It all began with the donation of an ex-coal barge named “Littlebeck” currently moored at Stanley Ferry in Wakefield. The vessel is a 61 foot Sheffield Keel barge which was built in Thorne, Doncaster, South Yorkshire in 1953. Its purpose was to carry coal from pits across the West Riding to Hull. We know that at some point Littlebeck was converted. She was used as a floating dormitory that could sleep up to 14 local children. These were usually scout groups or foreign exchange students. Unfortunately, Littlebeck fell into disrepair following changes in the youth services and retirement of members of the original Littlebeck charitable trust. For a number of years Littlebeck then lay derelict, open to vandals and, as a consequence, suffered severe internal damage. At one point she actually sank, with only the wheelhouse visible above the water line.
The revised intended use for the barge was to create a skills workshop, arts centre and drop-in centre, not only for head trauma victims but also for local kids who found themselves with nothing to occupy their time during weekends and school holiday periods. The restoration project which commenced in March 2006 was being carried out by members of Move Ahead . The concept of the Littlebeck being a floating arts centre was inspired by my son, Scott, and was the culmination of two years’ hard work and determination to put something back into the community. However, in December 2007 all that was destroyed when local vandals, having eaten the food and partaken of the beverages stored on board for visitors, decided to leave an unwanted Christmas present! They ransacked the place before setting fire to a bed causing many tens of thousands pounds worth of damage and destroying the dreams of Scott and his fellow members of the Littlebeck and Move Ahead charities. Everything was lost during the fire, including all the internal fixtures and fittings, audio/visual equipment, paintings, cooking and hospitality facilities, cleaning equipment and supplies, etc. Donations and fund-raising enabled us to source building materials, in order to create additional security areas around our offices, as well as continuing the renovation, restoration and repair of the damage caused by the fire and eventually realise the dreams of the supporters and members.