Keeping the Hoxton Community afloat
There are many things we love about Hoxton, but one of the very best gems of the area is the beautiful Regent’s Canal, located just a short walk from our new homes. This picturesque stretch of waterway is continuing to establish itself as one of the capital’s best-loved canals, and we are counting down the days until the summer months, when we can enjoy lengthy walks up and down the side of the water.
Until then, we were lucky enough to sit down with a group of people who are going above and beyond to celebrate the Canal and use it to the very best of its potential. The Laburnum Boat Club is a community-based boating project based on the Canal and ran by, and for, the people of Hackney. We caught up with the amazing volunteers behind the boating club, to find out more about the ways they are keeping the community afloat…
Hi Jim! Can you tell us a bit more about the Laburnum Boat Club and how it came to be the success it is today?
We set the Club up in the early eighties, on part of the site which previously hosted the gas works that stood between Queensbridge Road and Kingsland Road for a hundred years. We cleared the site, dredged the small basin, and designed and built our timber A-frame Club Hut. The Sports Council (now Sport England) gave us twenty kayaks (plus equipment) and we opened the gates to the public. The kids stormed in and had a great time burning off energy and having fun. Over time we were given more boats and equipment (including three narrowboats!) and gradually extended our opening hours and services until we were operating seven days per week.
The project is solely run by and for the people of Hackney – how many volunteers make up the team?
Initially the Club was run entirely by volunteers, but we soon realised that we also needed suitably qualified and experienced coaches and youth workers to do the job properly – and to be able to handle the wide range and numbers of kids that came in! The Club operates on an open-access basis to make it easy for those kids who can most benefit from the place by being able to just walk in. These days the Club is still managed voluntarily by around a dozen local people but most of the staff (who are former Club members) are paid. We raise funds from the Big Lottery and “Children in Need”, as well as other national and local initiatives.
What kind of activities does the boat club run on a weekly basis?
The Youth Club is at the heart of the organisation. It runs after-school, on Saturdays and throughout the school holidays for kayaking, canoeing, narrow boating, rock-climbing, expeditions and more. Last year 463 different young people registered and took part.
Our three narrowboats are used to run trips for youth, community, education and welfare groups from around the borough - as well as local families! We also run a Family Club every Sunday morning.
We are now able to offer classes to local schools during the day, whereby they can come to us for kayaking courses as part of their PE curriculum. On Wednesday evenings we also host an Adult Kayak Club – for those looking to pick up the sport in later life!
Can you tell us a bit more about your watersports training project?
The watersports training project is a part-time modular training course for unemployed 16 to 19-year olds. Throughout the programme, we train them to become fully qualified canoe and kayak coaches so that they can gain employment in the field. The skills we teach and qualification they obtain allows them to seek jobs in this field both in the UK and abroad.
Are there any exciting projects coming up for the boat club over the summer months?
We really look forward to the exciting projects that we host at the Boat Club over the summer months. The Club is busy seven days of the week throughout the summer months, as we make the most of the good weather. We also host the Canoe Slalom competition in Kingsland Basin in mid-May; a residential trip for children with disabilities during the Easter holidays; a week-long narrowboat residential in North Wales in late July; a week-long surfing and rock-climbing trip to the north coast of Cornwall; and much, much more!
The Regent’s Canal is often referred to as a ‘hidden gem’ of the capital – do you think more people are now aware of it and all it has to offer?
Many more people are becoming aware of it these days. The Hackney stretch of the canal used to be very quiet, with mainly just anglers coming down to the area. These days, however, the towpath is buzzing – especially at weekends when people walk between Angel and Broadway Markets. This has been bolstered over recent years as more and more people are stopping at the cafes and bars that are continuing to pop up along the way.
What is your favourite thing about living and working in Hackney?
The variety of shops, pubs, restaurants, places of interest and open spaces. There is truly something on offer for everyone!
Finally – where would be your first choice for dinner in Hackney after a day on the canal?
It would have to be Café Route Dalston, which has an amazing seasonal menu!
If you are interested in a new home surrounded by businesses and initiatives such as the Laburnum Boat Club then look no further than our new homes at Hoxton Press, or call 020 3308 9813