THE launch event unveiling the artists took place yesterday (March 15) at the Diglis House Hotel in Worcester. It included representations from the artists taking part, music, as well as the premiere of a new book, The Muck and Shovel Brigade, by poet Heather Wastie.
Former Poet Laureate for Worcestershire, Heather was introduced to the canals as a child. She has written a series of poems that sparkle with wit and warmth, inspired by the restoration of the Droitwich Canals, which resulted in the reconnection of the Mid-Worcestershire Ring in 2011, a 21-mile route, reconnecting Droitwich to the River Severn and from there the open sea. It is this circular route that The Ring takes its inspiration from.
Heather’s work examines some of the people who helped to restore the canals and includes the photography archive of restoration pioneer Max Sinclair. The poems and photographs come together to create a unique artwork, conjuring the spirit of the ‘muck and shovel brigade’.
The Ring is part of the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways collaborative arts programme situated on and inspired by waterways in England and Wales. Between March and September, audiences will be invited to explore The Ring on foot, by boat or bicycle. Activities will take place along the waterways encircling Droitwich and Worcester and includes the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Droitwich Canals and River Severn.
Tim Eastop, producer of the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways programme says: “We’re delighted to be launching The Ring and wait in anticipation for these innovative works to spring up in and around the local waterways over the coming months. The project itself is a response to the huge interest in the waterways making up the Mid-Worcestershire Ring, which contains so many compelling and inspiring stories.
“To bring this group of high calibre professional artists and commissioners into one place is really exciting. We want people to consider the canals and rivers as places of cultural experience, as well as an environmental experience. Hopefully The Ring does that and in doing so, encourages many more people to benefit from their local waterways.”
Cathy Mager, Artistic Director of The Ring, adds: “We’re really proud to reveal The Ring’s cutting edge programme of artworks, literature, music and performance that respond to this fascinating 21 mile circle of waterways. We were fascinated to discover that the ancient translation of ‘Worcester’ is ‘the people of the winding river’, which seems so apt.
“Over the next seven months we’re seeking to transform local and national perception of this unique landscape through surprising and unexpected interventions, inspired by the heritage of Worcester and Droitwich.”
The artists confirmed for The Ring are:
- Rich White, Occupation (Diglis Island Residency), Diglis Island, Worcester (March – Sept 2018)
Bristol-based sculptor Rich White will be taking residence on and exploring the heritage of Diglis Island, during which he will explore the island’s history and future, and create a temporary, large-scale sculpture, entitled Occupation. Visible from the towpath, the work will evoke a bygone era of huge activity on the island, harking back to when, amongst other things, it was a centre of waterways maintenance, production and manufacturing. Research and in-progress reports will be documented on his project website.
- Heather Wastie, The Muck and Shovel Brigade, Droitwich Canals. View an e-book of Heather’s poems online from March 19, 2018
Former Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Heather Wastie was introduced as a child to the canals of the West Midlands. She has written a series of poems that sparkle with wit and warmth, inspired by the Droitwich Canals, the people who restored them and the photography archive of Max Sinclair, documenting the completion of the Mid-Worcestershire Ring canal system: its journey from an overgrown, unloved place to the lively network it is today was a labour of love for hundreds of volunteers over decades. This limited edition book of poems and photographs conjures the spirit of the ‘muck and shovel brigade’.
- Katy Beinart, Saltways, Vines Park, Droitwich and Droitwich Heritage Centre (May – Sept 2018)
Brighton-based interdisciplinary artist Katy Beinart will explore Droitwich’s historic past as a salt production centre, exporting salt around the world via vital canal routes and other ‘Saltways’. In a symbolic journey that mirrors the ‘Saltways’ routes, a heritage working boat will travel from Gloucester Docks to Droitwich carrying a sculptural pavilion based on the old saltworks, to be filled with salt from around the world and locally produced Droitwich Salt. Droitwich was founded on its natural salt brine springs and, at its peak, exported 120,000 tonnes of salt a year. The Salt Pavilion will be displayed at the Salt Museum in Droitwich Heritage Centre until early September before departing on board a working boat as part of Salt Fest. The canal was reopened in 2011 following a major restoration programme, including the Netherwich Canal Basin which was the terminus of the Barge Canal where larger vessels came to pick up salt from the brine springs.
- NEON, Weorgoran Pavilion, South Quay, Worcester City Centre (June 15-24, 2018)
As summer arrives the Weorgoran Pavilion will appear in the centre of Worcester. Prepare to be mesmerised by this innovative performance pavilion and its vibrant programme of literature, music, dance and workshops led by local artists. The stage’s vibrant design is the creation of NEON, a design studio that works between the disciplines of art and architecture. The sculptural pavilion takes its inspiration from the Saxon origins of the name Worcester and its ancient translation, “the people of the winding river”. NEON is an award-winning art, architecture and design practice that who are experienced at producing public projects at an urban scale. Their work engages with the public, transforms the ordinary into extraordinary and creates moments of surprise and excitement. They are fascinated with initiating an emotional response, stopping people in their tracks and breaking the monotony of the everyday.
- Dave Crowe, Shire Skies, South Quay, Worcester City Centre (June 15-24, 2018)
Beatboxer Dave Crowe and Stranger Faces headline our opening night performances on The River Spectacle stage (15 June) with a lively mix of funk and beatbox sounds. Dave Crowe has created a site-specific soundscape especially for The River Spectacle stage, working with local choirs to compose an atmospheric and mysterious recording inspired by The Ring’s waterways, which will play at selected times. He says, “The waterways of this beautiful landscape have linked the communities for millennia, yet they reflect at all times the vastness of the skies that bring us the water flow needed to have such a precious link with one another.”
Dave Crowe began his career as a street beatboxer in Ledbury, mimicking and morphing environmental sounds of his home town into spectacular vocal compositions. His music videos have since gone viral, commanding multimillion hits on YouTube. He performs around the world with his bands HeyMoonShaker and Stranger Faces.
- Emily Speed, Hollowware, Diglis Canal Basin, Worcester (August 2018)
Working with the Museum of Royal Worcester, sited a short walk from The Ring’s route, Emily Speed presents an interactive performance work. Explore the museum and then encounter a costumed character, emerging from a narrowboat to share tales of the curious and fantastical history of Royal Worcester Porcelain, which owes its success to the international transport links provided by the waterways. Commissioned by Meadow Arts as part of a major autumn exhibition at Museum of Royal Worcester, Emily Speed utilises ceramics, costume, architecture and performance to explore themes of shelter and the personal histories of inhabitants of buildings. Emily has looked at the museum’s archives and its symbiotic relationship to the canal and river network, as well as how the decorations of canal boats link to the fine art traditions of porcelain production.
- Lucy McLauchlan, Opening the Floodgates, Oil Dock Basin, Worcester(August – September 2018)
Lucy is one of the UK’s leading female street artists. Her internationally acclaimed, large-scale monochromatic paintings combine ancient, almost prehistorical influences with graphic sensibilities. Lucy will be creating a new work for The Ring in Worcester throughout the spring and summer. Her career has seen her exhibit in galleries, museums and festivals across the globe, creating work using a ‘one-take’ philosophy that rejects extensive preparation using digital tools. Her commissions have adorned multi-story buildings across Europe, gigantic billboards in China, huts in The Gambia, windows in Japan, walls in Moscow’s Red Square, water towers in Italy, a Norwegian lighthouse, Detroit car parks and abandoned NYC subway tunnels. Within the UK, Lucy infamously created the ‘Todo es posible!’ mural in 2010 on the outside of the former brutalist Birmingham Central Library, while four of her works are in the Victoria & Albert Museum permanent collection.
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