Tales From The Towpath

Tales From The Towpath

Trevor Roberts, founder of Canal Connections, the social enterprise company responsible for the delivery of our wonderful festival, waxes lyrical about the experience of hosting BBC Radio Leeds on board the eye-catching graffiti boat ‘Out and About’.

“It's been an interesting couple of weeks, which I've spent on and around the canal. There’s nothing unusual about that as such, considering my work is based on the waterways in Leeds. The best part of my recent journey has been meeting the people along the way - and that's been thanks to our unique adventure with Radio Leeds!"

Canal Connections hosted a very special outside broadcast by BBC Radio Leeds called ‘Tales of the Towpath’. Presenter Richard Stead and his production team hosted the breakfast show live every morning. Each day was based at a different spot on the canal, and the show was broadcast from the unique location of one of Canal Connections' canal boats! Allowing the team to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the waterways, this epic 5 day tour started in Skipton and finished up at Granary Wharf in Leeds.

"When the idea to do this came about," says Trevor "I had a difficulty understanding how a radio broadcast would do the canal justice as it’s such a visual place, but Richard brought it to life on the air with his wit and skillful interviews".

The trip was navigated by the small group of volunteer ‘skippers’ from Canal Connections, so each day Richard was able to interview the crew members, gaining an interesting insight in to what motivates and entices people to live, work and volunteer along the waterways. He also chatted to local businesses, chefs, musicians and a whole host of interesting people, dispersing his observations and experiences of life along the water inbetween.

If anyone considers the waterways to be a little dull or old fashioned, they couldn’t be more wrong! The journey took listeners on a virtual tour through the canal side towns and villages at the beginning of the week, along with a fascinating description of how the environment changed as they approached Leeds city centre. It's still very rural as you follow the towpath into the city, however the canal reflects the industrial heritage that played such a huge role in helping Leeds to become the great city it is today.

The trip was taken on board one of Canal Connections boats "Out and About" which has been skillfully transformed by Hyrograff aka Marcus Browne, a local graffiti artist. The eye-catching boat grabbed everyone's attention and opened up many conversations about whether or not graffiti is art!  This trip certainly provided a resounding "yes"! This also led to much discussion about the sad deterioration of the canal side due to the increasing and unsightly anti-social tagging and how it is degrading the heritage of the waterways and the wider environment. 

The work giving Oddy Lock a little TLC had obviously paid off, as the contrast of this and the locks either side sparked comments from the production team about how a little clean-up work really showcased the space. The graffiti mural on Wellington Bridge, commissioned by Canal Connections also impressed, as it twisted the art form that had been defacing the space and transformed it into a piece that reflected the heritage and nature of the canal.

Radio Leeds’ canal tour really sparked an engaging and diverse series of conversations about the future of the clean-up of the canal, how the work so far has really paid off and it was a fantastic experience for the Canal Connections team to host a live radio broadcast! If you’d like to listen to Richard’s canal barge tales, you can find out where the discussion started here.

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