Roving Canal Traders Association

roving canal traders

The Roving Canal Traders Association is the collective voice of roving canal traders. It aims to give advice to old, new & would-be traders, and holds frequent events giving increased opportunities to all floating traders.

A different floating trader - every one a 'character of the cut' - will be presented in each edition of this magazine.

For more information on the RCTA, or to join, please see Website

Chris Hicks - Chilligibbon Stringed Things

featured roving canal trader

Chris Hicks - Chilligibbon's Stringed Things

We have been trading from the canal now for 5 years, albeit the last couple of years have  been very quiet on the festival front! Karen, Ozzy dog and myself have been living aboard now for about 7 years, quickly progressing from our first small leisure boat to a 57ft liveaboard within about 18 months, having fallen in love with the lifestyle, surroundings and characters on the cut.

I am a keen amateur musician and have played bass guitar in a few local bands during my younger years but now am firmly set on the ukulele and enjoy playing with a ukulele group. Also we have many an impromptu jam session on the towpath or in the canalside pubs!

I had a 3 string guitar a few years ago that someone had made from an old whiskey tin, after a while I took it apart to make a few changes to it. This progressed to me doing some investigating into the history of cigar box guitars and then moving on to making myself a guitar from scratch from an old wooden cigar box. This turned out well, so I made another one, and another one!

Chris Hicks Chilligibbon

At this point I had a couple of friends on the canal asking if I would make them a guitar, so I did and one thing led to another and we ended up becoming roving traders so we could sell as and when we got the chance to travel and attend small Canal based festivals.

Initially I was making the instruments on the towpath with a few tools when the weather allowed, now I have an 8 x 6 shed on our mooring so have a little more comfort and room for a few more tools!

Every instrument looks and sounds different depending on the box or tin that you use, I started by searching eBay and junk shops and experimenting with anything that looked like it might work, now I get people giving me tins and boxes so have a good selection at the moment.

Once I had sussed the guitars, I started to make ukuleles as they are very popular at the moment. Both the guitars and ukuleles are fairly compact so make good boat instruments without taking up too much room.

I tune my guitars to an open chord which means you can play with just one finger across all 3 strings on any fret and make a chord so it is easy to get a tune quickly for beginners but is also versatile enough for a more established player to use more complicated chords or play with a slide for a real bluesy feel.

I build instruments for stock and also will take commissions if a customer has a suitable box or tin that they would like converting.

Alongside the instruments, Karen makes crochet blankets, buntings, cushion covers and mushroom vent covers and also always has a good selection of her handmade rag rugs available when we are trading on the towpath or online.

Recently she has made matching blankets and cushions to finish off the décor in an historic back cabin and can make to order if you have something specific in mind.

chilligibbon crochet rug

chilligibbon crocheted blanket

chilligibbon rag rug

Chris Hicks Chilligibbon

How much fun can you have with an old box? Chris Hicks, trading as chilligibbon's stringed things, is the maker of Cigar Box and vintage tin guitars, ukuleles and other musical instruments. 'From First aid to Glenfiddich to Jacobs Crackers, we can make any tin of the right size into a great instrument.'

Visit Chris & Karen's Etsy shop, take a look at their website and follow them on Facebook.

previously featured traders

Brian Greaves - floating blacksmith      Lorraine Stevenson - the mad hatter

Caledonia     

Lesley & Rob Pearson     Shiam Wilcox - Fern Floating Fine Art

Sam Keay - gangplank gins     Fiona Lewis - Fi's Fabulous Floating Emporium

Peri Pigott the narrowboat weaver    kte louise evans - josie moons floating bazaar

buy online from a roving trader

  • GillyFlower - the Narrowboat Weaver (Peri)
    Individual and unique handwoven textiles made from a mixture of re-claimed and new wools. 
    To buy online visit Peri's Facebook
  • Floating Dolly Lady (Joanne & Steve)
    floating dolly lady
    Amazing range of metal birds as well as Russian Dolls.
    Buy online by going to Facebook
  • Bird Box & Jenny Wren (Andrea)
    Host of loving handmade items such as knitwear alongside other gifts such as Bags, Scarves, Rugs, Hats, Jewellery and handmade wooden items.
    For mail order go to Facebook
  • Canal Art by Julie
    Canal Art by JulieHand painted canal ware and items of canalia such as tea towels, model boats etc.
    Please visit website
  • Stitch on the Water (Colin & Gillian)
    Making a variety of embroidered gifts including cushions for children and adults, Bags, hand tied keyrings, embroidered earrings, cot quilts etc.
    Please see Facebook
  • Last Night in Limehouse (Zoe)
    Hand painted leather dog collars byZoe Marsden
    Individually hand painted luxury dog collars (predominantly for sight-hounds)
    Please visit Etsy shop
  • Paw Prints Afloat (Doggie Boat & Tim Clarke Photography)
    All manner of doggie essentials: leads, collars, bandannas, portable water bottles & collapsible bowls, plus toys & healthy treats.
  • Visit Website to buy online
  • Gangplank (Sam)
    Cafe/bar. Creator & seller of foraged fruit spirits (Gangplank Gins) cordials and preserves.
    Visit Website
  • Julie Weir Art
    Wildlife Artist who paints with Watercolours & Acrylic inks. Also Online Watercolour School.
    Visit Website
  • Fern Floating Fine Art (Shiam Wilcox)
    Fern floating art
    Flora & Fauna Artist, prints framed or unframed, greetings cards.
    Browse & buy online 
  • Dazzle Paws (Sheena Orton)
    Hand made dog collar by Dazzle Paws
    Dog collars, bandanas and accessories, all lovingly hand made.
    Browse and buy online