Lotto-backed boat firm floats plan for conferences on canal
Edinburgh Evening News
Week-long canal ‘cruises’ are set to be launched between Edinburgh and Glasgow under a £150,000 lottery funded project.
Re-Union Canal Boats is to recruit volunteers to fit out a canal boat with kitchen, bathroom with showers, bedrooms, and conference facilities.
The floating venue will target youth groups who want to take part in week-long residential programmes with a difference.
But the boat will also be able to accommodate up to 30 people for one-day events, where it will travel from Edinburgh Quay to Ratho and back.
The boat is being run as a social enterprise company and all of the staff working on it will be volunteers.
Barbara Lyon, development manager at Re-Union Canal Boats, said: ‘In a day it can go from Edinburgh Quay to Ratho and back, but it will be able to go all the way to Glasgow and back so that residential weeks can take place.
‘There’s a lot of potential to do cross-country trips and we will be working with the Nolly Barge, a similar social enterprise company doing the same sort of thing in Glasgow, on that.
‘There is increasing demand for boats on the canal and we will be looking to develop more boat programmes in coming years.
‘The market is small groups of young people, so we would hope that this will be a very successful service for them and we expect to get several bookings for the Glasgow trips.’
The boat will travel to Falkirk on the Forth, before joining the Clyde at the Falkirk Wheel.
It will be fitted out by volunteers and people referred to the project by different groups to help them get back into work.
While the trips to Glasgow will be restricted to groups of eight because of the need for sleeping space, the day trips will be available to take bigger groups, making it a medium-sized meeting venue.
Councillor Donald Anderson, the city’s culture leader, said he believed the idea would be a big success.
He said: ‘This is great news. The Union Canal is a tremendous asset for the whole of Central Scotland and it is important to take advantage of it.
‘Along with other developments like the Ratho Adventure Centre, this sort of thing will boost tourism for Edinburgh and the Lothians.
‘There is great interest in things like this and I’m sure it will prove very popular.’
The building project is to start in July, with the boat expected to be operational by October.
It is expected that most of the volunteers will be individuals who need to improve their skills to make them more employable, or those who face barriers to employment at present.
Most of the people working on the Big Boat Build project, which got the £148,449 grant from the Big Lottery Fund, will be from the Wester Hailes area, although it is not yet known where the work will take place.
Councillor Brian Fallon, who represents the Murrayburn area, said: ‘The decision to reopen the canal has proved to be a great decision because it’s done so much for the area.
‘I’d like to see more activity, especially in the spring and summer months, and I hope that this will be able to encourage that.’