The Canal & River Trust, Hatton
As part of a partnership with Arts Council England, the Canal & River Trust teamed up with the Contemporary Art Society to oversee a series of temporary exhibitions in five of its offices. Devised by local curators and artists, the exhibitions sought to make new connections between local art communities and Trust staff and act as a catalyst to attract new supporters and funding for the waterways. The exhibitions were held in Gloucester, Hatton, Milton Keynes, London Paddington and Wigan.
The Canal & River Trust’s Hatton office building was erected in 1899 specifically for the Warwick & Birmingham Canals maintenance and lock building, and has been used by the waterways ever since. The immediate surrounding area, Hatton Locks, is a leisure and tourism haven, attracting narrow boat holiday makers, walkers and cyclists. It is a building completely rooted in its surroundings.
Artist Blue Firth has a long-standing interest in the nature of local communities and how their histories and are recorded through vernacular practices and rituals. She often works site-specifically, and through research seeks out arcane and often neglected information in order to rediscover the forgotten character to a place.
Firth approached this project with an enthusiasm for the historical background of the site, alongside its modern physicality and everyday activity. She brought a little of that outside in, transforming the staff breakout area through the introduction of an alternative pathway of tiered structures that mimic the rise and fall of Hatton’s locks. Staff could traverse this new walkway and benefit from the new vistas created. Specially designed table top coverings for the site’s numerous meeting rooms reflected patterns and structural shapes from the surrounding environment, introducing a new visual stimulus that avoids the clichés of canal boat paraphernalia.
Blue Firth lives and works in London. She graduated from The Royal Academy Schools in 2011, and has recently had exhibitions at Copenhagen Place, London and Glenfiddich Gallery, Aberdeenshire.
The exhibition was curated by Grand Union’s Cheryl Jones.