We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.

2018 Projects

2017 was another big year for our arts programme, and 2018 is going to be bigger still. Come and see the range of diverse and exciting partners we're working with to bring together the best of waterway arts.

Turnerwood Lock evening arts performance

Here is a list of the projects we've been involved with over the last year for our Arts on the Waterways Programme. 

Super Slow Way

Led by the Trust, this major arts programme along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal corridor is being shaped by artists and people of Pennine Lancashire. Super Slow Way’s director, Laurie Peake, and her team connect local, national and international artists and arts organisations with local people through new commissions and residencies, many inspired by the canal and its historic role in shaping communities.

Highlights during 2017 included HOME47, a co-commission with Manchester International Festival by Sharmeen Obadi-Chinoy (double Oscar winning filmmaker). Her film installation responded to the 70th anniversary of the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan and the resulting mass migration to many parts of the UK including Pennine Lancashire. The canal is synonymous with the textiles industry and throughout September, Super Slow Way presented Fabrications, the UK’s first festival celebrating textiles through the eyes of contemporary artists. One of the artists, Harriet Riddell, cycled  22 miles of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, between Pendle using her bicycle as a power source for her sewing machine to make extraordinary stitched portraits of canal users. All art-works were exhibited at the Fabrications Exchange on the 29th and 30th of September at The Chimney Room, Sandygate Square in Burnley

We are delighted that Super Slow Way was recently awarded a further £1million grant from the Arts Council England’s Creative People & Places initiative to extend the programme for the next three years.

Please visit Super Slow Way for more information.

The Ring

The Ring is an 18 month series of events and commissions focused around the circle of waterways, which flow through urban and rural landscapes of Worcester and Droitwhich. This summer, selected artists have been drawing inspiration from local people and the area’s cultural heritage to devise a set of memorable new artworks and performances to be presented in 2018. Weekend-based events will excite and draw new visitors to the waterways and towns and tie-in with local arts festivals.

For more information visit: The Ring 

Floating Cinema 2017

The Floating Cinema led by Up Projects and supported by the Canal & River Trust presents In Dialogue: a FREE programme of feature films, documentaries and a newly commissioned artwork entitled On the Bench by Leeds based artist, Harry Meadley. The commission is a series of eight short films by Meadley featuring interviews with individuals that live and work in the eight waterway locations where The Floating Cinema will stop. The corresponding film programme devised by Up Projects has been devised in response to the themes of perseverance, determination and dedication that feature in Meadley's work.

The following eight locations will be visited during the tour; Sheffield, Rotherham, Swinton, Doncaster, Thorne, Goole, South Ferriby and Hull. See HERE for full details about the film programme and how to book tickets.

Summer 2017 (1 July – 13 August)

Canal Laureate

Writing a blog incorporating incisive, satirical poems our second Canal Laureate, Luke Kennard, continues to reveal his humorous, surreal canal-side journeys. Appointed by the Canal & River Trust in partnership with The Poetry Society. He began his Laureateship by foot, writing about his canal-side journeys as he goes, in a series of new poems. The poems and other strange observations from the narrow fluid road are published on the project blog www.waterlines.org.uk, where you can also find out about forthcoming public events. You can also follow his adventures via Twitter @canalpoetry.

The Canal Laureateship was established by The Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust in 2013 to encourage exciting new writing about the canal network. Boater and poet Jo Bell was the inaugural Canal Laureate and the third laureate will be announced in the new year.

Changing Places

The Trust was a principle partner with the acclaimed Film & Video Umbrella in Changing Places, a unique touring programme of moving-image work by artists from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their work was presented in ten venues across England during summer 2017, three of which were embedded within unusual waterways buildings that the Trust manages or supports. Changing Places addressed the idea of people and places in transition, alluding to the topical phenomenon of migration. It reminded us that places and buildings are also on the ‘move’, transforming and reinventing. The waterways buildings showing the films were:

  • The House Mill, Lea Navigation
  • Roundhouse, Birmingham New Mainline
  • National Waterways Museum, Shropshire Union Canal

For more information visit: Changing Places 

Idle Women on the water

On the water is a two-year tour of the canals in the North West of England and West Yorkshire, supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund and the Trust’s Arts on the Waterways Programme. Selina Cooper, a bespoke narrowboat, serves as a resource and arts centre for women. In 2017 the project hosted and presented opportunities for women and girls to come aboard and join a creative process through residencies, events and talks.

An idle women ‘boot camp’ for surviving and thriving skills was held in St Helens in October and November this year, building independence, resilience and friendships through creative and practical activities ranging from seed collecting and plant medicine to self-defense, disguises and much more.

For more information visit: Idle Women 

The Line                                           

The Trust is working with The Line on plans to add an iconic sculpture, The Hammer, by celebrated artist Michael Craig-Martin to the world-class sculpture walk alongside the River Lee in East London near Bow Locks. The Line already includes major works by Abigail Fallis, Thomas J Price and Damien Hirst sited next to this historic waterway. An engagement programme is being planned in partnership with local schools and family audiences.

