Exhibitions

JOURNEY TO EDEN @ DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY

6 May - 12 May 2024

Events

MARRIAGE (IN)EQUALITY IN UKRAINE. Screening and a panel discussion

9 May 2024

Events

Casey Orr artist talk and SEPN North West meet-up

18 May 2024

Events

Poetry reading: Coast to Coast to Coast

11 May 2024

Exhibitions

National Pavilion of Ukraine @ Venice Biennale

20 April - 24 November 2024

Exhibitions

Open Source 28: Sam Patton – Room to Breathe @ Digital Window Gallery

10 April - 18 May 2024

Exhibitions

Forward, Together @ Wigan & Leigh Archives, Leigh Town Hall

23 March - 28 September 2024

Exhibitions

As She Likes It: Christine Beckett @ The Rainbow Tea Rooms, Chester

1 March - 30 June 2024

Exhibitions

Shifting Horizons @ Digital Window Gallery

27 March - 31 March 2024

PLATFORM: ISSUE 6

26 March 2024

Past Events

Saturday Town: Launch Event

10 April 2024

Exhibitions

Saturday Town

11 April - 18 May 2024

Past Events

PLATFORM: ZINE LAUNCH EVENT

21 March 2024

Home. Ukrainian Photography, UK Words: Tour

4 March - 28 February 2025

Exhibitions

Home: Ukrainian Photography, UK Words @ New Adelphi

4 March - 8 March 2024

Past Events

CREATIVE SOCIAL: IN THE ABSENCE OF FORMAL GROUND

2 March 2024

Exhibitions

We Feed The UK @ Exterior Walls

8 February - 31 March 2024

Past Events

Contrail Cirrus: the impact of aviation on climate change

7 March 2024

Exhibitions

Tree Story @ Liverpool ONE

16 February - 1 May 2024

Open Source #27: Saffron Lily – In The Absence of Formal Ground @ Digital Window Gallery

6 February - 31 March 2024

Past Events

Contemporary Photography from Ukraine: Symposium @University of Salford

4 March - 5 March 2024

Past Events

Is Anybody Listening? Symposium: Commissioning and Collecting Socially Engaged Photography

29 February 2024

Past Events

Different approaches: Artists working with scientists

15 February 2024

Past Events

LOOK Climate Lab 2024: All Events

18 January 2024

Exhibitions

Diesel & Dust @ Digital Window Gallery

18 January - 31 March 2024

Events

Tree Walks Of Sefton Park with Andrea Ku

21 January 2024

Past Events

Artists Remake the World by Vid Simoniti: Book Launch

31 January 2024

Past Events

Shift Liverpool Open Meeting

6 February 2024

Past Events

We Feed The UK Launch and LOOK Climate Lab 2024 Celebration

8 February 2024

Past Events

Cyanotype workshop with Melanie King

17 February 2024

Past Events

End of Empire: artist talk and discussion

22 February 2024

Past Events

Book Launch: What The Mine Gives, The Mine Takes

24 February 2024

Past Events

Local ecology in the post-industrial era: open discussion

14 March 2024

Past Events

Waterlands: creative writing workshop

23 March 2024

Past Events

Plant a seed. Seed sow and in conversation with Plot2Plate

16 March 2024

Past Events

Erosion: panel discussion

9 March 2024

Past Events

Waterlands: an evening of poetry and photographs

23 March 2024

Past Events

Force For Nature Exhibition

27 March - 28 March 2024

Voices of Nature: Interactive Performances

28 March 2024

Past Events

Sum of All Parts: Symposium

27 February 2024

Exhibitions Main Exhibition

LOOK Climate Lab 2024

18 January - 31 March 2024

Past Events

MA Socially engaged photography Open Day event

1 February 2023

Past Events

Tish: Special screening and Q&A

13 December 2023

Past Events

Book Launch: A Look At A New Perspective

23 November 2023

Past Events

Community workshops @ Ellesmere Port Library

6 November - 5 February 2024

Past Events

Book Launch: ‘544m’ By Kevin Crooks

30 November 2023

Past Exhibitions

Bernice Mulenga @ Open Eye Gallery Atrium Space

17 November - 17 December 2023

Past Events

Bernice Mulenga: Artist Talk

18 November 2023

Past Exhibitions

Local Roots @ The Atkinson

14 October 2023

Exhibitions

Community @ Ellesmere Port Library

26 October - 11 April 2024

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Image: Joe Dixey
Image: Joe Dixey
Image: Joe Dixey

