Hinterlands is a new, national strategic arts programme that aims to deliver local and national impact within five ‘cold spot’ areas where engagement with the waterways and the arts is low. These locations will be linked by our vision for living waterways that transform places and enrich lives.

Simeon Nelson - Hydrosiren image Ben Westoby

Our waterways flow through some of the world’s most creative cities and outstanding countryside. However, there are many communities along canal corridors with significant levels of economic and cultural deprivation - in rural, suburban and urban areas. These ‘hinterlands’ are often hidden and misunderstood, yet the waterways that run through them offer real potential for making innovative, prosperous places and fresh cultural connections with nearby market towns and city hubs.  

Supporting our aims, new arts activities curated by regional creative producers will tour and connect stretches of waterway or ‘hinterlands’ – areas under-served by the arts and facing economic or social hardship.

The five target locations are:

  • North East (Sheffield and Doncaster suburbs on Sheffield & South Yorkshire Canal and Stockton on Tees);
  • West Midlands (Smethwick/Sandwell on New Mainline Canal and Dudley Canal);
  • East Midlands (Leicester surrounding areas on the Grand Union Canal);
  • London (Enfield on the River Lee/Lea Navigation);
  • Wales (Pontypool/lower end of Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Torfaen CBC).

We have been funded by Arts Council England and the Arts Council of Wales to employ five freelance Creative Producers to undertake initial research and consultation in the target areas to develop local touring arts programmes along waterways.

Building on the success of socially engaged arts programmes on waterways led by us, such as Super Slow Way and The Ring, the producers will nurture compelling and relevant artistic themes within the deprived areas, helping to make lives better by water and inspire reimagined futures.

The producers are collaborating with local artists and arts partners to deliver engagement events to be held at waterways heritage venues, local community centres, street markets, libraries, working men clubs, pubs, hobby groups, rehabilitation groups, arts organisations, job centres, schools and colleges.

Hinterlands will unlock the waterways’ potential as a ‘canvas’ for local activities and encourage arts partners to see them as an important place for new commissions, outreach and audience development.

The programme will help grow our reputation across England and Wales as an innovative force for creative and social change at a local level. It will demonstrate that canals are especially accessible cultural spaces for local communities, able to provide benefits for visitors in terms of engagement, mental health, skills and well-being.

Last date edited: 6 April 2018