On April 29th, despite blizzards, wind and cold, people came out to Sandygate Mill in Burnley to celebrate the Super Slow Way Programme Launch 2016. We were overwhelmed by the show of support by our stakeholders, partners and friends and it was well attended by arts organisations and the press. An amazing event!
Everyone was welcomed with a gift bag – including information about the programme and a canal boat pendant made by artist Michelle Luker which will form part of our merchandise celebrating the Bicentenary of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal – and a beautiful performance from Sarah Yaseen, who sang and played guitar while people enjoyed their coffee and croissants.
The launch represents the culmination of a year’s hard work from the team, which started out as just our director Laurie Peake and has grown into a team that has created a fully-fledged and ambitious programme that we will be rolling out over the next 12 months. The event featured a wonderful performance from poet Ian McMillan, whose warmth and humour warmed us all on the freezing morning. Ian performed elements of his Libretto that he has created for Super Slow Way: A Rhapsody to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, a specially commissioned choral piece celebrating the Bicentenary of the canal and composed by Ian Stephens that will be performed at King George’s Hall in Blackburn on October 16th. It will feature hundreds of voices from local choirs and performances from regional groups and soloists including the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, soprano Amanda Roocroft and cellist Jonathan Aasgaard.
Rizwan Iqbal, founder of the Love & Etiquette Foundation introduced the Kinara Festival, which will take place at venues across Pennine Lancashire this July. This rich and diverse festival will explore the music, culture and art of the Muslim world, reflecting the cultural and ethnic diversity in the area.
We were lucky to be joined by several of the groups that our artists are working with as part of our community commissions. Jacob and Nasser, part of the Beyond Labels group at Hollins Technology College in Accrington, were accompanied by Waqar Ahmed who is coordinating the project, and performed some of the spoken word poetry they have been working on with artists Keisha Thompson and Reece Williams. It’s doubtful there was a dry eye in the house after that! Their words were insightful, authentic and moving – amazing work for young boys and an exciting glimpse into the work they will be performing in a tour this summer.
Artist Jean Mcewan was joined by Farmeen, a member of the walking art group Circle of Friends who spoke about their weekly walks, in which they spend time exploring their surroundings, discussing memories and documenting their experiences, from photography to writing and zine making. A group of people walked back along the canal with Jean and the group after visiting Stephen Turner’s Exbury Egg with a zine they had made especially for the launch.
Tony, a client, and Sabbir, a worker from Creative Support spoke with their artist Cath Ford about the time they spend together at the BB1 for Life cafe in Blackburn and how it has had such a positive impact on the lives of the participants. The Carers Trust and Blackburn with Darwen Volunteers in Care Homes Service project, working with arts organisation Verd de Gris were represented by Ruqqaya, who recited some moving poetry that had been written by a participant, which offered a beautiful insight into the life of a carer dealing with a loved one who suffers from dementia. The group including Riffat and Joanne, got the whole room singing with an uplifting ditty.
Everyone then piled onto buses to go and see one of the highlights of the launch and our programme as a whole, Stephen Turner’s Exbury Egg at Finsley Gate Wharf in Burnley. After an introduction from Canal & River Trust Chief Executive Richard Parry, people were invited into the Egg to see Stephen’s evolving artwork, a custom-built, egg-shaped workspace which will be in-situ in Finsley Gate until autumn. Our resident broadside balladress Jennifer Reid treated us to some 19th-century canal ballads and mill songs while everyone watched on, chilly but cheerful!
People were then invited to go inside the Egg to see Stephen’s workspace and idle women‘s floating arts centre Selina Cooper was moored at Finsley Gate, giving people the opportunity to talk to them and their resident artist Martina Mullaney. Others took a trip down the Straight Mile on a canal boat, a beautiful stretch of waterway and feat of extraordinary engineering, while a group walked back along the canal to Sandygate with Jean Mcewan and the Circle of Friends.
It was a fantastic start to what promises to be a wonderful year of arts programming in Pennine Lancashire – watch this space!