A European collaboration will reignite the story of Salford’s hidden canal

Mar 20, 2024

An exciting collaboration between ourselves, the Dutch Embassy, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), Salford City Council, Salford Community and Voluntary Services (CVS), Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society (MBBCS), Canal & River Trust and private sector stakeholders, Walk the Plank and Get Living, is creating a unique sound walk experience, unravelling the compelling story of Salford’s ‘hidden canal’.

Inspired by the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal, five Salford and Greater Manchester artists will be paired with European sound artists from Leeuwarden (the Netherlands), Kaunas (Lithuania), Rejika (Croatia) and Faro (Portugal), to create a sound walk along the original canal route, that includes sections that have been long forgotten.

The project started with an initial residency at the end of February building on connections that had been made through the Creative Embassies project www.creativeembassies.com.

Canal & River Trust, the UK’s largest canal charity that looks after Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal, together with Salford based outdoor arts company Walk the Plank and MBBCS, have engaged Scarborough Group International, the custodians of award-winning new neighbourhood, Middlewood Locks and Get Living, the Build to Rent operator, to deliver the fascinating new experience, that will help people to connect with the industrial heritage of this partly restored canal, and to celebrate its future in a unique and interesting way.

From 18th May 2024 local residents and visitors can download the new sound walk experience which will feature eight locations and includes fascinating audio content produced by the artists about the canal’s industrial and forgotten heritage.

The Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal was made famous in the song ‘Dirty Old Town’ written by Salford born folk singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl and performed by The Dubliners and The Pogues.  Hollywood legend James Mason starred in the film “Spring and Port Wine” based on a play by Bolton’s own Bill Naughton, filmed at various locations along the canal.

Ben Turner, Salford Producer at Walk the Plank, said:

“We are delighted to announce the sound walk as a totally unique way to experience the fascinating heritage of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal.  Last week it was a pleasure to welcome four highly acclaimed sound artists from Europe, including the Netherlands – arguably the pioneer of waterways history – to work with our resident artists on the project.


“This has been made possible thanks to funding from the Dutch Embassy, GMCA, and Salford CVS and facilitated through Creative Embassies, a European exchange network fostering collaboration among young artists, musicians, and creatives.”

James Long, Engagement Manager at the Canal & River Trust charity, said:

“Salford is a city shaped by its canals. Over 200 years ago these commercial thoroughfares connected Salford to the wider world, powering the city’s foundries and workshops. Today, these canals have transformed to offer green corridors in some of our most densely populated communities, offering a place for people to relax, walk, cycle, paddle or simply be inspired.


“Our nation’s historic waterways continue to inspire generations of artists, from paintings to poetry and sculpture to soundscapes. As custodians of this important cultural heritage our charity is delighted to support this new commission and hope it will encourage people to come rediscover the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal for themselves.”

Paul Hindle, Chair of the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society, said:

“When Salford born musician Ewan Maccoll wrote “Dirty Old Town” he included the line “Dream a dream by the old canal”.  This event will enable Salford’s hidden gem of a canal to wake from its slumber and be a source of fun, recreation, heritage, and community.  Dreams can come true”

Councillor Hannah Robinson-Smith, Executive Support Member for Culture, Communications and Strategic Priorities at Salford City Council, said:

“We are very excited to see this tremendous collaboration between public and private sector organisations, as well as local and international artists, to tell the story of a very important part of Salford’s heritage in such an engaging way.  A creative sound walk experience will certainly capture the imagination of our local community and visitors from further afield, helping in our collective efforts to reengage the ‘hidden canal’ in our daily lives.”

Nicola Wallis, Group Sales & Marketing Director at SGI, said:

“It is a real pleasure for us to be a part of and help to host the sound walk at Middlewood Locks.  The waterways are central to the core values, and indeed the way of life, at Middlewood Locks and we have long strived to help restore the canal and locks that run through our neighbourhood.  


“More than 10 years ago Scarborough Group International committed to transforming a vast expanse of derelict wasteland with a tall ambition to create a £1 billion urban neighbourhood that would seamlessly connect Salford to Manchester City Centre.  The waterways are integral to that ambition as we continue to deliver future phases and build on our 2,000 strong community at Middlewood Locks.” 

Kim Quickfall, General Manager at Get Living, said:

“This unique initiative brings to life an important part of the history of Middlewood Locks and the wider area, as well as tapping into local creative talent. Get Living has been part of the community at Middlewood Locks since 2019, and our neighbourhood, New Maker Yards, sits right next to the canal itself. We’re therefore very proud to be a part of a project that celebrates the importance and contribution of the waterways over the years.”

Further details for the soundwalk can be found at  Hidden Canal | Walk the Plank

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