Rust and Ripples

Young people involved in Ignite have recently contributed to a micro-commission for the University of Leeds Cultural Institute. ‘Rust and Ripples’ is a mini portfolio of photographs produced by Ignite partner Canal Connections, created through a collaborative process involving the local community, a professional photographer, the natural environment and local heritage.

Canal Connections were commissioned to create a portfolio of photographs of the waterways in Leeds focused on wellbeing and the changing use of canals in the city. The final photographs will be exhibited as part of the Cultural Institute’s programme ‘Beyond Measure: Exploring Research and Evidence in Culture and Health’, alongside nine other artists.

The inspiration for the commission was an image by Parise, a 16 year old student involved in Canal Connections through the Prince’s Trust. ‘Presence’ [see above] was produced with Artistic Director Yvonne Roberts. Its depiction of nature and connections between people via the waterways became the starting point for the Cultural Institute commission.

Canal with bare trees
Photo: Parise
Tree growing on side of canal with buildings in the background.
Photo: Parise

The final portfolio includes photographs taken by young people from Canal Connections groups Reflections and Cactus Crew, which are part of Ignite Yorkshire. The young people were given a brief to take their own photographs of Leeds waterways, responding to their perspectives and interests. Photographs were taken during the Summer, when local lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions were preventing young people from using the Canal Connections boats. However, photography was a welcome focus, and the waterways had provided an outlet for some of the group: “I go out on my bike for exercise and I love the canal. I can take some photographs.”

Jack gave this feedback on his experience:

Neglect or decay looks artistic in a way, it is symbolic as you can get a sense of how old some objects look and it helps get a better understanding of its history and the environments history.”

Lock on Leeds Liverpool Canal
Photo: Jack
Close up of a railing along canal with chipped paint.
Photo: Jack

Jack and Parise are members of the Reflections group: a training programme for young people. The aim of the group is to get more young people involved in the waterways, and provide youth voice in the organisation.

Oliver, a member of the Cactus Crew, was also asked to take part in the commission. The Cactus Crew are a group of inspiring and enterprising young people based in Shipley, Bradford. Oliver had previously created a photography exhibition of his local canals, which was hosted by Visit Bradford online this summer.

Old metal sign embedded in concrete path along canal
Photo: Oliver
Close up of metal grates in the concrete path along canal
Photo: Oliver

The final photographs celebrate the rich tapestry of the ageing canal environment, as well as the changes and wellbeing potential of blue spaces in the heart of a post-industrial city.

You can find the final piece and more insight into the process on the Canal Connections blog.