After work, after hours: The 2012 Canal Festival
This summer CityCo, Piccadilly Partnership and The Canal and River Trust celebrated the best of canal culture – and put Piccadilly Basin on the map – with a festival that featured a float-in movie, a huge outdoor Lomography exhibition, a floating garden and much more.
The annual festival in question is The Canal Festival, and the stretch of water it celebrates is the 200 year-old Rochdale Canal, which ends its 32-mile journey at Piccadilly Basin.
Although this canal fest has been running for six years, this summer saw its first foray into Piccadilly with a series of events that put a distinctly urban twist on traditional celebrations.
“What a way to celebrate a waterway” Manchester Evening News, 5 August 2012
“A canal festival is not a typical We Heart featured event. However, this one sounds rather more captivating than most.” We Love, 21 August 2012
“Manchester is a city not to be missed at the best of times, and even less during the Canal Festival Manchester.” Students Alike, 16 August 2012
“Piccadilly Basin in Manchester city centre hosts a boat hostel, boat theatre, the world’s first permanent Lomography wall and even a floating cinema, which will be screening, appropriately enough, The Life Aquatic. It might be over 200 years old, but the Rochdale Canal is definitely moving with the times”. Manchester Wire, 1 August 2012
Did you make it? Tell us what you thought @piccadillymcr #canalfest
The programme of events
Ducie Street Car Park was transformed into a magical drive-in movie theatre, as two blockbuster Hollywood films were screened. Over 700 visitors each night drove-in, floated-in (the cinema was right by the canal), or walked up to enjoy the waterside atmosphere.
On Wednesday 22 August, we screened Captain America (filmed on nearby Dale Street), followed by The Life Aquatic on Thursday 23 August. There were hot noodles served up by Malaysian restaurant Ning, deckchairs, twinkling festoon lighting, a red carpet and bar.
“By far the most adventurous of the six projects taking place in the city centre is the Float-In Movie – a kind of aqua drive-in where, for two nights, films will be shown on a giant outdoor screen just off Ducie Street.” City Life, 17 August 2012
“There was a great atmosphere down at Piccadilly basin… Deck chairs, beer, great food from Ning and a real sense of occasional had the whole place buzzing.” Minta, 23 August 2012
“The atmosphere was festival-street-party, all blankets, beer and beautiful people enjoying the novelty of a drive-in with deckchairs.” Manchester’s Finest, 23 August 2012
The world’s first permanent outdoor Lomography exhibition was launched in Tariff Street in July, on the edge of the Northern Quarter. The incredible display is made up of of 14,000 analogue photographs of Manchester, taken by 1000 people. The artwork stretches across a 30-metre wall, adding colour and vibrancy.
The images were selected via an open competition, and reflect the industrial heritage and canal-side environment that makes Piccadilly Basin so unique.
LomoWall Manchester was created in partnership with Lomography UK – click here to read more about the wall. It is now set to be a lasting feature of N4’s burgeoning street art scene.
“Manchester has always been a city of firsts, a tradition which continues with the launch of the world’s first permanent, public Lomography wall.” Manchester Wire, 26 July 2012
Visitors to the basin could get their Olympic kicks at this canal-side architectural installation – built to mark London 2012 and created by the Office for Subversive Architecture, Manchester School of Architecture and Ecole Superieure d’Architecture in Paris.
Perfect for local residents, office workers after an alternative lunchtime break, or families; this installation featured a free boating lake, Swiss-style chalets filled with original artworks, a ball pool and games. It was all free to enjoy. Find out more here.
“A mini boating lake and chalet-style lodges are a quirky new addition to the Northern Quarter…” Manchester Evening News, 16 July 2012
“It’s worth seeking out as this little known corner of the city has been reinvigorated…” Manchester Confidential, 14 July 2012
Urban Canal Snaps
The ebbs and flows of Manchester’s waterways were captured in a photography exhibition that ran during the festival at Manchester Photographic’s gallery on Dale Street.
The winning images, chosen from entries from over 400 people, were judged by a panel of renowned Manchester photographers and, as well as being displayed as large-scale prints, were projected on the big screen before the movies.
The photographs were taken as part of a new Urban Canal photography course launched by Manchester Photographic and CityCo. The 3-hour session was designed to help photographers use the canal environment between Piccadilly and Castlefield to add drama and interest to their shots.
Just in time for the festivities, and inspired by our Manchester Garden City project, landscape artist Serena Finzel unveiled a floating garden in the wharf at Jackson’s Warehouse.
Commissioned by agency for art in the public realm, Buddleia, the floating garden is a mini-oasis for wildlife, designed to improve local biodiversity. It was planted in collaboration with Northern Quarter gardening groups. We are looking forward to seeing it blossom in the months to come.
Traditional Canal Craft
The very modern Brewer Street Bridge joined in the celebrations courtesy of a public artwork that combined traditional yarn and knot-work; 5,000 tassels were made with the help of knitting groups from across Manchester.
The design was created by artist Kerry Howarth and reflected the heritage of the canals via a pattern that incorporated traditional waterways lace and bright, canal-boat colours.
This narrowboat is the UK’s only hostel boat (a floating hotel that sleeps 8 people, and runs 2-day trips in the countryside in the upper reaches of the Rochdale Canal). It moored up at Piccadilly Basin for the float-in movies and welcomed visitors for a look around. A few lucky spectators got a ring-side view from the cushioned roof deck.
Free family events
We also ran kayaking and angling taster sessions with fully-qualified staff on hand. Visitors could check out the Atelier installation and floating garden nearby, while splashing about on the canal.
One of the newest parts of the city, celebrated the opening of a new marina and park with the Ancoats Festival, timed to coincide with the wider festival activities.
New Islington Marina, a five-minute walk from Piccadilly Basin and close to the Central Retail Park, is a brand new city-centre marina that provides mooring for 50 canal boats, and includes waterside walkways and a swing bridge. This formed the backdrop to a mini-fest that featured live folk music, canoeing taster sessions, a BBQ and circus fun.
What else was on along the canal?
The nine-day 2012 Canal Festival was packed with events running its entire 32-mile length; everything from a 92-lock poetry trail, to outdoor theatre and horse-drawn boats. For full details, click here.
Who cares about canals? We do.
The 2012 Canal Festival was supported by The Canal & River Trust and delivered in Manchester by CityCo and Piccadilly Partnership as part of our on-going programme to reclaim and revitalise the city’s waterways.
Manchester’s industrial past was built on its canals and rivers; we hope that its future continues to celebrate its waterways as places of work, rest and play.
We’d love to hear your ideas about how to bring more life to the canals. Let us know your thoughts @piccadillymcr