Hugging the Canal: Two artists set off to walk the 127 miles of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Hugging the Canal

Hugging the Canal

Singing for their supper, two artists set off to walk the 127 miles of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, exchanging their traditional songs with inn keepers along the way for accommodation and food.

Taking approximately two-weeks to complete, walking, singing and drawing along the way, artists Simon Woolham and Jennifer Reid are walking the 127 miles of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, expecting to complete their journey in Liverpool on Friday 12 August 2016. The endeavour, called Hugging the Canal, sees the pair ‘sing for their supper’, offering performances of canal ballads in exchange for a room for the night at various inns along the way. They started their journey at Leeds Railway Station on Saturday 30 July 2016 and are now en route.

Taking in Leeds, Saltaire and Skipton in Yorkshire, before hitting the red rose county for their longest stretch, meeting people and performing in Nelson, Burnley, Accrington, Blackburn, Wigan, Parbold, Halsall and Downholland, the pair conclude the trek in Merseyside, stopping in Aintree before finally entering the historic Liverpool Docks along the tow path.

Simon Woolham is an artist who looks upon exploration of places as a way of documenting, revealing and explaining individual and shared histories, while Jennifer Reid is a leading performer and expert in the traditional folk songs of industrial and pre-industrial Lancashire, including the famous ‘broadsides’, and has appeared at events including the Manchester International Festival and the Glastonbury Festival.

Helping to celebrate the bicentenary of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, joining arts commissioners, Super Slow Way, in leading a resurgence of creative and leisure activity along the route, the project will take in pubs and community centres each afternoon or evening, each acting as a stopping off points for shared drawing and singing activity as a way of generating layers of shared, often hidden stories. Songs and dances will be created whilst on the canal for exchange when they arrive at their destinations, for food, drink and accommodation.

Laurie Peake, Director of Super Slow Way, says: “I have nothing but admiration for Simon and Jennifer as they take on a mission, not only of physical challenge, but of stimulating uncertainties about where they will be bedding down for the night, who they will meet and what the response to their performances will be. It is extremely exciting and, importantly, shows artists going slow to get their message across, experimenting with one-to- one engagement with people spread across a wide area on foot, when instant, digital messaging is so fast but, perhaps, less effective.”

Commissioned to mark the bicentenary of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Woolham and Reid’s residency promotes not only walking, but the act of singing, drawing and other arts activity as a valuable way of engaging with the canal, celebrating its 200 years at the heart of local life and doing so with the fullest possible involvement of the communities along its route.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the second longest in the UK, provided Burnley with transportation links for local products such as cotton, coal and heavy machinery during the 19th and early 20th century. Hugging the Canal is supported by Burnley Council, the Canal & River Trust, Super Slow Way, Mid Pennine Arts and Arts Council England.