Industrial history and slow pace of life by Joe Dixey

The canals of the UK are a unique experience that offer a gentle balance of many contrasts. They have a rich industrial and cultural heritage that tells the story of our past, connects us to the present and inspires ideas for the future. Canal laureate Luke Kennard’s poem ‘What we can least afford to lose’ begins with the line “I wonder if it is a stretch to say canals and poetry share more than history or eccentricity.” These canals are like lines of a poem transcribed across the country, offering a linear oasis from the hustle and bustle of modern life and connecting people to nature. They are a link to our industrial history and, through their slow pace of life, can offer ideas for a more sustainable future.

Industrial heritage, biodiversity hotspots and low-cost living

During the 1700s and early 1800s, these waterways played a vital role in the early part of the Industrial Revolution. They allowed for the efficient transport of raw materials and finished goods, connecting the country’s major cities and ports.

Today, the canals have a different purpose. They offer a unique way of life for those who choose to live on narrowboats, as well as a leisure activity for many others. They are also hotspots for biodiversity, with a wide range of flora and fauna found along their banks. Many people enjoy walking or cycling along the towpaths, fishing, or simply sitting by the water and watching the world go by.

Around 35,000 boaters are registered on the canal network in the UK, which is more than the number of boats at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Factors like the high cost of living and the current housing crisis have contributed to this trend. Many people are being priced out of owning their own property or renting, so they have turned to low-cost living on a narrowboat, particularly in London, where boat ownership has increased in parallel with median house price growth.

Can living on a narrowboat be sustainable?

People are also becoming drawn to living on a narrowboat because it can provide a more sustainable or low-impact way of life. Not being connected to the ‘grid’ means that every resource is a precious commodity that must be accounted for. By living on a narrowboat, you are compelled to be more mindful of your resource use and consumption habits.

Even though diesel engines are commonly used for propulsion (alternatives like HVO are more environmentally friendly, but they are also more expensive and harder to obtain), the engines power batteries that recharge the battery bank and heat water, making them fuel-efficient. Renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines provide a cheap and eco-friendly source of electricity when the boat is moored. Energy-efficient appliances are crucial due to the finite amount of energy available. 

Boats are easier to heat than houses, and multi-fuel stoves that can also be used for cooking provide an economical way to generate heat. Foraging for wood to supplement the stove during winter months is preferable. Water usage must be mindful, as it’s stored in a tank that requires refilling when near a water point. Using eco-friendly cleaning and personal products is essential to avoid discharging harmful liquids into the waterways. 

Living on a narrowboat provides the opportunity to forage for food and encourages mindful waste management practices. The towpath and hedgerows offer a wealth of food, including elderberries, blackberries, plums, and apples. You can also grow your own herbs and vegetables on the boat. Being conscious of the resources you’re using and the waste you produce is essential since everything that goes on or off the boat needs to be moved by you.

Are the waterways in danger?

While more interest and people adopting this way of life is an excellent development, it does have a downside. More boats on water mean more wear and tear on the 200-year-old network. Due to increased inflation, the cost of repairing and maintaining the canals has increased while funding has decreased. Despite the contribution of a staggering £6.1 billion in economic and social value, the UK’s waterways are now in danger because of reduced government funding. This could potentially lead to the canals and rivers falling into disrepair and degradation.

Canals and rivers can offer a wide range of benefits to society, including health and well-being, tourism and recreation, and the conservation of biodiversity. However, many people are still unaware of the importance and value of these waterways. 

The canals and rivers should be seen as national parks that run through our towns and cities, connecting us to nature and each other. I believe it should also serve as a living transport museum that connects us to our industrial past, not of the landed gentry but of the working person. Built by a working immigrant class/community for a nomadic working class/community. Irish navvies and such dug the canals, and the boat person and their families who travelled and delivered on them. Waterways heritage is holistic; it is not only the buildings and engineering structures but also the landscape, the traditions, the culture, the boats and the people who operated them. This all contributes to the sense of place and living history that people experience when visiting them.

Text and images: Joe Dixey

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