On 3rd May, I arrived in Gloucester with a sculpture in several pieces, and around 60 sacks of salt from different international locations, which I had collected and bagged into printed sacks. Scorpio, our mode of transport, was already moored up by the National Waterways Museum. The next morning, to the curious looks of passers-by, a team of volunteers loaded the sculpture and sacks on board Scorpio, and we set off for a 3 day journey from the docks.
The docks had historically been the location where salt was brought from Droitwich by Wych Barges and loaded onto larger boats for the longer journeys to other countries and continents. Our journey took us on a reverse route, up the Severn and then onto the Droitwich Barge Canal.
Over the 3 days of the journey, I accompanied Scorpio’s fantastic and knowledgeable crew: Rob and Paula Manning, and Gordon and Heather Blackmore, learning about their experiences of boating on England’s waterways. My sister, artist Rebecca Beinart also joined us and together we documented the journey through film and still photographs.
The slowness of the journey and the changing scenery gave me a sense of how the salt trade used to operate, and the sacks of salt on board gave passing boats and those on a bank something to wonder about!
On the morning of 6th May, Scorpio arrived at Vines Park, Droitwich to a fanfare, as the St Richards Festival was in full swing. Mary Jenkins, Kay Mullett and Rhys Jones were busy running fantastic salt-based art activities for children alongside the bank. The sculpture was unloaded, and assembled, and the salt sacks unloaded ready for pouring. A crowd assembled to watch.
After some great introductions to the contemporary importance of salt in Droitwich, by Will Kerton of Droitwich Salt, Churchfields Farm (who had contributed some local salt to our cargo) and Sue Rudd from the Save Our Brine Baths campaign, the Mayor of Droitwich then poured the first scoop of salt into the sculpture. He was followed by Will and Sue, and others in the audience such as Iain Sinclair, whose father Max Sinclair was instrumental in the regeneration of the Droitwich canals. Over the next couple of hours, people of all ages, local and visitors, helped to fill the sculpture with salt, until the walls contained strata of different colours and sizes of crystals, mixing local salt with salt from all over the world.
The Saltworks sculpture is now in the Droitwich Heritage Centre, Victoria Square, where it will remain on display until 7th September, and depart once again from Vines Park at the Salt Fest on 8th September.
On Saturday 14th July, I will be giving a talk about the project at the Droitwich Heritage Centre at 12.30, and we will have children’s activities outside from 10.30-4pm. For further info on this and other events, see https://theringart.org.uk/events/artists-talk-katy-beinart-saltways/
Photo credits: Katy Beinart, Rebecca Beinart and Rhys Jones.