Conversations on the Canal is a project exploring the River Lea Navigation as a platform for conversation amongst a community. The project was prompted by the potential loss of the A12 underpass, situated along the canal in Hackney Wick, and seeks to explore a conversational approach to researching, retaining and reclaiming this space for public use.
The research is grounded in reflections developed over the past few years creating projects in community engagement, social design and urban research. My interests are fuelled by a personal frustration with the rational, colonial and gendered history of urban planning and the detached, dis-embodied and distanced practices that surround urban transformation.
Over a period of six weeks, local individuals and organisations were invited into conversation on a narrowboat. Through small talk, boat rides, urban foraging, tea drinking, kayaking, sandwich eating and incessant waving to passing boats, Conversations on the Canal reveals the area’s hidden narratives. This is documented within a book and accompanied by a film which emphasises the personal struggle to celebrate the scope of embodied knowledge and perspectives alongside attempting to draw one’s own understanding and knowledge from a series of encounters.
The first phase of this ongoing work culminated in an audio walk of the canal, foregrounding the voices of the local community whilst expanding its reach to other urban practitioners and professionals.