Sunday, October 31, 2010

Timely celebration of the K&A Canal's 200 years

There was a day of celebration for the Kennet & Avon Canal's bicentenary on Saturday when a massive sundial was unveiled on the Widcombe Flight of Locks in Bath.

By Bob Naylor

People flocked to the canal to see the new piece of artwork commissioned and funded by Bath and North East Somerset Council as part of the K&A 200 celebrations.

A host of celebrities paid tribute to the piece, which is calliibrated to Widcombe Mean Time.

Bath and North East Somerset Chairman, Sarah Bevan read a quote from Toad in 'The Wind in the Willows' about the worth of 'simply messing about in a boat' before thanking artist Alan Dun saying, "You have produced an imaginative sundial – you have enhanced the public realm –and we appreciate your work with the children of Widcombe Junior School and the students at the City of Bath College".

Bath and North East Somerset Council Chairman, Sarah Bevan, left with Bath Mayor, Shaun McGall and artist Alan Dun cutting the ribbon to unveil the K&A Bicentenary sundial. 

The Mayor of Bath, Shaun McGall, said, "As someone who grew up enjoying canal boat holidays all across the country I think it’s really great that we can celebrate 200 years of this quite wonderful canal, which is a wonderful community resource that we can all use whether on the water or on the towpath". 

The artist chosen to create the monument, Alan Dun said, "I would like to say thank you on behalf of the artist community because projects like this give artists an opportunity to increase their reach to a new audience, to increase the visibility of art and hopefully to add something to the cultural life of the city."

"Alan paid tribute to Project Manager, Kate Orchard and Ann Cullis the BANES Senior Arts Officer for their work behind the scenes and to Nigel Bryant and his students from Bath City College who worked remarkably quickly to have the stonework in place in good time. He also thanked BW who prepared the ground and provided the foundations.

The sundial was cast in iron by Richard Bowditch using the same traditional methods as canal builders would have used 200 years ago. 

Alan explained, "Richard works on his own and he made the ironwork in three separate sections each weighing one and a half hundredweight — and that meant pouring molten iron at 1100 degrees C — on his own ... H&S look the other way! 

Lady Margaret arrives at the event onboard Lady Lena, the oldest electric launch in the world — skippered by its owner, Jenkin Knill.

Lady Margaret, who arrived at the event on the classic electric launch, Lady Lena, said, "I got an email last week with a song about the K&A canal — it's quite a few pages long so you’ll be grateful that I’m not going to sing it. It was written in 1990 and starts:

The Widcombe Mummers brought an 
element of chaos to the procedings.

In 54 a Bill was raised to close the old cut down,
But people fought in Parliament and won the crucial round,
The fight’s gone on as you can see this year’s a year of victory,
So take a glass and raise it high to the K&A Canal,
The race is won and we’re all here to raise a great and mighty cheer 
And drink a pint or two of beer to the K& A canal.

"And I’ve found a much older poem:  
The K&A runs from A to B,  
The towpath we are treading,  
Although it is a great pity,  
It only goes to Reading!

She added, "We’re all here today...  the dignitaries, the sculptor, the Widcombe Mummers and the people of Widcombe as well as the boat people and everyone else. And we hereby declare the sundial well and truly open. God Bless her and all who tell the time by her — and what time it is I have no idea!

Crowds flocked to the canal in Bath to join in the celebrations.

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