Precarious Carnaval has plunged into the past, present and future to unearth the secrets of the Bridgewater canal. Celebrating its 258th birthday, artists Lowri Evans, Renato Bolelli Rebouças and Rodolfo Amorim are helping audiences embark on a journey through the history of England’s first canal. The award-winning theatre-makers from Brazil and the UK have collaborated in a community event that fuses over thirty local groups and hundreds of volunteers. Creating a crafty collection that captures Salford’s hidden history, the immersive three acts flow through three days of events.
Offering a time travelling trip back to 1761 when the canal was first commissioned by Francis Egerton 3rd, the carnaval trail from Boothstown Marina to Worsley’s Humpback Bridge captures how the channel enabled a more efficient production of coal. The carnaval walk-through celebration explores how the process of the industrial revolution moved people out of the field and into factories but exposes how its challenging history was fuelled by the hard labour of miners and funded through slave labour.
Haunting us like Marley’s ghost, the spirits of the mine workers roam the tumultuous trail that intertwines the colourful festivities with the forgotten voices sacrificed in the pursuit of progress. Explaining how race, class and gender exploitation energised the industrial revolution, the path positions real and fictional characters to explore where this route will lead us in the future. Atop the Queenie narrowboat, a drunken woman sings about her lost youth and her sealed fate as a poorly paid 7-year-old coal miner. But these scenes are pinned against a life-size ice cream mascot and the entangled Smith’s Knits mermaids washed ashore, covered in the discarded rubbish that has been thrown in the canal by passers-by.
It is a uniquely designed, family-friendly affair that ensures that these stories are digestible for its younger audience. Including music, witches and mermaids placed along its route to keep the atmosphere imaginative and entertaining, the installations and characters are all beautifully illustrated against the natural scenic route. The vibrant festival even takes a minute to take cover under a bridge where a masked ball accompanied by a brass band awaits anyone willing to don a disguise and drink with the devil. Comprised of countless local acts including an original poem from the Bridgewater Youth Centre and the Barton Belles performance of The Ship Song (by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), the picturesque walkways are lined with visual and creative collections of public art.
Precarious Carnaval allows audiences the opportunity to watch and take part in a candid celebration surrounding the Bridgewater Canal. Flooded with history, it does not offer a nostalgic walk down memory lane, but instead represents the positive and negative impacts of the privately-owned canal and the industrial revolution. Confronting the idealism of a new world, the show explores how the past has encouraged our present use of dirty energy and exploitation whilst also driving modern developments and new scientific discoveries.