The canals provide an interesting backdrop to live and work.
Living on the canal provides a set of challenges that many on land have never experienced; self sufficiency being at the forefront. It gives us a unique way of looking at the world and our surroundings. Generating power, getting water, emptying toilets, rubbish disposal, somewhere to moor access to shops, breakdowns: These are all day to day problems which have to be overcome. Forward thinking, creativity and planning are essential.
Urban moorings wants to share this with land based dwellers.
We want to create a space where difference and different ideas are the norm.
We want spaces where we can share the canal folk way of looking at things.
We want people to explore and learn about the rich industrial history of the site and the area around it.
We want to be eco zero waste site, putting an emphasis on reusing waste in imaginative and inventive ways.
We want to show it is possible to reclaim once polluted and derelict sites with little commercial potential and regenerate them as community and creative sites as a compliment to the surrounding environs.
We want to integrate with nature and have it as everyday experience on our site.
We want to encourage the community to plant and garden on whatever scale they are able at the site and at home.
We want to give a space to experiment with the arts and provide a flexible space to do so.
We want to provide a space for the community to engage with exhibitions and performance.
We want to provide a space for micro businesses to operate on a flexible basis and share ideas.
We have seen and witnessed developers building next to the canal to try and give residence’s that sense but most times it fails as there is still that barrier of bricks that means it feels staged. We boat past and wave but never stop to talk or interact with the land.
This is because developers don’t know what boats need or how to integrate the canal into their developments. The canal always seems to be an image for someone’s window. The canal is a lot more than that. It’s is a living breathing micro world, of nature, holidays working folk and stories. It’s like living in a 2000 mile linear village where everyone knows you and your boat. We aim to open a path to this by removing barriers and creating a hub for people to interact.
Experience and Influences
Two major themes have pivotal roles in defining the project. The first is centered around over a combined twenty years experience of living and travelling on canals, running boat based businesses. The second is based on many years of involvement in community work, the arts and the involvement in the growth of the Arts Quarter of Birmingham.
Although many people are now beginning to have the experience of living next to canals due to urban regeneration, we have many years of experience of living directly within the canal environment. This has included;
Living as Continuous Cruisers – Travellers without a permanent base moving on before 14 days
Living in Marinas – Both large pontoon based and smaller inline moorings
Running canal based businesses as Roving Traders
Running the trade association for Roving Canal Traders (RCTA) and negotiation on member’s behalf with the Canal and River Trust (CRT)
Sitting on the committees of several boating associations
Sitting on National Advisory Groups for CRT
Volunteering for CRT and running a canal adoption scheme in Birmingham
We see this as giving us a unique perspective on canalside regeneration when combined with our experience in the community, arts and the regeneration of the canalside in Birmingham. It allows us to see possibilities for both boaters, land based communities, the Council and CRT; including how to create a network between them, with Urban Moorings acting as a central hub.
Community and Arts Involvement
In looking for potential sites for the project, one of the main criteria was a site that could provide a space for various community and arts projects that could bring together the boating and land based communities, whilst being a living example of the transformation that can be achieved through creative vision, volunteering and hard work. This site is a prime example of a forgotten piece of industrial land, surrounded by new and planned housing developments, yet unlikely itself to be redeveloped. Rich in industrial history which has largely been forgotten yet entirely visible from the canalside as an overgrown patch that is devoid of its historical context. Its jewel being a long neglected but significant boat house falling into decay. Having seen and being involved in what has been achieved and is currently underway in Digbeth in Birmingham our vision was to use this as a transferable template for this site, bringing the same creative and community vitality outwards along the canal network
The most significant ideas and influences that form part of this template and which we wish to incorporate into the way this site is developed are:
The concept of slow regeneration – Organically growing a site or area using the income from one project, rental or use to fund further development.
Using slow regeneration to provide a natural growth that does not force a strict vision upon a site, but provides for a dynamic growth based on community needs and allows for creative uses that feed into the next project.
Encouraging the involvement of local Universities to use the site for student projects and case studies that can feed into the development of the site.
Allowing for mixed uses of a site between arts, business and community to encourage networking and knowledge sharing between users.
Providing flexible indoor spaces that allow for a variety of uses
Using ‘Light Touch’ restoration to preserve the character of the spaces
Appreciating that a mix of cultural, industrial and housing and boating in an area works to its benefit.
By creating a mix of uses, visitors are less intimidated by arts and culture and more likely to visit them.
That a canal acts as a draw and a focal point for visitors
That encouraging visiting boaters adds to the vibrancy and the economy of an area
That having boats moored has a positive effect on any anti social behaviour in an area
That volunteering encourages a sense of ownership and also discourages anti social behaviour
That education about canals and local history can also develop a sense of ownership and community pride.
That linking up with existing art, creative and community projects within an area is important in creating a cohesive community and building a city wide network.