Poetry Down by the Canal

A year or two ago Rochdale’s 40 kilometres of tow paths, cycle tracks and walkways were celebrated in a poetry anthology that brought together eight locally well known poets. Plaques and signs were placed along the routes to be read and enjoyed by those who love these trails through some of the most beautiful of Rochdale’s countryside. These were made compatible to mobile phone applications in a way that enabled people to respond to, or add to, the poetry they read.

Speaking at a meeting of Castleton Literary And Scientific Society recently Seamus Kelly discussed the benefits brought about by the project and its sustainability and the legacy it has already created. He talked of how the transport department he then worked for identified a need for greater public awareness of these walkways and how cycling and walking them might improve personal health and well being. He and colleagues devised the Connect2Poetry project and invited other agencies such as Cartwheel Arts and Just Poets to help deliver it. Between them, these agencies identified and commissioned eight poets, with each poet asked to produce a certain number of poems to describe their allocated sections along stretches of Rochdale’s canals.

Earlier this month Castleton Literary and Scientific Society members listened to a public reading of poems celebrating Rochdale’s canal routes. Eight poets specially commissioned to contribute original works to a project two years ago re-convened to deliver a heart-felt reading of a diverse and eclectic collection.

Robin Parker conveyed a sense of history and architecture and Val Chapman a collection of personal teenage memories associated with walkways, whilst Eileen Earnshaw created myth and magic. Norman Warwick delivered a personal musical soundtrack and Seamus Kelly spoke of a traveller’s love of these country detours.

Many of the poets spoke of the quietness and solitude of some of these areas, but it was Anne Robinson who heard that silence shattered by a broken branch and reflected, in a truly memorable line, that ‘sound is never shy’.

Steve Gartside has a voice and delivery technique that lend themselves to his profound words and Sam Fisher’s enthusiasm for the project danced ecstatically in his reading.

Billed as Tow Path Val And The Ramblers, these eight poets were mainly drawn from three of the Borough’s creative writing groups; Langley Writers, Weaving Words and Touchstones Creative Writing Group,

To build on this success, a radio documentary is under consideration.

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