Skip to main content

A future for all our pasts

Helping our members save the UK’s heritage assets.

Case Study

Lakota Training: Riverside Renewal Through Life Long Learning

A view of historic dock buildings regenerated for a new use. A Lakota Training sign is above one of the doors and there are cars parked outside.

Members Projects in the Spotlight

Lakota Training

The community interest company provides bespoke training courses to help long-term unemployed people overcome barriers and access work.

Lakota Training was founded in 2015 by Joanne Honer and Paul Mariner. They have extensive experience working in employability and training and used this to open a centre with a people-centred approach. It started in a small part of the building but took on more space as their work grew. Alongside its training programme, the space has many other uses: it is open as a warm space in the winter, has an onsite counsellor, hosts arts and crafts sessions and British Sign Language classes, and employs apprentices. Since moving into the building, Lakota Training has not only made a positive impact on their service users but also on the wider area.

The historic dock building where Lakota Training is based also houses their volunteer hub, which has been set up as a separate enterprise, and a soon-to-open café.

In 2014, when Lakota moved in, the surrounding area and garden were completely overgrown. Since then, volunteers have worked hard to clear the area, making it a much more pleasant place to be.

The Building

This historic dock building sits on the edge of the River Tees. Although the last Stockton and Darlington Railway train stopped outside to load its cargo onto a barge in 1925, the tracks and crane remain nearly one hundred years later.
Today, the building is hidden behind a bingo hall and industrial park, with a canoe club separating it from the water’s edge. In 2014, when Lakota moved in, the surrounding area and garden were completely overgrown. Since then, volunteers have worked hard to clear the area, making it a much more pleasant place to be.
The area has a reputation for anti-social behaviour, and in 2020 the volunteer hub was broken into. The hub then moved upstairs to provide a more secure space for the volunteers, with metal bars installed on the downstairs windows.
The volunteer team has taken responsibility for the building, including everything from painting and redecorating to replacing fixtures and fittings. Not only are they maintaining the site, but they are also building confidence and skills for employment.

The Project

Lakota Training is converting the space the volunteer hub once occupied into a café. Without being granted funding for this venture, the directors have personally financed the project. By working with local businesses, the directors aim to develop a menu suitable for their clientele, including a kids’ menu for the canoe club, and have an alcohol licence for the premises.

When operational, it will employ a café manager to oversee the day-to-day running, and it is hoped the café will provide a sustainable income as it is becoming harder to secure funding for all work areas. The café will expand the training facility, providing students and volunteers with the opportunity to gain skills and qualifications.

The Future

Lakota’s directors hope the new café will encourage people to visit the area, helping to regenerate this neglected riverside site and celebrate its heritage with new audiences. Volunteers have already created a sculpture and interpretation boards celebrating the Stockton and Darlington Railway and the site’s importance. Ahead of the 100th anniversary of the railway’s closure, there are plans to create a mural commemorating the event.

A space in the process of being regenerated. There are plywood walls, dust sheets and tools scattered around.

Further information

For more information, visit:


Read our latest news and download newsletters from the archive. Find out more

Join Us

Become a member


How to give


Preview Now