Oarsome chance students are special guests at the launch of RNRMC X Canvas Works product range

Posted on:  April 28, 2023

Oarsome Chance students, staff and trustees were all in attendance at Boathouse 4 at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on Thursday (27 April) to join the Royal Navy & Royal Marine Charity and their guests in celebrating the launch of a collaboration between the two charities.

Oarsome Chance’s social enterprise, Canvas Works, has designed a fantastic range of bags made from 100% decommissioned Royal Navy life rafts that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. The money raised from the new collection will be donated back to the RNRMC and Oarsome Chance.

Each item in the collection is made in Oarsome Chance’s fully equipped studio, where students are involved with the design and construction of the products as a part of our workshop activity programme. The cut and style of each item is dictated by the individual raft used in fabrication. They are handmade by the Canvas Works team at Oarsome Chance, assisted by the students. Each accessory is unique – hand crafted from a different part of a raft. Items range from a passport holder through to a laptop case as well as various bags to a top-of-the-range rolltop backpack.

The range is available to purchase at: the RNRMC online shop and items are selling fast!

More than 60 people were in attendance at the official launch event to see the collection unveiled. We were delighted that guests to the event were able to meet Oarsome Chance students and staff and for the students to enjoy the buzz and the delicious buffet provided by the Boathouse 4 restaurant!

Our in house Canvas Works expert, Pablo was on hand to help guests have a go on a sewing machine and demonstrate how he transforms the life raft materials into something completely new. While the students had great fun trying out the six man inflatable life raft on display!

The project has been driven by Bob Field from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity in Portsmouth and WO1 Reeves of the Royal Navy who had the vision to repurpose the surplus life raft materials.  They found in Canvas Works the perfect partner for the project – an enterprise which already specialised in upcycling maritime materials, right on their doorstep in Gosport.

Bob Field, Head of Support Services and Engagement for RNRMC, said:

I knew from my last job in The Royal Navy that the MOD disposed of disused items in varying ways, including some going to landfill at a cost. With the help of my colleagues, I thought there’s got to be a creative solution here. Through this project we’ve managed to take difficult or impossible to recycle materials, materials destined for a landfill, and make incredible products with new value. The value is not just funding for RNRMC, but also for the teams of young people who are helping make this happen.

Warrant Officer 1 Lee Reeves said:

There’s no downside to this – the public purse is better off, the environment is happier, charities are making an income to support people like myself and my family and Oarsome Chance are able to get disadvantaged children involved in upcycling and providing them with some purpose as well. This has been a win-win on every front, and we couldn’t be prouder to be here.

Paul Napthine, CEO of Oarsome Chance, said:

Our collaboration with RNRMC around the new RNRMC x Canvas Works product range is so exciting on many levels. Not only is it a fantastic charity partnership, a way for the two organisations to support each other’s goals, but also a way for both charities to raise funds, while also doing our bit towards protecting the environment.

Rear Admiral Paul Beattie, who’s in charge of the Navy’s Climate Change and Sustainability plan, said:

It’s powerful that we can do something that helps the planet and helps the local area. Thank you to everybody who was involved, thank you to the charities for making this possible.

The initiative has attracted a lot of interest, including a special mention for Oarsome Chance in a Tweet from Minister of State Baroness Goldie. Paul and Bob were also interviewed by BBC Radio Solent:

Big thanks to all the hard work that went on behind the scenes for getting this project off the ground and preparing for this event. We’ve established a fantastic mutually beneficial partnership which will benefit all parties involved, and the environment – long may it continue!

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