Leeds Liverpool canal set to be the stage for a series of floating plays about the heritage and community behind city waterways
The Leeds to Liverpool canal is set to become a moving stage this month in a cultural collaboration between a holiday company and the Aire Rivers Trust.
Hosted by canal boat tour firm, Yorkshire’s Aire Valley, and set aboard an original 1930s canal boat called The Ribble, ‘This Island’s Mine’ is part play and part friendly chat around a kitchen table where audiences are invited to join two characters in conversation and discover the incredible history and heritage of West Yorkshire’s waterways, the canal and the River Aire and how they have shaped local communities.
Using simple props - and much humour - to tell the story of Barbara and Danny, two friends who grew up in Dockfield at Shipley, audience members can help the characters, played by actors Claire-Marie Seddon and Steve Scott-Bottoms, build a map detailing the history of the waterways and shared stories – the map will ultimately be displayed at Leeds Industrial Museum in Armley.
Simon Brewis is the director and explains the thinking behind the floating play that will be held on 11 dates along the canal at Crown Point, Armley, Kirkstall Forge, Rodley, Dockfield, Salts Mill, Dowley Gap, Riddlesden, Silsden and twice in Skipton.
He said: "This Island’s Mine is a story for everyone because we are all shaped by the places that we live. Whether you have a vested interest in the waterways, industry, and heritage, want to learn more about it, or are simply looking for something to do of a weekend – we’re here for you.
"Dockfield, is a strip of land sandwiched between the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool Canal – hence the title. As we discover more of the characters’ island home with its happy memories there is a definite nostalgic air, but as they reminisce about its heavy industry we see that things actually weren’t always better back then and their tale starts to map out a hopeful future for our waterways as Atlantic salmon return to the River Aire.”
Multi-Storey Water is led by Mr Scott-Bottoms, the actor performing in 'This Island's Mine'. The project is based upon arts in the community and celebrates the waterways in Aire valley; the River Aire, the Bradford Beck (which joins the Aire at Shipley), and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It explores local people’s connections with the water environment — the pleasures water brings, the memories it holds, the risks it poses, and responsibilities for it - resulting in creative works including theatre, film, artwork, and photography.
Simon Watts, the Aire Rivers Trust’s Community Engagement Manager, said: “We are delighted to bring this play to the water and explore how Airedale has shaped, and continues to shape, our communities as river, canal, and railway weave around each other. We want to encourage people to explore their local waterways, to be inspired, to discover new gems along the way, and to help us protect them and give them a future - I’m sure This Island’s Mine will help us do just that.”
Canal Connections CIC, committed to raising the profile of Leeds canals heritage and their potential as a driver of social change, uses canal boats as a tool to introduce people to a built heritage, its social and cultural aspects and the opportunities heritage offers for leisure, personal development, enterprise, employment and social regeneration. It supplied The Ribble for this project, while away from plays on canal boats, the DNAire project is a £2.35m joint venture by The Aire Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency using funding from the Environment Agency, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Yorkshire Water and Craven Council.
It will see the construction of fish passes on weirs at Armley Mills, Kirkstall Abbey, Newlay Bridge and Saltaire together with an extensive programme of community engagements including volunteers, young people, and the general public.