Take Me to the Bridgewater

I’m at Worsley Library for Blast Theory’s Take Me to the Bridgewater. I lived just down the road in Monton in 1990.  The Canal was the dangerous but quick route home after a night out in the Bridgewater, otherwise I was barely aware of its existence and certainly not its unique history. Since I moved into Manchester City Centre the canals have become a key part of my life.  Worsley doesn’t seem to have changed. I’m early so I grab a coffee in a pretty tea room.

I talk to Ju Row Farr from Blast Theory.  ‘We worked with young people to get their experience of this area and its canal, which is historically important but even if you live here you might not have a connection to the area.  We didn’t want to create another tour of the history; we wanted to find, with the young people, what was their connection to this place.’

I take a smartphone and a pair of headphones and wander off in the direction of the Green.  The onscreen map shows me my next target.  When I arrive, an audio file is triggered.  This is a story about ‘Smoke Street’, the forges and coke ovens and the route of old train lines when this was an industrial powerhouse.  Apparently you can see the old route; ‘the grass has memory’.

‘We are trying to find a way into the canal for them’ continues Ju, ‘under the canal, at the end of the canal.  We wanted the audience to feel another presence around the canal.  The young people describe the places in their own ways using their poetry. Their beautiful way of using language comes out.’  

On the bridge over the canal:  ‘The beauty draws me in, enthrals me. Strangers passing never to meet again’.   At that moment a woman with a smartphone and headphones walks past me and smiles.  Then a man walking his dog probably mouthes hello then looks back, annoyed I didn’t reply. He probably thinks I am listening to music and ignoring the canal.  Opposite the tea rooms where I stopped earlier, a girl tells of her ambition is to run a place that people love; there is such honesty in the words.

‘I want people to feel a warmth towards a group of young people they might not have a connection with,’ says Ju.

These are very personal stories, frank and honest thoughts about the place, how the young people themselves fit into it, and its history.  By the canal, a voice recounts a story of what it might have been to meet Queen Victoria; it’s an interpretation of history.  ‘This mirrors the challenge of describing history; whose history is it anyway?’

One of the later audio pieces asks what is there at the end of the canal?  In fact, what is nature when you live in a city? It’s a world of myths and stories, a mix of known and unknown.  A fascinating and poetic insight into the thoughts of a group of young people in the context of the Bridgewater Canal.

Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd April 2017.  For further details see the Est.1761 website here.  Est.1761 is supported by Salford Council and ‘aims to encourage and support people to learn about the heritage of Salford’s Bridgewater Canal in exciting and innovative ways’.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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