An exhibition of Canal Landscapes by Ian Grant

Unlike our railways, whose network began dwindling with the introduction of cheap road transport after the first world war, (continuing through to the drastic Beeching cuts of the 1960's), the canal system declined more gracefully. The growth of recreational activities has allowed a far larger proportion of the canal network to remain open, and it is now actually viable to re-open closed canals, the Kennett & Avon being a prime example.

The images exhibited here have been made over the last 18 years, and all stem from my first spotting a bridge on an OS map over the River Teme in the middle of nowhere with fields either side and well away from the nearest roads. I'd found the Teme Aqueduct of the "Stourport - Leominster canal". This lead to nearly 3 years work making images of the traces left in the landscape of the canal.

As the images of the Stourport - Leominster canal were finally being drawn together for an exhibition "Lost Labours", I went walking with a friend on the way home from work in the Black Country with my camera, and stumbled upon Bumble Hole - Windmill End. As I began making images I made a decision to spend 5 years making images in the Black Country landscape, with a view to a major exhibition. This was first shown in 1994 as "In Search of Agenoria".

Over the intervening years I have continued to make new images and this exhibition draws from both the old and the new. Our landscape is continually evolving and since I began making images around Windmill End new housing has encroached onto the fringes of the site.

As I began to realise I was photographing our post industrial landscape, I decided to study Industrial Archaeology at Birmingham University, prior to doing an MA in Photography. Now having completed both it's time to come full circle.

This exhibition is about the lost and the preserved and the fragility of our heritage. Images of the abandoned Stourport - Leominster Canal are shown alongside various Black Country and neighbouring canal images.

It was felt by the organisers of this canal boat festival, at Bumble Hole, that some of my images should be seen publicly in the landscape I've spent over 15 years working in.

Much hard work has been put into preserving the landscape here around Bumble Hole - Windmill End, and as an industrial archaeologist and photographer it is a great privileged to show these photographs here at probably the most important site of our industrial heritage in the Black Country.

Nearly all of the images on show here can be seen at www.lostlabours.co.uk along with more in depth research and history of the Stour Valley/Black Country as well as the Stourport— Leominster canal.

Ian Grant, September 2004

Images to follow shortly