Re-Union is a social enterprise operating on the Union Canal in Edinburgh and Falkirk. Set up in 2004 Re-Union’s aim is to encourage canal communities to engage positively with their canal. Since inception Re-Union has been involved in offering training in building and operating boats. We host education trips, floating youth clubs and the canal college. We deliver training programmes working with support agencies and the NHS. We have supported and developed projects such as canoe building with young people, community consultations and community garden development. We organise and carry out regular canal clean up sessions covering from Edinburgh Quay to Wester Hailes. We are involved in co-ordinating events including the Edinburgh Canal Festival and Raft Race, Union 10, Forth & Clyde10 and Wheel 10 to celebrate the re-instatement of the canal, Wester Hailes Canaliversary and the Edinburgh Festival Flotilla.
Re-Union’s social aim is to support and encourage community involvement on and around the Union Canal. We do this by social, economic, cultural and environmental projects. We bring individuals together to train and operate boats, we support and develop volunteer’s skills to assist them into employment, further education or additional volunteering opportunities. We explore the culture and environment of the canal and create projects around ideas generated by our volunteers and canal communities.
All of this is achieved by community consultation and partnership working and we operate using a mix of funding and income generation from boat hires and services to ‘keep afloat’.
Timeline of key activity –
- 2004 – pilot project launched – 12 passenger carrying narrow boat acquired through private investment and refurbished through sweat equity. Successful pilot project carried out over 4 years giving Re-Union the research to support funding application to take the project forward.
- 2008 – ‘big’ boat funded by BIG lottery arrived at Edinburgh Quay and was fitted out through a volunteer training programme. Launched July 2008. Volunteer training programmes established.
- 2009 – Acquisition of 51% of Capercaillie Cruisers in partnership with private investor. Funded through grant and loan from Social Investment Scotland. Purchase of a former family run business and 3 boats. Contracted to manage and operate a further 13 boats on a franchise basis.
- 2012 – Re-Union office moves from Wester Hailes to Edinburgh Quay to be closer to boat and develop training programme and boat trip sales more effectively. Re-Union Canal Centre opened.
- 2013 – People and Communities Fund support Re-Union’s training programme in Edinburgh and replication of the programme in Falkirk in partnership with LINK Housing Association and Prospect Community Housing
- 2013 – Purchase of self-drive day hire boat in Falkirk through People and Communities Fund
One of the last canals ever built in Britain, the Union Canal was almost immediately overshadowed by the faster rail network in 1849. By 1965 the canal was closed, and almost disappeared, blocked by roads and housing development in the late twentieth century.
Years of community campaigning with the support of British Waterways (now Scottish Canals) resulted in a successful Millennium lottery bid to re-instate the Union Canal from Edinburgh Quay to Falkirk, create the Falkirk Wheel and re-instate the Forth & Clyde canal. In effect recreating the city to city and coast to coast link that is the Lowland Canals. The re-instated 32 miles of the Union Canal provided a unique community resource flowing through diverse communities, both urban and rural, providing a unique wildlife corridor.
While it was assumed that the re-instated canal would encourage people to get on the water it became apparent that most people would not be able to afford a boat to do this. Founders of Re-Union, Sam Baumber and Jay Lamb, saw this scenario develop and decided to use their skills and expertise to change things. Jay managed the boat side of things and Sam controlled the paperwork involved in setting up the enterprise. They then looked for enthusiastic volunteers to help deliver the project. A voluntary Board of Directors quickly followed and Re-Union’s mission statement became “To make canal cruising on the Union Canal available to all”.
The operating system for Re-Union was, and still is, to use a mix of funding and income generation to support training programmes bringing volunteers and trainees from all walks of life onto the water giving as many people as possible the opportunity to drive a boat on the canal and to create and support projects that are based on and around the canal. The ideas for the projects that we work on come from our volunteers and community consultations. This ensures that Re-Union maintain their link with canalside communities.
From these beginnings Re-Union has grown and is now the largest operator on the Lowland Canals. We are now involved in managing 20 boats –
Lochrin Belle in Edinburgh a 60’ wide-beam boat is a beautiful, light and versatile venue space perfect for parties, group outings, meetings, training days, and private functions. Our fully accessible boat with fully fitted kitchen can accommodate up to 35 people. We provide a range of additional services to make your event special.
Jaggy Thistle in Falkirk is a cute and cosy 32’ narrow boat - perfect for a fun day out! Based at the Falkirk Wheel the boat is self drive and available for day hire. Maximum number of people on board is 8. It's easy to manage and has all the equipment you need for a relaxing cruise, including a fully fitted kitchen and WC.
Re-Union is the majority shareholder in Capercaillie Cruisers, operators of Falkirk Holiday Hire Boats, based at the Falkirk Wheel which is now operating a fleet of 18 boats. 3 of these boats belong to Capercaillie and 15 are operated on a franchise basis. By being part of this company Re-Union receive a share of the profits to subsidise the delivery of our social projects. For more information on holiday boat hire contact Capercaillie Cruisers – 01324 627212 - www.capercailliecruisers.co.uk
Re-Union’s training programmes have also grown and we are now delivering a two centre programme called Canal Community Connections. This exciting project links two canal communities, Falkirk and Edinburgh and offers participants the opportunity to experience handling and maintaining a narrow boat and learning a range of related skills including -
· Weekly training activities – learning at your own pace
· Learn to drive boats and work towards Royal Yachting Association certification
· Learn to crew boats for group bookings
· Crew skills: health & safety, water safety, first aid, hospitality, food hygiene
· Boat skills: general and engine maintenance, boat painting, rope work, set-up for trips
· Canal skills: how canals work - locks, aqueducts, Falkirk Wheel; canal heritage and environment, conservation, John Muir Award
Re-Union constantly strive to create more services to support our programmes and these include -
- Friends of Re-Union – become a Re-Union supporter - you can get on the water and help us deliver our social aims. For an annual subscription of £25 you can have 2 FREE ticketed events on Lochrin Belle every year, 2 newsletters keeping you informed about what’s happening at Re-Union and on the Union Canal and discount offers on Re-Union events and training
- 1-2-1 Boat Familiarisation Training – have a 2 hour private session with our Skipper on boat familiarisation and driving Lochrin Belle
- RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman – as an RYA training school we can provide this course at our Falkirk base
- Ticketed events – Tea and Cake Cruises, Curry Cruises, Santa Cruises, others will be added throughout the season
- Gift Vouchers – looking for an idea gift? We can provide gift vouchers for all of our services and boat hire for both Lochrin Belle and Jaggy Thistle
- Desk and Room Hire – we currently host the Edinburgh Social Enterprise Network team and the Edinburgh side of Scottish Waterways Trust Canal College. We also provide meeting space for many local groups.
Although Re-Union operates on a mix of funding and income generation our ultimate aim is to become fully sustainable. Currently we stand at 60% of our income generated through sales and services. The organisation is looking forward to this increasing as we get more boats on the water and we continue to be innovative in our approach to developing the organisation.
For further information, contact:
Pat Bowie – General Manager
Re-Union Canal Boats Ltd
Re-Union Canal Centre
1 Union Path
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