For more information visit: The Line

Everything comes from the egg

Artist Stephen Turner’s extraordinary award-winning ‘egg studio’ was a temporary, energy efficient self-sustaining workspace engaging local people along the waterway corridor. 1,200 visited the exhibition and children’s workshops at Trinity Buoy Wharf and the artist led a public walk along the River Lee and Bow Creek. The tour moved on from the inland waterways of the River Lea in London and the Grand Union Canal, Milton Keynes, where over 7,000 visited, ending at the coastal locations of Portsmouth and Hastings.

Turnerwood Open Day 

To celebrate the lock repairs at Turnerwood Feeder Lock 38, acclaimed producer Bill Gee curated a new intervention by West Yorkshire based pa-BOOM, using fire and sculptures in response to themes of engineering, water, fire and air. pa-BOOm are a company of artists, sculptors, designers and technicians who create sculpture and theatre animated by fire, light and pyrotechnics. They worked with artists including spoken word poet Dave ‘Stickman’ Higgins as Mr Q Estion and Dirtmarket Dance to create performative moments within their fire-based response to the canal environment. The events took place from 6.30-9pm on Saturday 11 March.

Stilling the Flow

For this series of photographs, Stilling The Flow, artist, lecturer and boater, Jim Cooke returned to the canals of his youth in his boat, employing large-format film cameras. His fascination with canals began while walking, fishing and bird-watching along the Coventry, Ashby and Oxford canals as a child, while the waterways were drifting towards the tail end of their industrial working lives. His photography embraced the canal-side’s man-made landscape, amazing magnifications of bankside vegetation, the surface flow and feelings of timelessness. This body of work was exhibited at the Trust’s National Waterways Museums in Ellesmere Port and Gloucester.Currently it is displayed at Phoenix, Brighton from 18 October - 12 November before it will relocate to Drill Hall Gallery, Portland from 31 March - 29 April 2018.

Writer-in-Residence: Jasper Winn

The Trust’s inaugural writer-in-residence, Jasper Winn, is exploring the stories of people he encounters living, visiting, working and volunteering along the canals and rivers, as he travels around by foot, bike, boat and canoe. Winn is an established writer, photographer, broadcaster and public speaker who will work with our publishing partner, Profile Books, to produce a new book about the waterways in Spring 2018. His latest article was published in Waterways World in April this year. You can follow his latest writing about the canals on his blog, hosted on the Trust’s website.

Navigations: Art as Research

This three-year artist residency programme was a rewarding partnership between Glandŵr Cymru, the Canal & River Trust in Wales, Arts Council of Wales and Welsh curators Addo. Included were projects with galleries and visual arts organisations including, Bevilacqua la Masa in Venice, Emscher Kunst in Germany, Chapter in Cardiff and Oriel Davies, Newtown, Wales. The residencies culminated in a large exhibition at Oriel Davies by the seven participating Welsh and international artists: Mo Abd-Ulla, Nicky Coutts, Andrew Dodds, Alan Goulbourne, Mair Hughes, Cheon Pyo Lees and Dan Rees. Using Wales’ Canal network as a starting point, the exhibition examined the nature of progress, decline, globalisation and time. All the artists reflected on the nature of their artistic processes while responding to the range of historical waterways sites. Alongside artwork presented outdoors, the exhibits include sculptural interventions, performance, photography and video.

Mikron Theatre

The Yorkshire based theatre company, Mikron Theatre, has been touring its performances via narrowboat for 46 years. Supported by the Canal & River Trust and funded by Arts Council England, Mikron is a unique waterways institution. Its beautiful boat, Tyseley, was at the heart of Mikron’s summer and autumn tour along England’s waterways as the company presented two new plays to waterways audiences. The first was inspired by hiking through the eyes of hostelers, Best Foot Forward, and the second play, In at the Deep End, explored the history of the much loved RNLI.

Test Sites: Calder Valley

Test Sites is a fascinating, on-going collaboration between the Trust and Arts Catalyst’s examinging environmental questions such as flooding, pollution, and species loss and their impact on local culture, and ecology. Working with artist Ruth Levene in the Calder Valley, Yorkshire two preliminary research journeys were undertaken by narrowboat along the Calder/Hebble navigation. Meeting local people, waterways users and experts (ecologists, fishermen, canoeists, etc), the researchers integrated the history of the river and canal, water stewardship, and how water and environmental change impacted people’s health and sense of well-being. The project will gather pace during 2018 and 2019 with creative activities, roundtables, story gathering and citizen science research leading to site-specific artworks, events, and alternative archives of knowledge about the Calder catchment.

Meanwhile Hydrosiren

Meanwhile Hydrosiren, a Canal & River Trust commission by artist Simeon Nelson, was an extraordinary installation performances along the stretch of Grand Union by Meanwhile Gardens in NW London.  Launched on 14 October, the art work, a floating sculptural boat, incorporated a soundscape resulting from engagement with the diverse inhabitants and users of Meanwhile Gardens, both human and non-human. The sound piece was recorded and devised by composer Rob Godman. Canal & River Trust volunteers were instrumental in the boat build, ornamentation and its performance. Meanwhile Hydrosiren sailed along the Meanwhile Gardens stretch of the Grand Union Canal during weekend afternoons, with weekday performances moored on the bankside. The project was curated and managed by art consultants, Modus Operandi.


Last date edited: 22 February 2018