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Voyage of discovery for young artists

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 29, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • Black Country Voyages at the Red House Glass Cone, Wordsley

  • Hannah Shaw, 6, paints a picture inspired by the canal's wildlife

  • Children's pictures adorn the boat

  • The narrowboat has been converted to an arts space

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YOU may have seen this red and green boat moored at Smethwick, Oldbury, Cradley Heath or Dudley. It is the Aaron Manby, the floating venue for a three-year arts project, Black Country Voyages.

The project is a joint venture between Birmingham's Ikon Gallery, Juneau Projects, Arts Council England, the Canal and Rivers Trust, Birmingham City Council and Sandwell Council.

We caught up with the project when it visited the Red House Glass Cone in Wordsley last week.

"It's an unusual partnership," said Kate Self, Black Country Voyages programme co-ordinator, "bringing contemporary visual arts to the canals."

The aim of the project is for young people, but not exclusively, older folk are welcome too, to engage in art and to be inspired by the canals that run like arteries through the Black Country. In particular participants are encouraged to think about the wildlife of the canals and create their own artworks. These are collected and, from the many hundreds that have been produced so far, selections are displayed on the boat and the venues the boat has visited.

This year the boat has attended the BCNS Summer Rally, the Women's Chainmakers Festival in Cradley Heath, Saltwells Nature Reserve and the Bumblehole Conservation Centre.

In the coming weeks the project joins the Galton Valley Heritage Centre, Smethwick, on September 13, the Tipton Canal and Community Festival, September 20-21, the Parkhead Canal Festival, Netherton, September 27-28, and the BCNS Bonfire Rally, Smethwick, October 31-November 1.

"Next year, it's all the Ws," said Kate. "We go to Wolverhampton, Walsall and Wednesbury."

The Black Country Voyages project follows on from the successful Slow Boat, which ran from 2011 to 2013, which toured the canals around Birmingham and also recreated the journey of the original Aaron Manby, the first sea-going iron ship, from the Black Country along the Grand Union Canal.

Have taken part in Black Country Voyages? Please share your thoughts on this arts project, contact editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to our editorial address.

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