Tooley’s is having a celebration and everyone’s invited

Tooley's Boatyard, Banbury, mural. Left, blacksmith, Jamie Simmons and right, Matt Armitage, with part of the new mural which is going on the boatyard gates. NNL-170613-163723009
Tooley's Boatyard, Banbury, mural. Left, blacksmith, Jamie Simmons and right, Matt Armitage, with part of the new mural which is going on the boatyard gates. NNL-170613-163723009

Tooley’s historic boatyard will be opening to the public this weekend with demonstrations, boat rides and live music.

The festivities mark Matt Armitage’s 15th anniversary at the helm of the UK’s oldest continually working dry dock and had been arranged when the annual Canal Day festival had been put on hold.

Tooley's dry dock turns into an entertainment venue during Banbury's Canal Day (courtesy Rosy Burke) NNL-170621-162448001

Tooley's dry dock turns into an entertainment venue during Banbury's Canal Day (courtesy Rosy Burke) NNL-170621-162448001

As a result the boatyard is pulling out all the stops and will feature activities for both hardened narrowboat fans and for the merely inquisitive.

The free weekend of fun will be opened by children’s author Dan Clacher at 10am on Saturday, October 7, outside the yard’s recently installed gate mural.

Mr Clacher has a long association with the boat yard and has known it since he himself was a child. Tooleys also provided inspiration for the star of his books, ‘Muddy’ - a fictional boat built in the dry dock 200 years ago.

The dry dock will be drained, washed and scrubbed with a stage set up hosting a variety of musicians throughout the weekend as well as doubling as an open mic venue for the Banbury Folk Festival on Sunday from noon until 4pm.

Tooleys Boatyard, Banbury, sharing facilities RVS Man Sheds. From the left, Jo Phillips, RVS Sheds project manager, Barry Richards, Sheds mentor and Steve Kilsby, RVS service manager, in the forge with Matt Armitage, Tooley's director. NNL-160111-145742009

Tooleys Boatyard, Banbury, sharing facilities RVS Man Sheds. From the left, Jo Phillips, RVS Sheds project manager, Barry Richards, Sheds mentor and Steve Kilsby, RVS service manager, in the forge with Matt Armitage, Tooley's director. NNL-160111-145742009

On Saturday live music will be provided by Dave Arrowsmith Blues Trio, Other Dramas, a female lead pop garage duo, S.M. Acoustics, a two piece cover band and Wine Lights, a husband and wife jazz duo.

Free boat rides on the Dancing Duck will be offered all weekend as will access to parts of the boatyard ordinarily off limits to the public, including the paint shop and carpenter’s shop.

Both the belt shop and forge will be open and will include working demonstrations by blacksmiths and skilled craftsmen.

Matt will also launch the Friends of Tooley’s where volunteers can gain experience in the boatyard’s historic trades in exchange for giving a few hours of their time.

Tooley' Boatyard, Banbury. Director Matt Armitage with their Kolsch die sinking milling machine, once owned by Alcan. NNL-160111-141359009

Tooley' Boatyard, Banbury. Director Matt Armitage with their Kolsch die sinking milling machine, once owned by Alcan. NNL-160111-141359009

In addition Matt will be taking pre-orders for his book on the history of Tooley’s which will be published next year.

Matt said: “I am very excited to invite everyone to come down to this very historic boat yard which is such an important part of the town.

“It came so close to being built over but thank goodness it was saved for future generations.

“I have run the boat yard for the last 15 years and it has gone very quickly, I have thoroughly enjoyed operating all the aspects of the boat yard.

He added: “We are currently working on some very exciting plans for the future of the boat yard and the role it will play within Banbury, the local community, the industry and the canal system. I look forward to the future.”