Angel Community Canal Boat Trust chairman Brian Voakes with Angel II skipper John Checkley
Published: 30 January, 2015
by EMMA BULL
THE prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is to be presented to the charity behind the Angel II canal boat, which has provided trips for disadvantaged Islington residents for more than 40 years.
The award – the highest accolade for any volunteer group in the country – comes at a time when the long-term future of the Angel Community Canal Boat Trust remains in jeopardy.
Islington Council has just announced that its funding is secure for at least another year. But the future is uncertain.
“What we offer is unique to the borough and to London as a whole,” said Brian Voakes, the charity’s chairman.
“And this is why it is impossible for us to fit in with the new objectives for council funding.”
Ian Shacklock, chairman of the Friends of Regent’s Canal campaign group, said: “They are a familiar sight up and down the Regent’s Canal. Volunteers provide a wonderful opportunity for inner-city children to get out and see backdoor London. Is this the way to treat an award-winning community group?”
Angel II is used by local community groups, schools and residents for a variety of social, educational and therapeutic projects. The Oak Lodge special needs school in Barnet, and the Arts 4 Dementia society in Putney, both frequently use the service.
Mr Voakes was a volunteer performer in the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. After the festivities ended, he invited some of his fellow Olympic volunteers to bring their charity to Angel and work with him at the Trust.
“It was a call to arms,” he said, “and they really got on board with the work.”
Together, they repaired and revamped the Angel II throughout the winter months. Following their success, the boat was fully booked for two years’ worth of charitable excursions. Alongside the Queen’s Award, the volunteers are to be treated to an outing along the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Waterways, before its public opening in a year’s time.
A domed glass crystal trophy will be presented to the Trust volunteers by Mayor of Islington Councillor Theresa Debono at the Town Hall on February 5.
Meanwhile the Trust is currently looking for alternative long-term funding.