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Locklines - bringing poetry to the waterways

  • Date: 12 April 2013
  • Area: North
lock gates

Locklines Gargrave. Credit: Porl Medlock

Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan will be leading a series of interactive poetry workshops at the Stanley Ferry Workshop Open Day in Wakefield on Sunday 14 April. The event is part of a new partnership between the Canal & River Trust, entrusted with the care of 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales, and Arts Council England.

As one of only two lock gate manufacture workshops in the country, Stanley Ferry Workshop is at the centre of waterways craftsmanship. It will be opening its doors to the public to give a unique insight into the skilled craftsmanship required in lock gate making - one of the oldest traditions of the waterways.

The Stanley Ferry workshop has been an integral part of Locklines, an innovative arts project developed by Yorkshire-based Chrysalis Arts to mark the inaugural year of Canal & River Trust and attract more visitors to Britain's waterways.

Peter Coates, a contemporary artist with a background in architectural sculpture and lettering, has been working with the Stanley Ferry Workshop team to carve and inlay words by leading poets Jo Bell, Roy Fisher and Ian McMillan into four locks. The poems were influenced by the canals and rivers and landscapes they run through. As the gates were completed they were installed as part of the winter works programme. Throughout the open day Peter will be showcasing his skill with some carving demonstrations. 

As well as taking part in Ian McMillan's poetry workshops, visitors will be able to take a tour of the woodworking workshop where the gates are put together, as well as the engineering rooms, the dry dock and then on to the canal side to see the 'Tom Puddings' - the 19th century freight train of the waterways which used to transport coal around Yorkshire and beyond.  

Tim Eastop, Arts Development Manager, explains the project's significance to the Canal & River Trust: 'There is a longstanding link between arts and the waterways - indeed, the canal locks we use today are based on Leonardo da Vinci's design for a lock at San Marco in Milan in 1497. Art has a fantastic capacity to surprise and challenge and we are exploring a whole range of projects which we hope will encourage people to visit and support the waterways. We hope that this project makes people smile and take a moment to stop and think about the wonderful canals that are on their doorsteps.'

Hazel Colquhoun, Relationship Manager at Arts Council England, adds: 'It's great to see the Locklines project coming to fruition. This event sees the Canal & River Trust working with artists and Chrysalis Arts to animate the canals and offer a new experience to the public. The project will reach out to new audiences for the arts and also encourage new visitors to the canals. The Arts Council has been working with Canal & River Trust to encourage more arts partnerships and the Locklines project is an excellent example of how these new partnerships can skilfully realise creative ideas in unexpected places.'

The Trust, which took over the running of 2,000 miles of canals and rivers in England & Wales in July last year from British Waterways, replaced 174 lock gates at around 100 locks around the country during its £50m winter maintenance programme between November and March.

Ian's interactive workshops will be at three slots during the day at 11:30am, 1:00pm and 2:30pm. The Open Day will run on Sunday 14 April between 10-4pm. Parking is available on the grass field opposite the workshop off Ferry Lane / Birkwood Lane (before the canal road bridge - WF6 2JF). All the latest details are available on