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In 2016 Super Slow Way went from being an idea, loaded with possibility and promise, to an explosion of activity. We supported and developed 30 projects, in which we connected over 200 artists with communities in the form of commissions and artist residencies, mass participation projects and three major festivals. It was a very busy year indeed.
Throughout the year we celebrated the Bicentenary of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal – the UK’s longest waterway and the artery that powered the heart of the Industrial Revolution: the mill towns of Pennine Lancashire. Our bold programme has nurtured the beginnings of a creative revolution along its banks, as the post-industrial landscape is transformed and repurposed for social and civic activity. We have watched people come together through art and seen communities begin to think about their self- representation and self-determination, whether through mass participation projects such as Shapes of Water, Sounds of Hope in Brierfield and the thunderous triumph of Super Slow Way: A Rhapsody to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal; or in smaller, gentler, but equally profound, projects such as Stephen Turner’s Exbury Egg in Burnley, idle women’s floating arts centre, and Beyond Labels with the young men of Hollins Technology College, among many others.
As an action research programme, we are constantly learning. We have gained so much from our artists and community collaborators all of whom we consider part of the Super Slow Way family. We have been continuously surprised by the riches of the collaborative creative process and the results that have emerged, from meaningful relationships and connections to the creation of new, world-class pieces that compete on the international stage. This is no small accomplishment, but is the result of people, together, questioning, challenging and pushing the boundaries of what art is and looking to redefine what it means to them and the difference it can make in their neighbourhoods.
None of this would have been possible without the contributions of our partners Canal & River Trust, the four local authorities connected by the canal: Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Burnley and Pendle Borough Councils, Newground, our creative colleagues in APPL (Arts Partners Pennine Lancashire) and UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire). We are, above all, privileged to work alongside incredibly committed residents and voluntary sector groups that exist here and to be able to draw from the deep well of artistic talent we have in the region and beyond.
A lot happened at home and abroad in 2016, which makes it feel like a significant moment in history. For us, we hope it marks the beginning of a powerful movement in Pennine Lancashire where art can help to shape the future of our communities.