THE captivating stories behind life on the nation’s canals are to form the centrepiece of a new partnership between the Canal & River Trust and award-winning publisher Profile Books.
Author, photographer and broadcaster Jasper Winn has been appointed as the charity’s first ever ‘Writer in Residence’ as he travels around the country researching for a new book on the waterways to be published by Profile in Spring 2018.
The book will explore the stories of the people Jasper encounters living, visiting, working and volunteering on over 2000 miles of canals and rivers across England and Wales as he make his way around by foot, bike, boat and canoe. Jasper will also write a monthly blog about his travels on the Trust’s website www.canalrivertrust.org.uk
In thirty years’ of travel, Jasper has canoed the length of the Danube, cycled across the Sahara and roller-skated the length of the Netherlands. He spent a number of years as a swing and ragtime musician touring throughout Europe, and later travelled for twelve months in Morocco with a nomadic Berber family, and their camels, sheep and goats.
He was a consultant on the film Ride Around the World and whilst researching horse cultures worldwide he has ridden across Kyrgyzstan, across the Andes from Argentina to Chile, on Australian cattle drives, and through Mexico, Iran and Cuba. As well as writing for a variety of national newspapers, he is the author of Paddle: A Long Way Around Ireland about his thousand mile circumnavigation of Ireland by kayak.
Jasper says: “Like many other people I suspect, I’ve found that I’ve got more connections with the canal system than I thought; childhood holidays, boats and locks seen from train windows, towpaths walked in country and city. For the next year I’ll be exploring and travelling many of the waterways on foot and by bicycle, by canoe and kayak, on stand up paddle board, by steam boat and, of course, by traditional canal craft.
“By using as many different forms of slow travel as possible I want to reflect the numerous ways in which people already engage with the canal ‘roads.’ I’m looking forward to exploring the corridors of wilderness and the cities’ hidden waterways in all their diversity. And then emerging with surprising and inspiring stories.
“It’s also a nature journey through a year on the canals, to experience them in all seasons. The waters frozen, the coming of spring, first swallows, otters, the summer boaters, herons and coots, the rising and falling of water levels, misty dawns, autumn anglers, frost on lock beams, the hot summers days reflected in still, cool waters.”
Tim Eastop, executive producer for the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways programme, says: “We’re delighted that Jasper will be our first ever Writer in Residence. As an explorer his adventures mesmerize, and as a writer he has the talent to transport readers to worlds that so many of us might otherwise not discover for ourselves. He follows a rich tradition of writers who have explored and opened people’s eyes to the wonders of the waterways and is the perfect fit to tell the stories of the people, places and journeys that can be found on our canals and rivers.”
Mark Ellingham, who has acquired the book for Profile, says: “It’s terrific to be working with Canal & River Trust on this book. They share, with Jasper, a passion for the quirkier side of canal life, and we’re convinced this will be a classic account of Britain’s canals and their culture and wildlife for many years to come.”
The Writer in Residence is a two year programme and part of the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways initiative. Inspired by the example of Britain’s post-war canal campaigners, and supported by Arts Council England and the Arts Council of Wales, the programme has, in just four short years, engaged new audiences in the waterways through poetry, dance, theatre, sculpture, music, cinema and comedy. For more information visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/waterway-arts