I live in a flat right on the canal and have been working on the canal side since 2003. In that time Cally Arts have raised over £250,000 of funding to make improvements. Obviously this has meant working with a range of partners over the years, including the Trust, and in 2016 I formally adopted a 500 metre stretch from York Way to Islington Tunnel.
There’s a range of volunteers who work on the adoption, we have 5-10 at the moment. Everyone’s different, but all their work makes a positive impact. The Trust’s volunteers will also help us on dedicated events.
And we’ve had plenty of different projects. We’ve created a nature garden on top of the Islington Tunnel, for example. It was an abandoned bit of overgrown waste land. Now, thanks to a lot of effort, especially from Annie, it's an area with insect-loving plants supporting species like bees and butterflies. We also grow fruit, herbs and vegetables which are shared out with local people.
We’ve worked closely with the local council to fund a number of community areas along the stretch too. These are now great places to relax and escape the city. We’ve recruited help from local school children to design community-led art. And through Cally Arts we’ve had some amazing art works and murals put up. Our next plan is to develop one area into an outdoor gym.
It takes time to find these funding streams, apply and then ultimately deliver a project, but they do make a huge difference.
Another example that we funded was after securing around £65,000 of Section 106 money to build a series of floating reed beds, that are ideal for supporting local wildlife.
The stretch is right in the heart of King’s Cross, and that brings challenges too. Whether it’s graffiti, anti-social behaviour or making sure our work helps to manage congestion on the towpath – we have to factor everything in to designing and delivering our projects.
There’s also the complication of the land along the towpath being owned by different organisations. Sometimes it means dealing with the Trust, other times with the local council or the National Grid.
I know the projects we’ve done have been really well supported so far and we’re really keen to do a lot more in the future.
In short, all life goes on in our open spaces, where people relax, meet, play, exercise, learn and work.