ame research and development residency 01 with Jo Kennedy : River Colne Residency (July Update)
River Colne Residency 2nd update by Jo Kennedy, July 2020
ame has invited three musicians / sound artists to take up research and development residencies during the lock-down. Jo Kennedy, who lives in Todmorden, has begun her research around the River Colne (which runs through Huddersfield) and people’s relationship with it.
Her June update found here
Jo is inviting the public to take part in creating a piece of visual art for her exhibition. Please see below for details of what to do.
I’ve spent time in June walking the course of the Colne from its start, above Marsden to its end, downstream of Colnebridge. I’ve tried to stay as close to the river’s edge as I can. For much of its length this is possible if one feels adventurous, and willing to risk wet feet, but it gets harder as the river flows further downstream, through more urban and industrial areas where access to the bankside is walled or fenced off, or where the river lies within the boundaries of industrial estates, factories and depots.
A number of things have struck me. One is that people like to be by the river. In many places, whilst there are no official footpaths, there are ‘unofficial’ tracks – through the Himalayan Balsam and mud, through little gaps between barbed wire fences and walls, down slippery slopes. So people (some people anyway….the explorers and sure-of-foot) are connected to their river as a place to be, possibly in groups, or alone.
There is also a certain juxtaposition between the Colne valley’s canals (Huddersfield Narrow, then Broad) with their flat, accessible, well-managed, sign-posted paths, and the river flowing parallel and close by, but down a level, sometimes through dense undergrowth, out of sight….where everything is more wild. In the upper reaches at least, on a baking hot day you can escape the canal-side with its silent, murky water and hustle of joggers and cyclists, and skulk off down a half-track to the river – maybe to a place where its silky flow breaks up into bubbling riffles and there is a cool, freshness to the air. You can be alone and watch a single leaf fall gracefully from a tree, and drift on by, or wait for a fish to make a gulp and watch a small ripple move out in bigger and bigger circles. What is it doing? Has it come up for air, or is it trying to catch a fly? And what type of fish is it? You can let your mind wander.
Despite our love of the river, our desire to be by it, or in it even, we also have tried to take command of it, and we have certainly abused it. We have constrained its course with high stone walls, engineered its flow with weirs, and occasionally built over it with dual- carriageways and factories. Its banksides have become heavily colonised by ‘non-native invasive species’ (Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed), whilst the river itself serves as one of our waste disposal facilities – we pour our effluent into it and we throw in, or leave our rubbish behind. We have a paradoxical relationship with the river. We love it but we also treat it in a way which ultimately alienates us from it. In some locations it feels like a place only those of us on the edge of society would be comfortable frequenting.
Call for public participation
Whilst I was walking the river’s length I became a bit obsessed with the amount of litter and debris and started to take photos on my phone camera, as if doing a litter survey. Part of the final exhibition for this project is definitely going to explore this aspect of the river environment, and why we do this to the river.
I’d like the public to participate in making a large piece of visual art to cover one of the white walls in Dai Hall exhibition space. If you would like to take part over the summer (July and August) all you need to do is email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) a photo of a piece of rubbish you have seen in the River Colne, and the location you saw it. Tell me your name too if you’d like to be listed as one of the contributors. Once all photos have be sent in they will be collated into one large collage – a 2020 River Colne Litter Survey re-framed as art. The piece will be called ‘I am on my way to the sea’. The location you saw the litter is important as the pictures will be arranged in order, from the top to bottom of the river. It is an ever-changing situation – there is a constant topping up of new litter from people’s excursions to the river bank, especially in fine weather, but all the time debris that does not become too stuck in the vegetation, or embedded in the sediment is being transported downstream, especially when river levels rise in the rain. A Lucozade bottle photographed above Slaithwaite in early July could be photographed again by someone else in Colnebridge in August. A photo from your phone is fine, – as good a quality as possible, but please don’t put yourself in any danger whilst taking it!
My project continues this month with more investigation into river’s quality and river life, and a return to some specific spots to collect audio and visual material. Despite the way we have treated the river it is still a haven for wildlife. I have seen many grey wagtails bobbing on stones, several herons and two kingfishers.