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Announcing Britain's new Canal Laureate 2018: Nancy Campbell

The Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust are delighted to announce the appointment of Britain’s new Canal Laureate 2018, Nancy Campbell.

Nancy Campbell in Iceland 2015 - Bjorn Valdimarsson

Oxford-based poet and kayaker Nancy has a keen interest in arctic, marine and water conservation, following on from her winter residency at the most northern museum in the world in Greenland in 2010, and subsequent museum residencies in both Greenland and Iceland over the last seven years.

During 2018 she will "seek out and share stories" from the people and places she will encounter during her travels along the 2,000 miles of the nation's historic canals and waterways looked after by the Canal & River Trust.

Nancy begins her role as Canal Laureate this month, taking over from poet Luke Kennard (2016-17) and poet Jo Bell, who became the inaugural Canal Laureate (2013-15).

Interested in helping make her poetry accessible to a mainstream audience, Nancy is keen to realise her poems through other mediums such as printmaking and film. Her initial events and collaborations will include: creating a short work about rain to be displayed by the waterways; writing a poem about an unassuming and endangered type of herring – the Twaite Shad; and a collaboration with Nottingham's ‘Light Night' event.

Nancy Campbell said: "I'm thrilled to be appointed as the new Canal Laureate and am grateful for the inspiring wake of poems the previous Canal Laureates leave behind. I've always lived near to water, from my childhood living between the Tweed and the Tyne, I now live just ten minutes' walk from the Thames and not far from the River Cherwell and Oxford Canal. I would love to live on a narrowboat, but I don't think I could fit all my books into one! Instead, I paddle around Oxford's waterways on a kayak or canoe, which is a great way to discover these green corridors."

Nancy Campbell kayaking on the Oxford Canal

She added: "Although my writing is inspired by the environment, I don't see nature in isolation from human activity. What fascinates me is the intersection between people, the places they live and their local environment. I'm keen to explore the history of Britain's remarkable canals, to discover how they have transformed over the last 200 years from an industrial to leisure resource and have become places of recovery and healing to enhance our wellbeing."

Established in 2013 by The Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust, the Canal Laureateship aims to encourage exciting new writing about the Britain's historic canal network. Previous Laureateships have seen poems stencilled onto canalside walls, carved into newly made lock-beams, and translated into short films; with forgotten classics given new life in performances, publication and animations.

Canal poetry has been celebrated at venues including: the Hay Festival, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Birmingham Literature Festival, National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port, London's Southbank Centre and Crick Boat Show, Welshpool Poetry Festival, Market Bosworth Festival, Leeds Liverpool Biennial, and a dedicated canal edition of BBC Radio 4's Poetry Please.

The project is part of the Arts on the Waterways programme, a partnership between the Canal & River Trust, Arts Council England and Arts Council of Wales to help attract even more visitors to the waterways while surprising and delighting existing communities through innovative art projects.

Tim Eastop, our executive producer of the Arts on the Waterways programme said: "Our nation's waterways are a big canvas that offer a launch pad to create the most incredible and unexpected works across a range of artistic disciplines. I see our canals and rivers as cultural capillaries, capable of helping the arts reach out to new audiences and attract new supporters for our superb waterways. We're very excited to announce Nancy as our new canal laureate. She is a rising name and we look forward to realising her exciting ambitions over the next 12 months."

Judith Palmer, Director of The Poetry Society, said: "While our rivers and coast have attracted centuries of British writers, the slow waters of our canal network remain relatively uncharted in literature, and are ripe for poetic exploration. Our continuing partnership with the Canal & River Trust has been responsible for generating many wonderful new poems, and connecting with new audiences around the country. We're thrilled to be now announcing our third Canal Laureate, and welcoming Nancy Campbell to the role. Nancy has established herself as an energetic and innovative poet of insatiable curiosity with a passion for exploring lives and landscapes shaped by water. We look forward to accompanying her on this new literary journey as Canal Laureate."

The Canal Laureate's new poems and observations will be published on Follow Nancy's adventures via Twitter @CanalPoetry

Last Edited: 11 January 2018

photo of a location on the canals
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