Charity barge set for action again

Move Ahead Charity boat reopens after an arson attack in 2007.Pictured is Steve Mortimer.
Move Ahead Charity boat reopens after an arson attack in 2007.Pictured is Steve Mortimer.

A FLOATING art gallery which showcases the work of head injury victims is now back up-and running following an arson attack.

The Littlebeck Barge and 80 of its paintings went up in smoke at Stanley Ferry in December 2007, but thanks to the hard work and determination of volunteers it is now back in action and Hemsworth-man Steve Mortimer could not be happier.

Mr Mortimer, 61, of Woodlands Crescent, became heavily involved in the project after his son Scott, 32, suffered a serious brain injury after being knocked down by a bus in Wakefield in 2004.

Father and son worked tirelessly on the once-sunken barge only to see it wrecked by firebugs weeks before it was due to open.

They took a step back after the blaze but got inspiration to have another go.

Mr Mortimer said: “We received a letter from two old age pensioners and that proved to be the trigger to start again. It was the fact that somebody cared.

“They thought it was despicable what had happened and they wished we would continue with it.

“And they sent a cheque towards it.”

He said many people with disabilities had tackled the repairs to the boat, adding: “The main thing from my point of view is we’ve been able to demonstrate that people with disabilities, by working as a team, can actually achieve something on a fairly large scale.”

The boat, which belongs to the Littlebeck Trust, supports the work of the Move Ahead charity, which works with Wakefield people who have brain injuries and supports their families and carers. 

Mr Mortimer added: “The boat is fantastic as a drop in centre. The vessel itself is a combination of someone’s home and an art gallery.

“It’s been purposely done that way to make people with disabilities feel at home.”

Dad-of-three Mr Mortimer said he’s had a really good response from the public, including visitors from as far afield as Madrid.

Events so far have included people with severe learning disabilities enjoying a calming day’s fishing.

The boat is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 10.30am to 3pm.

And an exhibition of Move Ahead paintings takes place tonight and tomorrow at Parkside Methodists Church at Leeds Road, Outwood.

Mr Mortimer added: “This exhibition clearly demonstrates the significant improvement in our head-injured members. You can visually see the improvement of them in their artwork.”

Friday’s session runs from 7pm to 9pm and Saturdays from 10am to 3pm.

Entry is free and there will be refreshments.