Outfalls is a collaboration between two artists, Judith Tucker (visual artist) and Harriet Tarlo (poet), drawing on thirty years of experience of working with landscape in their respective fields. In our exhibitions and books we explore how the practice of drawing in relation to poetry might be employed in an affective understanding of place. Over the last five years we have developed considerable interest in North East Lincolnshire as a place of beauty, but also as one that invites questions about what is natural, and what is unnatural. The Outfalls project, focusing on the Louth Canal, developed from our work on the Humberston Fitties (see www.projectfitties.com) and indeed our interest in the canal was first sparked by encountering its outfall at Tetney Haven on the Humber Estuary.
The first iteration of this work was commissioned by Linda Ingham for an Arts Council funded collaborative show entitled Neverends and shown at the Grimsby Heritage Centre in the 2016. We continue to make new work on the canal and to show Outfalls in a range of locations including Sheffield, Barton-on-Humber, Kings Lynn and London (see exhibitions and events) and, subsequent to discussions with the Louth Navigation Trust, plan to engage further with local people over the Spring and Summer of 2018 and to mount an exhibition at the Louth Navigation Warehouse in the Autumn of 2018.
The Louth Canal or Navigation was constructed between 1765 and 1770 and runs for just over eleven miles between Louth and Tetney Haven. Like many rural canals, the Navigation began to decline towards the end of the Nineteenth Century as roads and railways were developed. The final straw was the devastating flood at Louth in 1920, an event for which the town is known. In 1924 the canal closed and began to fall into slow dereliction. Our work walking, drawing and writing along the canal, together with our subsequent research, is not to be nostalgic or didactic but to reflect what we find there. As always, at any moment, there is much that is evident and much that is hidden: the many outfalls and inter-changes of water; crossings of energy lines; seasonal changes in plant life; historical remnants of industrial infrastructure; the ghost of lost buildings and communities as well as current life and work along the Navigation and evidence of birds and animals (often only in traces) creating homes in and amongst the old culverts, bridges and locks.
We explore not only the visual and textual potential of this place, but also the past, present and possible futures of the Navigation. This raises questions repeated all around the country about what will happen to these relics of our industrial heritage and surrounding landscape? The Louth Canal Navigation Trust campaigns for the restoration and re-opening of the waterway and works to give cultural and actual access to the canal. How would potential restoration affect the canal, which is described in the 2006 feasibility project for the restoration of the canal as “slowly reverting to a more semi-natural state since the navigation closed”? How much and what kind of intervention is desirable? We hope that our work will help generate discussion around these questions.