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28th May, 2022

Jolly canal couple to realise dream of restoring 'floating village hall'

A ‘FLOATING village hall’ which became a social hub for canal dwellers is being restored by a local couple – to ‘increase the jollity of the nation’.

The Village Butty – a narrowboat which became a venue for music, arts and nights out in London – is being restored at Brinklow Marina by Anna Crockatt and Richard Guard.

The boat – first built in 1959 with the registered name ‘Vanadium’ – was converted into a ‘floating village hall and boaters’ community centre’ in 2010 and quickly became a fixture in the London boating scene, winning the prestigious Living Waterways Award for Best Small Arts Venue in 2019.

The couple, who have a history with the Butty, bought the boat when it ran into hard times after the pandemic struck – with dreams of restoring it to its former glory.

They had it craned out and moved to Brinklow Marina near Newbold, where they live on their own boats – and now, having received a grant from Arts Council England, their dream is taking shape.

The Village Butty will get a complete renovation, including a new wooden floor and roof, state of the art solar power, electric and audio equipment, and a classic push tug to move her around.

Anna and Richard say they want to transform the Butty into ‘the most spectacular grassroots music venue on the inland waterways’.

Anna said: “Our stated aim is to increase the overall jollity of the nation – and we could certainly do with some of that.

“We are good friends with the previous owners and were great supporters of it when we were based in London. We played as a band on it many times for free and also helped them with decorations and promoting events.

“We don’t want to make a racket, we adore the amazing tranquillity of the cut, but we would love to make difference – a real difference. We just want to bring more beauty to an already beautiful setting.”

Richard added: “Arts Council England have recognised that small music venues are closing at an alarming rate, meaning there’s nowhere for up-and-coming acts to try out their stuff.

“We are delighted to be able to get this very special venue back in full swing and not only have a stage for new and untried acts to test their metal, but also restore a beautiful historic boat and let everyone enjoy exquisite music on the canal – the canal that they have quite probably turned their backs on for years.”

The couple are currently planning a very long – and very slow – two-year tour of the waterways after the rebuild. And if all goes well, the journey might go on forever.

Richard continued: “Obviously you can’t get from Birmingham to Leeds in a day in a narrowboat, the way rock bands do in a tour bus, so it’ll be a week here, travel, then a week there.

“We hope to be open and active two weeks a month from spring to autumn, then back to Rugby to plan our 2023 tour over the winter.”

The refurb’s progress will be followed on ‘The Relatively Good Radio Show’, a monthly live show broadcast at 2pm every third Tuesday on London-based Resonance 104.4FM, and online at www.resonancefm.com.

The couple are still in need of additional funds to complete their project. Visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/the-village-butty-relaunch to donate.

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