New Waterways Action Squad

Published: Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A GROUP of young people have created a new piece of wall art at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port to celebrate the start if a major new youth volunteering project and to brighten up a graffiti-covered canal tunnel.

Funded by 'v', the national charity for youth volunteering and the Bank of America, and run by the Waterways Trust and British Waterways, The Waterways Action Squad is a growing group of young volunteers aged between 16 and 25 who want to get involved in the care and promotion of canals and rivers in the North West.

The colourful new mural, which was completed earlier this month, is underneath a road bridge alongside the Shropshire Union Canal and is on the route of the museum's trip boat. It was designed and executed by nine young people, aged between 22 and 25 years, from Manchester, Sefton, Chester and Liverpool. The painting is made up of five panels depicting different aspects of waterway life: industrial heritage; recreation and leisure; life on a boat; the museum; and youth volunteering.

Victoria Kastenbauer, who led the design process, was one of the nine volunteers involved. She's aged 23, is from Manchester and is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art. Victoria explains:

"Creating this bright painting, which now obscures some ugly graffiti, has been both great fun and a valuable experience for my CV. After an inspiring tour of the museum and a ride on the museum's trip boat Centaur we sketched out our ideas and got together to discuss them. Once we'd agreed the final design, we divided up the work and starting painting. We hope everyone who visits the museum will enjoy our bright designs and their message that the canals are wonderful!"

Over the next two years, the Waterways Action Squad will offer over 570 volunteering opportunities giving young people the chance to develop a range of practical and life skills. The activities will range from one-off taster sessions, like the mural project, to part-time activities and full-time placements. Specific tasks and projects will be developed in consultation with young people themselves but some of the ideas for the types of activities on offer include:

  • Practical tasks like scrub-clearance, hedge-laying, habitat improvement, towpath maintenance, canal clean-ups and help to conserve historic structures;
  • Monitoring and surveying wildlife, heritage structures and artefacts;
  • Customer service roles including towpath rangers, reception duties, volunteer boat skippers, plus walks and museum guides; and
  • Interpretation and promotion roles including running events key sites, becoming visitor guides and developing web-based visitor information.

Lucie Unsworth, Waterways Action Squad project manager, explains:

"We are delighted to have kick-started this exciting project, which we hope will really make a difference to hundreds of young people's lives in the North West. The waterways are a wonderful resource, rich in history and wildlife and we hope they will inspire the young people we work with to go on to fulfilling careers using the skills they have developed with the Waterways Action Squad.

For more information on how to get involved in the Waterways Action Squad please contact Lucie Unsworth, Project Manager on 0151 373 4375 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Waterways Action Squad is planning an open day at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port on 25th October to encourage more young people to join the scheme.