Chapter 3: The Hairy Barge

Rachael Champion, Dolon Kundu, Amy & Oliver Thomas-Irvine and Jim Woodall
Hatton Locks to Coventry Canal Basin

Funded By

A sculptural intervention, made from straw, atop heritage working boat Scorpio (Canal and River Trust) was created and processioned from Hatton Locks to Coventry Canal Basin over the course of four days. Realised by master thatcher Westley Marriott, the giant ear of corn sculpture references the local growing and harvesting of our Atle spring wheat at Hatton Farm; marks the return of straw/thatch to Coventry, previously burnt away in the Blitz; its movement manifesting the concept that sculpture is not fixed but rather transforms and iterates through time and space. Connecting the rural and urban Warwickshire contexts and focusing on sustainability, the grain has been turned into flour and the straw will be transformed over the next four months by our lead artists, working alongside communities from Coventry, to form part of the culminating Hand Earth Gesture Return public art installation at the Coventry Canal Basin this July.

On Wednesday 23 March, the Hairy Barge journey commenced. Starting mid-way through the Grand Union Canal’s famous ‘stairway to heaven’ flight of 21 locks at Hatton, the meandering journey reactivating the route of many commercial goods from our industrial past; passing through today’s towns, villages, countryside and urban landscapes compressing time and offering interesting, if not fleeting, visual juxtapositions as the boat travelled by.

The route: Day 1 took in Warwick, Leamington Spa (stopping at Procaffeinate) and on to Radford Semele. Day 2 picked up the Oxford Canal at Napton and on to Braunston. Day 3 took in the ample countryside around Dunchurch, Hillmorton and Stretton-under-Fosse before mooring at Hawkesbury Junction. With the last leg taking in the urban landscape along the Coventry Canal.

An ongoing feature of the HEGR project is an activation of the visual and material themes connecting the hand, to earth, to gesture and to lifecycle through drumming. HEGR drummer Mahandra Patel joined the journey to respond to the sounds and sites over the course of this chapter.

A special thanks to Gordon, Heather, Sue and Chris from the Heritage Working Boats Group who kindly volunteered to steer the boat over the four day journey from Hatton to Coventry (plus getting it from Birmingham and back), as well as everyone else that gave their time and help to make this happen.

The Hairy Barge culminated in an event day at Coventry Canal Basin on Saturday 26th March. A number of talks and workshops at the intersection of heritage, craft and contemporary art marked its arrival into Coventry.

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