Canal Laureate Jo Bell Reads 'Lighter'

Canal Laureate Jo Bell helps Lagan Canal Trust to celebrate Northern Ireland's disused waterways

Throughout September 2013, a series of family-friendly events will be hosted by Lagan Canal Trust and other partners, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Lagan Navigation between Belfast and Lisburn.

Poet, writer and the UK’s first ever Canal Laureate, Jo Bell, made a special appearance at the ‘Listen to the Lagan’ event on September, 4. Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the event celebrated the history and people of the Lagan Navigation in poetry and song.

Watch the video below to hear Bell read her specially-commissioned poem, 'Lighter', named after the working boats that ferried produce along the Northern Irish canals in days gone by.

'Jo is a boat dweller and an acclaimed poet who takes her inspiration from the magnificent canals and rivers that form the landscapes around her,' said Damian Smyth, head of literature and drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. 'This is her first official visit to Northern Ireland and I’m sure she will be captivated with the canals, green space, wildlife and history we are fortunate to have.'

Speaking about her role as Canal Laureate, Bell added: 'Good poetry is about noticing. I want people who already know the canals to notice how lucky we are to have them. For people who haven't really noticed them yet, I want to show them the still green space on their doorstep, full of wildlife and histories.'

The Lagan Navigation 250th Anniversary Programme takes place throughout September, featuring an array of interesting and colourful events to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the stretch of canal that formerly connected Belfast with Lisburn.

The programme includes the Party at the Locks on September 6, taking place at the partially-restored Union Lock in Lisburn; Lagan Navigations Talks and Tours on September 13; Lock 3 and Lock Keeper's Cottage Open Days on September 14 – 15; and The Return of the Industry exhibition.

Erskine Holmes, Chairman of Lagan Canal Trust, said: 'We are inviting everyone to join with us in looking back at the rich heritage of the waterway, its industrial past, people and environment. The activities planned will also give people a chance to get back on the water, use the Lagan Towpath and experience the Lagan Navigation today and be inspired to look forward to our re-opening plans of the future.'

Jo Bell is also calling for writers both amateur and professional to pen new poems that celebrate Britain's canals, rivers and waterways. Poems should be submitted to the Waterlines blog before September 14.

Visit the Lagan Canal Trust website for more information.