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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…

Click here for Other Rochdale Canal Festival Events in Oldham

Click here for All Rochdale Canal Festival Events

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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.

Our group of new artists joins us; ten young men from The Q Youth Centre in Failsworth accompanied by Natalie and Maggie.

The group instantly gets to work on their challenge – create a kinetic bird sculpture in just two days.

They split into teams and get to work on various parts of the sculpture: a lightweight mountain bike frame is stripped and mounted onto two wheel barrow frames to become the bird’s body, two saddles are found and connected by a complex arrangement of metal, nuts and bolts to a brake mechanism to become a moving beak.

At the same time the ‘fish team’ continue work and the body, head and tail are completed. Then the complex task of detailing the moving sculpture begins.

After lunch the bird’s wings are constructed from bed frame pieces connected by inner tube sections and jubilee clips to create flexible flapping joints.

The wings will be driven from the pedals and are connected by more bed frame rods and by the end of the day the bird has taken shape. It’s about 8foot high and has a wing span of about 16foot – a very impressive achievement from five hours work!

Another great sunny day means everyone wears sun tan lotion whilst working on getting the crank completed and moving.

The crank test (see video below) proves the movement will work so construction of the fish body, head and tail begins.


Grassroots 290312 fish moves a video by arbarus on Flickr.

The body section are made from twisted bike wheels of varying sizes, cut and reformed into ellipses. The upper head is formed from two more wheel and we hatch a cunning plan to create an animated jaw using a brake mechanism but leave this job for the next session as we’re expecting more young artists to join us.

The elegantly shaped front frame of a mountain bike marked X Trail – Special Bike seems an obvious choice for the fishes tail – joining it using front forks from another bike allowing it to pivot proves tricky but worth the extra effort.

Another amazing spring day with the weather feeling like summer combined with some new assistant artists meant that our creation moved on apace.

The frame we constructed last week was reinforced with more bed frame parts and the laborious task of fitting eight pedals between the spindles of five bike wheel took a good part of the morning.

After lunch the wheels and pedals were fitted to the reinforcing bars on the frame and the central crank that will power the fish finally came together. Great to see our vision come together and everyone was thrilled to see that the creation might just work!

Upright bars were prepared and T-sections cut from the bed rails to provide pivots and support for the fishes body sections – a kit of parts ready to assemble next session.

Two small scooters were fixed by their handle bars to the front and back of the frame to provide pivots and supports for the fishes head and tail.

The day finished with a real sense of achievement and we’re all looking forward to thursday and getting the body, head and tail added to the sculpture.

Thursday 22nd March at Grassroots and construction of our first sculpture begins!

 Working from our maquette we chose materials for constructing our moving fish full size. Laying out the parts we calculated the fish will be about 12foot long – not a tiddler!

The materials used are two wheelbarrow frames for the upright supports, an old bedframe reinforced with parts from a second bed frame for the base, tube cut from the bed sides for the top frame.

At the same time we rebuilt an old school D.T. bench to work on and selected five bikes wheel of the same size that will become supports and provide bearings for the crank. The crank will be formed from eight pedals and we started the process of removing and preparing these as well.

 All in all a good days of hard work of drilling, sawing, bolting and fitting together and very exciting to see the sculpture start to take form.

 The timelapse below hopefully shows the process and work involved in more detail.


Grassroots 220312 a video by arbarus on Flickr.

ILLUMINATE is the first event the ‘Salvage!’ sculptures will be exhibited at. The event is on the evening of Sat 14th April along the Rochdale Canal in Failsworth.

It’s free and great for all ages and offers the chance to see the fantastic ‘Salvage!’ sculptures and chat to the artists who created them.

Hope to see you there!

Illuminate - a festival of fire and water

The second session at Grassroots was on tuesday 20th march and unfortunately some participants were unable to make it.

Darren suggested that we start work on our fish sculpture and we spent the morning planning how it might work. We wanted to use some of the bike wheels we’d ‘rescued’ as the basis of our mechanism as they are easy to work with, are light weight and have strong and reliable bearings.

We imagined the fish would move like a ‘Chinese Dragon’ puppet with it’s body constructed from a series of rings supported on rods linked to a drive mechanism. We came up with 2 options for using the wheels to drive the movement: horizontal wheels driving from the rim or vertical wheels supporting a crankshaft.

The rest of the day was taken up with the delicate task of constructing working maquettes to test our ideas with valuable assistance from Antony.

We discovered that the horizontal wheels system was easier to make but the motion they imparted to the body was not ‘fishy’ enough, the vertical wheels and crank was harder to construct but the movement was perfect!

A plan of action for our sculpture was slowly taking shape and our next move would be to start actual construction.

On thursday 15th March Noah and myself did our first session at Grassroots in Failsworth. Grassroots is a fantastic community allotment with an orchard, chickens, bees and much more, they’ve kindly let Salvage! and Art Bikes take over one of their poly tunnels to use as a workshop and some of their volunteers are taking part in creating art.

For our first session we met some prospective participants, told them about ourselves and our art. After a chat about the project we explored the canal to look for ideal locations to exhibit whatever we created as part of the ILLUMINATE! event.

Our main achievement was to come up with some ideas for kinetic sculptures that would be relevant to the canal and to Grassroots. Inspired by the canada geese that flew over us as we explored the canal and the fishermen we passed our chosen ideas are to attempt to create a ‘flying bird’ and ‘swimming fish’. We did a few sketches of how these might work and planned to make maquettes of them at the next session.