The East Manchester Community Boat Project, based in Tamesde, is a group of local people who have come together over their love of local canals, history and the wildlife.

The project provides fun ways of learning for individuals and groups in a positive, secure and friendly environment and sees approximately 1,000 passengers per year.

Originally set up over 20 years ago to combat anti-social behaviour by the canal near Ashton, founder Nigel Anderson (who was a Chief Inspector for Greater Manchester Police at the time) wanted to engage the local community in a fun way to reduce crime.

Nigel formed a committee of local people, obtained charitable status and encouraged local businesses to help to pay for the building of the boat, which they built themselves, hence the name ‘Community Spirit’. The 28 volunteers still to this day carry our approximately 90% of the maintenance of the boat themselves.

Moored at Portland Basin in Ashton-under-Lyne, the project relies on its volunteers to stay afloat. These people work on a completely voluntary basis simply because they love canals and want to use their enthusiasm to teach their local community about their surroundings and areas further afield.

The group organises a variety of trips, which include cruising down the Ashton Canal towards Manchester, the Peak Forest Canal towards Marple through Hyde and the Huddersfield Canal towards Huddersfield through Stalybridge.

‘Community Spirit’ is moored right by a museum at Portland Basin, which allows members of the community to have a great day out, learning about the history of Tameside in the museum and then enjoying an educational trip along one of the three canals on East Manchester Community Boat Project’s trips.

Nigel Anderson said: “We have researched the history of local canals, we learned about the wildlife, we have walked (boated) in the footsteps of historical figures, we embrace conservation and we pass all this knowledge on in a fun and entertaining way. We are like no other community canal boat in the UK.

“We have even produced our own materials to aid learning and understanding. Whether you’re a child who can’t sit still, someone who struggles to communicate, a bored teenager or someone who just needs company, we are there for you, we are non- judgmental and we know when to engage, when just to be quiet or when to tell a story.”