Festival floods town with watery works

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The theme of this year’s Hebden Bridge Arts Festival is Water and local poet Winston Plowes is one of the artists taking inspiration from the town’s waterside setting, a confluence of rivers and canal, writes Paul Clarke.

After the 2012 floods, the poet and narrowboater re-imagined the town’s network of watery veins as a stylised tube map, and he will also be launching his latest collection of poems - in conjunction with the Origami Poetry Project - which will be available from Hebden Bridge Town Hall during the festival.

Abstract painter Annie Coxey has experience of floods in Hebden Bridge, where she has lived, and Cumbria, where she now works. After the 2015 Boxing Day floods that devastated Kendal and Hebden Bridge, she spent time looking at the changes in the landscape and produced many sketches and photographs. Her paintings will be on show in the Town Hall and the Tourist Information Centre gallery from June 10.

Ruth Levene will be showing a series of works in the Town Hall exhibition space and basement she made during a residency with Pennine Water Group, based in civil engineering at The University of Sheffield.

On display in the Town Hall entrance will be Hidden Waters, a series of digital prints and etchings mapping the river networks and buried water and sewage infrastructure in the UK. In the basement, alongside the fading flood marks, is Our Waters, a video work that reflects on the state of the urban water infrastructure system and the water that makes Hebden Bridge so distinctive and vulnerable.

The Town Hall courtyard will display Green Woman, a new sculpture by Richard Sharples, inspired by a willow tree growing on the hills above Hebden Bridge, and where the piece will eventually be sited. Also at the Town Hall,there will be the chance to relax in the map chair and listen to residents and businesspeople talking about their experiences of the Boxing Day floods.

Hebden Water, a collaboration between artist Trudi Entwistle and sound recordist Paul Ratcliff, will be presented at Gibson Mill from June 23. The audio-visual installation will take people on a journey along the watercourse from the valley bottom to a high point in the surrounding moors. Artist Rachel Red is hosting free family workshop in the Northlight Arts Centre on July 1 and 2 exploring water in its many forms through print and mixed media.

The playful Gurgle-Splosher will feature in July 2’s Street Sunday show.

Artistic director Helen Meller said: “Being able to offer artists and groups the chance to express their feelings about water in a range of different ways has been both cathartic and very creative.’