Friday Comment: All hands on deck!

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All Hands On Deck
Fran Graham (@_allhandsondeck)

Despite its charms, the West Leeds canal side is an area of the city many people haven’t explored yet. William Turner documented it, with a painting that hangs in the Tate Gallery in London. This motorway of the past is now brimming with natural charms; the water at Newlay known for crayfish, pike and fresh sponge, the area opposite the Abbey Inn at Newlay once quarried to build Kirkstall Abbey, now celebrated locally for its Springtime crops of wild garlic and carpet of bluebells.

This Saturday 7 July from 10am-5pm, All Hands On Deck brings two canal boats at Newlay, West Leeds, for a day of free boat trips and on-board art clubs for all ages, designed to encourage more people to enjoy this area of the city & to prove that everyone’s an artist at heart. The boats are skippered by the Safe Anchor Trust, a charity based in Mirfield that works to increase access to the canals in West Yorkshire. One of the boats visiting Bramley has been adapted by Safe Anchor Trust’s volunteers to include a wheelchair lift and accessible toilet, making it easy for many more people to get on board easily.

Over the course of this week, artists Debi Holbrook & Lou Sumray have been cruising the waterways around Kirkstall, Newlay (Bramley) & Rodley inviting residents to join them on board to knit, sketch, draw with wire and transform the boats from the traditional to the quirky. Sketches are filling up the walls of the tiny toilet gallery now known as The Loovre & a catch of knitted fish is reproducing as the week progresses. Visitors on board this week have included groups from Bramley Elderley Action, Moorside Tara, Armley Library and the Children’s Centre in Bramley.

Saturday’s free activities include round-trips leaving from Newlay (opposite the Abbey Inn on Pollard Lane) taking visitors East and West along the canal and giving them a chance to enrol in Skipper-School & learn to drive the boats. Local singers from Bramley Elderly Action’s choir will serenade pleasure-cruisers joining the boat at 2.30pm. Local waterways experts Marie Millward & Jonathan Hart-Woods will lead wildlife cruises during the afternoon exploring the area’s rich history and offering a few tips for food foragers looking for the best canalside fare. For the competitive-spirited, two races involving wind-up bathtub toys, will see toy sharks racing against tub-toy divers for a chance to win a fish and chip supper. In order to connect more Bramley residents with the canalside at Newlay, a horse-drawn carriage will taxi shoppers from Bramley Shopping Centre to the water throughout the day.

Come rain or shine, the boats will be sailing, and there’s a hearty Bramley welcome for all boarders.

Organised by local residents Marie Millward of Beautiful Bramley and local resident Fran Graham, All Hands on Deck is supported by funding from Leeds Inspired and the Community First Matched Fund.

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