Jim Armstrong, founder of Laburnum Boat Club, has been awarded a British Empire Medal by the Queen in this year’s Birthday Honours.
Jim (69) set up the charitable boating project in the 80’s for what was supposed to be an 18-month long project yet 37 years later it is still going strong and now welcomes 400 young members annually.
Located along the banks of the Regents Canal, Laburnum Boat Club provides water-based activities for children around the local area. Many members progress to become canoe instructors, narrowboat skippers and rock climbing coaches. The club also works extensively with children and young people with disabilities, and has built relationships with surrounding schools who include kayaking in their PE curriculum.
Jim was marked out for special recognition for his long-standing service to children and young people from around Hackney.
Reminiscing on his time setting up and running the club he said: “The whole thing has been great fun! Paddlesports are just great for helping young people develop. It felt like we had set up the right facility in just the right place.
“Kayaking is a great activity for kids to engage with ... getting them off the streets, learning new skills, and expending energy. When they are in the boats they aren’t quite so cocky, and after a couple of hours they leave tired and wet and happy.”
Over the years the club has come full circle. Many of those who began as young teens have worked their way up to become paddlesport instructors (trained by the Club), and now lead and coach younger groups.
“When I first began the project (with two friends) it was entirely voluntary, but it grew and grew and has slowly taken over. It is a very fulfilling and satisfying thing to be part of. I’m quite proud of it.” says Jim.