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The Sobriety Project uses the waterways museum collection, vessels and waterways as resources for personal development and training to disadvantaged groups.

These include men in re-settlement stages of a custodial sentence, young people excluded or at risk from exclusion from school, and adults with learning disabilities or mental health issues.

The priority areas are working with men in prison, young people at risk and developing the heritage and interpretation of the museum collection and encouraging non typical people to engage in it.

The Yorkshire Waterways Museum - Aeriel view

The Sobriety Project started delivering services to the community in 1973 using an inland waterways barge after which the charity was named. Since then the charity has developed into a much broader enterprise using land based resources and a variety of other boats including the original barge, Sobriety.

Since 1995 the charity has used its Yorkshire Waterways Museum to deliver many of its projects and is also of regional significance in preserving the industrial heritage of the waterways and the transportation of coal. Throughout the forty one years of our commitment to reducing disadvantage and supporting people to improve their lives, we have impacted very positively on this community. By raising £13.6 million over those years we have been able to invest greatly in the social economy of this area and use it to reduce deprivation in the community– Quite some feat and one to be celebrated! The Sobriety Project is so important to community, social and economic well being and we need to celebrate and build on these achievements.

The unique and innovative approach that we use in delivering our services is the way the different beneficiary groups work closely together which encourages strong integration creating a more cohesive society. So many of the people whom we support would not typically mix with people outside of their own circle and as other mainstream services tend to be directly targeted at specific categories of disadvantage this results in increasing problems of social isolation.


The Sobriety Project is working very hard behind the scenes to ensure long term sustainability which we know is not about raising enough money to keep ourselves going, but about raising enough money to keep doing what we do so well and is so much needed. Improving lives and tackling the problems of social exclusion are the responsibilities of public, private and voluntary sectors but on a grass roots level the Sobriety Project can target the hardest to reach and plan to be doing so for many years to come.

Current Projects

Exciting new HLF funded Project for young people to explore heritage

Ignite Yorkshire

Ignite Yorkshire is an exciting project based on how Yorkshire’s industrial heritage is viewed, understood, appreciated and engaged with by current and future generations of young people and their communities.

The Project’s aims are to transform the perceptions and relationships young people have with Yorkshire’s industrial heritage (including in this area the industrial heritage of the waterways and the unique transportation of coal).   We hope to probe and challenge the use of historic assets and develop exciting ways to ignite a new passion and pride for these iconic structures and support young people to re-interpret Yorkshire’s industrial heritage for current and future generations


It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is a partnership scheme and the ‘Sobriety’ Project will be working with other partners within the Yorkshire area, including the Canal and River Trust.


It will develop skills and experience of groups of young people in various community settings in Yorkshire by engaging with heritage and heritage governance through interaction with youth boards.  It will involve heritage skills and crafts, events design and visitor engagement, boating activities on the waterways, technology as a means of modernising museum for younger generations and innovative interpretation using APP design as a new concept. This will help to build confidence and self esteem, enhance employability, engage new communities and audiences and ignite a new passion for Yorkshire’s Industrial Heritage.

From November 2017 until March 2018 there will be a series of taster events in order that young people and professionals working with them can feed into and shape the project and activities for the next four years.

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Reaching Communities

Reaching Communities is a five year project which started in 2015 and supports;

Quality Volunteering Opportunities

Positive Activities for Young People

Therapeutic activities for Adults with Disabilites or Long Term Health Conditions

Participation is free to anybody who might benefit from involvement as it is completely funded by The Big Lottery Reaching Communities Programme.

Volunteering opportunites include Horticulture and Gardening, Catering and Hospitality, Site and Boat Maintenance, Woodwork and Engineering, and Boat Skippering and Crewing.


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Awards for All

We are using the nature trail to provide volunteering opportunities for socially isolated elderly people. Increasing numbers of older people suffer from the negative effects of loneliness and this project aims to involve them in outdoor social activities which improve mental health and well being and increase physical activity.

The volunteers can self refer or be signposted from other agencies and whilst they enjoy their involvement, they will also be improving a great outdoor green space for the whole community to enjoy.

Alternative Educational Provision

Young People at risk of exclusion or are excluded from school

These are placed directly by schools or Local Authority once excluded. They attend the project with the aim of supporting them with Alternative Education packages with the ultimate aim of getting them back into school. They leave with accreditation and a better ability to cope in mainstream settings.

The project targets young people who have previously been unable to cope in school or other mainstream settings. The young people have special needs and many are statemented. They come from low income families often fragmented, families under Social Services supervision, and families where problems are compounded through unemployment and sometimes drug or alcohol abuse.  The common affects resulting from their difficult environments include bad behaviour, culminating in aggression, lack of concentration and resentment of authority, an inability to cope in class, non attendance at school, lack of self esteem and confidence and increased offending rates.

Goole has high levels of deprivation placing it in the top 10%nationally most deprived communities. The project impacts positively on the lives of the participants and also on the wider community as the project not only improves the physical appearance of the town and enhances the environment but also improves community cohesion across generations and cultures and reduces the fear of crime.

Activities are based in the Yorkshire Waterways Museum and include boat handling with life skills training, Woodwork lessons, catering in the museum kitchen, environmental activities on the towpath nature trail and horticultural projects on the allotments.


Offender Re Settlement

The project works with 10 men from prison 7 days per week in line with their sentence plans and 20 different men typically participate in the project each year. Their progression path was moving into paid employment in their last months of sentence that they are able to continue post release.

Participants gain work experience and training at the museum giving them new skills and confidence to achieve this. They work alongside other volunteers undertaking numerous roles including site and boat maintenance, catering, minibus driving, skippering and crewing, horticulture and engineering.