Posted 4th Dec 2017
In the latest of the Humans of the Waterways series, courtesy of the Canal & River Trust, we talk to Lizz
"I'm incredibly lucky to be living a life I totally love! I've been on my narrowboat 'Dorothy' for eight and a half years and I'm a professional violinist. I may be covered in coal dust of an afternoon, but I play for Michelin star restaurants and 5-star hotels, wandering around tables serenading guests in my cocktail dress of an evening!
I travel the world, playing on cruise ships such as Cunard and Seabourne line most months, performing to over a thousand people each show. On cruises I play as a duo, we're two violinists performing together as Elektra.
We cruise one week at a time, play, stop at two or three ports and then fly home – amazing, it's like paid travel. I try not to do more than one cruise a month otherwise I'd lose balance of normal life with relationships and friends. So I do about 11-12 weeks of cruises a year. Usually we perform twice in the week and the rest is holiday! I'm classically trained, but most of my music on the ships is classical crossover with a nine-piece band behind. We do our own medleys, we've got a Bond medley, Ave Maria, West Side Story... a well-known mix with something for everyone.
I love chatting when, as a guest entertainer, I host the tables on Seabourne American cruise liners - it's a minimum of $1,000 a night for a room and they're all very wealthy and covered in diamonds! It's fun when I tell them I live on a boat - a tiny 7-foot wide narrowboat!
I do solo events too and they're probably my favourite as I can play whatever I want - jazz and blues are my all-time favourite. I do hotels, weddings, corporate events. I performed at the 2012 Olympics for the likes of Bill Gates, and was on 'Later with Jools Holland' last year.
My boat is called Dorothy after my Dad's mother and he helped me completely renovate her. I've always been a continuous cruiser, I really love it. I need a car for work, so every time I move on in my boat, I have to leapfrog back for the car too. I do a lot of running – I'm doing a half-marathon in a few weeks. I've worked out that I've run the whole of the Kennet & Avon Canal about three times from Reading to Bristol, just from running back to get my car after moving the boat!
Between gigs I practise in my music corner on board my boat. I'm sure passers-by think 'what's that racket?' but I haven't had anyone I'm moored next to complain, yet! I've got a piano to fit into the saloon, but it lives on my bed at the moment.
I'm only in boat clothes today, but I wear all sorts of sparkly gear when I'm playing a gig. The biggest contrast of my two worlds was one winter when it was really cold and the canal froze. I got back to Dorothy and, because it had been -12°, the pipe between the water tank and inside the boat was so frozen I couldn't run any taps. I had a corporate gig that night and two hours to get clean and do my hair! The only thing I could think to do was ask the local swimming pool if I could just pay for a shower there. They were very helpful and said yes, but I had no idea the showers were open public ones alongside the pool. I wore my swimsuit but I had to shave my legs while two old guys swam up and down the pool next to me pretending they hadn't noticed!
I literally span one extreme of society and living style to another - from 12volt electricity, swans, swing bridges and locks, to champagne, canapés, tuxes and frocks! I couldn't do '9 to 5'! I did violin at school, then the Royal Academy of Music and Sheffield Uni. I know I'm lucky - I never, ever thought I could have a career in music. I'm not rich, but I do make a living from music, and I love my lifestyle on Dorothy."
Image and text courtesy of the Canal & River Trust