Poet Jo Bell, a long-time boat dweller and industrial archaeologist, has teamed up with fellow poets Roy Fisher and Ian McMillan, and artist Peter Coates, to bring poetry to Britain’s historic waterways.
There is a longstanding link between arts and the waterways. Tim Eastop, arts development manager
Locklines is part of a wider partnership between the Canal & River Trust and Arts Council England, which aims to attract more people to the waterways as visitors while surprising and delighting existing communities through exciting and innovative art projects.
Peter Coates will be working with Canal & River Trust craftsmen to carve and inlay poetry into four locks during routine repair works this winter. The project, developed by Kate Maddison and Rick Faulkner of Chrysalis Arts, encourages people to stop and take a closer look at the canals that they live on or alongside, or explore in their leisure time. Local residents will have a chance to get involved through workshops where they will find out more about Locklines and the canals that run through their communities.
Jo Bell explains: "The canals were built as a kind of machine, delivering the Industrial Revolution to every part of the UK, but now we use them as places to think, or to stop ourselves thinking. Our words will be a surprise, a curiosity, a thing encountered by chance in a monumental setting. A touch of wonder is always a good thing." Arts development manager Tim Eastop explains the project’s significance to the Canal & River Trust: “There is a longstanding link between arts and the waterways - indeed, the canal locks we use today are based on Leonardo da Vinci’s design for a lock at San Marco in Milan in 1497.
"Art in all its forms has a fantastic capacity to surprise, delight and challenge and we are exploring a whole range of projects which we hope will encourage people to visit and support the waterways. We hope that Locklines makes people smile and take a moment to stop and think about the wonderful canals that are on their doorsteps.”
The writing sessions on 21 September will be friendly, welcoming and challenging. Poems written during these sessions, or afterwards by any members of the public, can be sent to the Locklines team via the website www.locklines.org.uk where Jo and her colleagues will be writing blogs to explain their work and its progress.
The carved lock gates are being put in to four sites: Gargrave Lock on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal; Hillmorton Lock on the Oxford Canal; Milnsbridge Lock on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal; and Farmer’s Bridge Lock in Birmingham. Each of the locations is a non-listed lock that requires a gate replacement this winter. The locations are all very different, reflecting the varied communities the canals pass through.