Dumping is dredge-ful: Rochdale canal scheme using rubbish to bring art up from the depths

The Rochdale canal is flowing with creativity after the launch of a project aiming to turn rubbish hauled from its waters into art. 

The Arts Council-funded project, known as ‘Art Dredge’, is being delivered by not-for-profit arts organisation Spearfish Workshops alongside the Canal & River Trust.

Taking place along 200 metres of the canal on Friday 14 March, adjacent to Lock 70, the dredge saw volunteers and staff from the Canal & River Trust digging debris from the depths. 

Flat-screen TVs, mopeds were among the recovered rubbish with the tranformation set to be revealed at the Northern Quarter’s Fred Aldous arts shop.

ON YER BIKE: The project aims to raise awareness about dumping in canals

“The project is aiming to get people to think twice before tossing their rubbish in the canal or on the towpath,” says Hazel Mayow, volunteer leader for the Canal & River Trust.

“As well as being unsightly for the community, rubbish can create hazards for boats navigating the canal and can pose a real threat to wildlife.” 

The canal is one of three that crosses the Pennines and is a significant site for boating. One of the greatest attractions that the can offers is that it rises high over the moors, offering spectacular scenery. 

“Canals have been around for more than 200 years. It’s our heritage and it’s important that we look after them,” Hazel added.

Volunteers of all ages turned up at the site from 10am for a safety briefing and were kitted out with equipment to help the staff remove items from the canal. 

A fish rescue team also took part to ensure that the wildlife was not harmed during the dredging. 
Three local community groups and three professional artists will now be teaming up in workshops to create pieces of art from the findings. 

One workshop will be open to the public in the Northern Quarter, while two others will be held at a primary school and with a group of older residents.

“Due to the nature of the project, we needed to find artists who had experience in working with reclaimed objects,” said Richard Roberts, project manager at Spearfish. 

“Staff have been really helpful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, especially since we’ve introduced a creative aspect to the process.”

Jason Heppenstall, one of the professional artists involved in the project, focuses on creating sculptures out of recycled or scrap steel.

“The pieces I make will be based around the natural flora and fauna surrounding our canals. I have plenty of ideas but the materials found will also dictate the direction I’m going in,” he said.

The artist will have plenty of unusual items to work with, such as flat screen TVs, mopeds, a ‘Snoopy’ hairdryer and a safe that had been broken into.

 “What was shocking to me was the fly tipping of household items like TVs and vacuum cleaners dumped by folk who really need re-educating,” added Jason.

“I think the project is amazing and will make people think about the damage they are doing to the waterways and wildlife.”

The works of art created will be exhibited in a show at Piccadilly Place, Manchester on May 22.

Main image courtesy of Richard Roberts with thanks

Other image courtesy of Jason Heppenstall with thanks

Related Articles