Our History: Salford schoolkids create opera celebrating UK’s first canal

Kids from six Salford primary schools are combining their efforts to perform an opera about the history of the UK’s first canal and the key role the city’s waterways have played in the growth and industrialisation of the country.

Our History, which explores and celebrates the development of the Birdegwater Canal, was entirely created by the 600 pupils, aged between 9 and 11, with the help and support of Manchester Camerata.

The orchestra has recently been organising various canal-themed workshops as part of an initiative to increase awareness of the canal’s history in the midst of restoration to the surrounding area.

The Bridgewater Canal is internationally recognised by world heritage organisation UNESCO and £3.6million was provided by the Heritage Lottery Funding in 2014 to restore the waterway.

The canal’s origins are taught to local children as a part of the National Curriculum because of its role in kicking off the Industrial Revolution after it was initially used to transport coal from local mines.

Headteacher at St Mark’s Primary School Jill Johnson said: “The canal has long been one of our most treasured resources for learning, covering everything from history and geography to environmental issues, and this project is bringing it all to life in a really creative way.

“The opportunity for the children to gain an understanding and awareness of the place where they live and to work collaboratively with children from other schools has an even deeper value.”

Work has already started along the 4.9miles of the Bridgewater Canal, which runs through Salford, to turn it into a major contributor to the local economy as the area’s main tourist attraction.

Plans involve building cafes, making the environment more appealing and improving facilities for walkers, boaters, anglers and cyclists.

By improving towpaths, opening green spaces and installing new signs and visitor information the council hopes to encourage visitors to visit to the canal to take part in these activities.

The restoration is predicted to take four years and will make huge improvements to Worsley Delph and Barton Aqueduct, which has been described as ‘one of the seven wonders of the canal age’ by Dr Mike Nevell, head of archaeology at the University of Salford.

The final performance of Our History will take place on Tuesday March 31 at the Robert Powell Theatre at the University of Salford.

The six schools taking part are St Mark’s CE Primary School, Bridgewater School, Westwood Primary School, Eccles and St Andrew’s CE Primary School, Beech Street Primary School and Godfrey Ermen Memorial CE Primary School.

To book your tickets click here.

Image courtesy of pmecologic, with thanks.

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