For our first Rochdale Canal Festival workshop we decided to create a finishing line arch for the Shuttle Relay Stage 7 a la Tour De France – Tour De Failsworth anyone?

The arch was created in just 1 day using the remains of three trampoline frames that had been thrown away locally.

Lots of young people got involved during the day and had fun drilling, bolting and building the arch.

Decoration was added using old bike wheels and the end result will be a striking feature for the shuttle relay.

Rochdale Canal Festival is 91 locks, 50 free events, 32 miles, 9 days celebrating the best of canal culture.

Salvage Junk Sculpture and Oldham Art Bikes will be involved in the festival and we are running two free workshops to create a sculptural dome and junk garden from bike parts.

There will also be chance to see the bird and fish sculptures up close at Failsworth Library on the 23rd & 24th (and possibly have a go pedaling them) at Grassroots on Saturday 25th.

We’re also leading the Shuttle Relay Stage 7 on Friday 24th if you fancy joining us for a fun short art-bike ride and there’s plenty of other stuff to get involved with during the week.

Click on an image below for more details and hope to see you there…

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The great day arrived bright and sunny after the preceding week of grey skies and rain. A morning of dashing about fixing, tweaking and final checks culminated in a last minute welding panic for our newly built ‘low rider PA platform’ which refused the speed bumps.

Once makeup had been applied and costumes donned we moved the sculptures into position, 2 burst tyres and ‘pit stop’ inner tube changes later and we were off.

A very hot and tiring but amazing and exhilarating 2 hours in front of crowds of 1000’s of on lookers flew by as we pedaled, waved shouted our way around Manchester with the Oldham dancers putting on an amazing show.

All in all a great day that left us all hoping to return next year.

For three days prior to the Manchester Day Parade Noah and I re-assembled the sculptures and converted them to moveable ‘art bikes’ though the addition of bike wheels, frames and some very dodgy steering!

This work took place in my studio and unfortunately our young artists were not able to work with us for various reasons.

They did join us on the day before the parade at a secret location in central Manchester to help with final preparations for the parade.

We spent all day in a warehouse full of other artists and makers all preparing for the parade.  An enjoyable and inspiring but very long day the end of which still left us with a lot to do to be ready for the parade…

Our big day arrived and the group from Failsworth Q arrived in good time on Saturday afternoon to get set up but we still worked right up to the start time of 7.30 getting the sculptures ready to show.

We’d installed them on the lock and become the focal point for the start of the trail. A huge crowd gathered and the traditional 10…9…8 countdown added to the pressure on us and our creations. The crowd reached zero and after a seconds pause for pedaling in the wrong direction the fish started to swim through the air and the bird started to flap. The crowd cheered – SUCCESS!!!

The next two hours flew by as the group dashed around operating, tweaking and replacing slipped chains. They were kept busy talking to the audience and explaining how they’d make the sculptures, how they worked and showing off their fantastic creations to friends and family.

All the hard work was definitely worthwhile. Seeing the pride, enjoyment and sense of achievement shining in the group’s faces as they dashed about coupled with the smiles and amazement of our audience proved what the project is all about

The local news even took our picture.

So until we start the next stage – Manchester Day Parade – it just remains for me to thank all our amazing, hard working and talented participants:

From Failsworth Q: Ste, Steve, Dan, Martin, Levi, Peter, Sam, Dale and Sam,

From Chadderton House: Andy, Dennis, Scott and Maxine

From Grassroots: The amazing Darren, Anthony and Chris.

From Manchester Uni: Hebe Phillips.

And of course a big thank you to everyone who support us in other ways and without whom it wouldn’t have happened: Sara, Natalie, Maggie, Ann, Bulky Bob and everyone else.

See you at Manchester Day Parade!

Salvage! At Illuminate a video by arbarus on Flickr.

The group reconvened for our last full working day before the grand unveiling at Illuminate – our mission “Decorate!”

Decoration consisted of scales and feathers created using from cable ties, Mylar film from an old slash curtain and double sided tape. A painstaking process…

Other work included adding a tail with flapping mechanism to the bird, improving the fish’s moveable jaw and adding fins and more tail detail to the fish along with a gangsta style grill (or bike chain teeth!)…

How To Decorate Your Fish a video by arbarus on Flickr.

As the deadline of the Illuminate event approached it was time to test and tweak the sculptures.

We added the drive bike to the bird using some ‘dropouts’ made from scrap steel plate and old angle iron shelving. Time to test the bird and it proved too big for the poly tunnel so we moved it outside to continue work– the weather was changeable so we worked under a slightly too small gazebo for some of the day.


The bird wings proved too heavy and kept throwing the chain from the gear as they ‘pushed’ the chain forward ahead of the pedal. This was remedied by the addition of a number of ‘muscles’ made from old inner tubes, strategically placed these ‘muscles’ countered the downwards force of the wings and allowed an even resistance to the pedals allowing control of the speed of the rotation and flapping more easily.

Everyone was thrilled that the bird worked. The flapping motion had a real bird like quality and everyone enjoyed pedaling and making amusing ‘caw-cow’ noises…

The Bird Moves a video by arbarus on Flickr.

We were please to have our young team return on the second day of their Easter holidays and continue work on the bird.

The tricky process of setting up and aligning the drive mechanism proved a challenge as four bike chains were needed to create the required length. These were salvaged from our junk box and Dan and Ste set to work making sure they were of the same pitch, cleaning and freeing any stuck links and joining them into one long, unwieldy and unusual looking chain.

Once this was connected correctly around the wing crank gear and the freewheel of the drive bike, Sam Ste and Dale mounted a tensioner and chain guide made from two old derailleur cogs onto the struts of the bird support frame.

Meanwhilst Andy and Dennis got the fish moving with the addition of a drive bike.

The fish frame had been lifted 5″ using bed frame ends to enable fixing of the drive mechanism. (The fish was now truly above the river bed!)

The perpendicular drive for the fish was connected using a cunning contrivance of parts from our toolkit: a 3/4 socket and universal joint adapter, Andy and Dennis made sure everything was aligned correctly to the fish drive crank and fixed it in place.

Everyone returned raring to go and we had a brilliant day of sculpture and mechanics…

Using all the skills gained on the previous session work proceeded at a furious pace: the bird got a head created from the remaining half of the fishes tail ‘special bike’ frame.

The bird beak and fish mouth mechanisms made from brake calipers, brake cable and brake levers were completed, tested and attached.

Bird Beak Mech a video by arbarus on Flickr.

The wings were reinforced using brake cable cross bracing.

The fish body shape came together beautifully with additional structure from carefully formed springs sections of copper welding wire.

GR 050412 TL a video by arbarus on Flickr.

Working with Failsworth Library I ran a taster session for the Salvage! project from 3pm till 6pm to create a quick kinetic sculpture using minimum toolkit as quietly as possible in the library itself.

Eight young people joined the session and helped design and start the sculpture but unfortunately most had to leave before we completed the work. They all seemed to be busy with swimming, going out and other activities but said they’d enjoyed what they created and I hope to run more sessions at the library in the future.

Ryan had arrived during the first part of the session but stayed till the end and worked very hard to make sure the sculpture worked and proved a keen and skilled artist. He also helped clear away afterwards – the least fun part of any session so thank you Ryan!

The sculpture – Library Waving Machine – was constructed from:

Old bike wheel, spokes, plastic pipe, bike pedal, car windscreen motor, string, stools, gloves. power supply.

The video below shows the session and completed sculpture.

Salvage! Junk Sculpture Workshop at Failsworth Library a video by arbarus on Flickr.