsters to make it interesting. It’s in rhyme. We transformed Bernie into a 7-year-old in short pants so that he’s relatable as he used to be one of them. 

“Coming on from there, I was invested 100 percent.” 

Natalie Reeves Billing and her team also worked to create 5000 child mental health boxes full of books and creative resources for primary school children across the Liverpool City Region during Bernie’s journey. Inside each was a competition, asking children to translate their vision of hope in words and art.  

The results of that competition are available for visitors to see in the collages and individual pieces of work displayed around The Well, alongside the ‘Boat of Hope’ exhibition. 

Visitors to Liverpool Cathedral can take a closer look at the ‘City of Liverpool’ from Saturday 27th May to Sunday 4th June. 

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