"The canal tells you stories, the canal sings you songs": the opening lines of Ian McMillan's "Canal Life", specially commissioned by the Canal and River Trust. They could be heard on the Lancaster Canal in the city centre earlier this week as part of "A Phoenix from the Ashes" - a celebration of the restoration of the Lune Aqueduct organised by the Trust and the local Duke's Theatre.
The stretch of canal from Moor Lane to the Water Witch pub at Lancaster Basin is bridged four times in a short distance and each bridge was used to stage a mini event, with video clips projected onto the bridge walls and sound from loudspeakers nearby.
"Canal Life" and supporting video formed the introduction at Moor Lane. The poem - and the video - are here
"Tick Tock" was another poem both read and displayed on the towpath in this oversized "book" with an accompanying display of clocks hanging from the branches of nearby trees. You'll have to do it for yourselves this time but it's worth reading the words:
Other displays were more educational, such as this - one of a series laid out on the outdoor tables of the "White Cross" canal-side pub that line the towpath.
Whilst under Penny Street Bridge a local folk-group had the rather soul-destroying task of performing a short song over and over again to the passing crowd.
Hilary, who knows about such things, reckons that the event would have been required as part of the "community outreach" element of the successful Heritage Lottery Bid that has seen £2M spent on the aqueduct in the last year. Whilst hardly "in the ashes" it was certainly beginning to look a little tatty and uncared for as well as requiring serious structural repairs. It's looking a lot better now, so "thank you" lottery-players everywhere! Whether that was the motivation for the event or not it was definitely successful in encouraging large numbers of visitors to an otherwise dark and deserted towpath on a cold and rainy October night.