Making life better by water
In September, partners in the project From Isolation to Inclusion (I2I) visited Leeds and Nottingham. The purpose was to learn more about the work of project partner Canal & River Trust.
Canal & River Trust is a charity that works with volunteers and communities across England and Wales to transform canals and rivers into spaces where local people want to spend time and feel better.
“Our research shows that spending time by water, whether it be your lunchbreak, daily commute or just a weekend stroll, really can make us feel happier and healthier”, says Chris Barnett, enterprise manager for EU projects at the Trust.
Better connections in blue spaces
Nottingham is ranked the 11th most deprived district in the UK and has worse outcomes than the national average for deprivation and older people living alone. It is known that deprivation and poor health outcomes are closely interlinked. Those with poorer health are also more likely to experience loneliness.
More than 9 million people in the UK say they often or always feel lonely. 16–24-year-olds are the age group most likely to feel lonely often or all the time.
“Research shows that the positive effects of meaningful connections are even greater in green and blue spaces. Our canals run through some of our most afflicted areas. The Canal & River Trust is ideally placed to help, and From Isolation to Inclusion form a crucial part of this journey, making a difference for those in our communities that are most isolated and lonely”, said the Sheriff of Nottingham, Councillor Nicola Heaton, on welcoming the project partners.
Many of the former industrial centres in the UK are situated along the country’s waterways. As the industry took on other forms, many of these areas sank into poverty.
“More than half of our network of canals and rivers run through urban areas, both small towns and larger cities. Many of these places are afflicted with higher-than-average deprivation”, says Barnett.
Canal & River Trust does a double service by working with volunteers and communities – creating social cohesion and meeting places – in transforming the canals and rivers into spaces where people want to spend time.
“I2I gives us an opportunity to reach out and connect, to demonstrate the benefits of our waterways. It helps us tell our stories and it helps create new stories for others”, says Barnett.
I2I partners spent one day in Nottingham and one day in Leeds. On the agenda was both workshop and discussions, as well as several presentations from, among others, The Campaign to End Loneliness, the Nottingham City Council, the Wolfpack project, the Nottingham Social Prescriber & Community Connector, the art therapist facilitating the I2I Arts & Craft sessions, and the local community knitting group “Hookers and clickers”.
The I2I project has previously worked with the Hookers and clickers group in yarnbombing a part of the canal as part of a winter walk. The Canal & River Trust also invited a group of elderly people for a day at the canal, causing merriment and a good time all around.