Test Sites: Calder Valley

Test Sites Calder Valley
Ruth Levene, Hidden Waters, video still (2015)
The River College invited visitors to join a geological strata cake eating and discussion session at Mirfield Library as part of Mirfield Arts Festival 2018

Test Sites is Arts Catalyst’s series of inquiries into matters of concern connected with environmental change – such as flooding, pollution, and species loss – and their impact on local culture and the health and wellbeing of our ecosystems and ourselves. At each site, we are inviting local people to be part of art-led co-inquiries, working with artists, scientists, and other experts.

In the Calder Valley in Yorkshire, where flooding and water pollution have been issues for 200 years, we are researching water governance in relation to health, wellbeing and the resilience of communities and ecologies. The core team currently comprises artist Ruth Levene, anthropologist Megan Clinch, artist group Coney, and Nicola Triscott and Anna Santomauro from Arts Catalyst, with input from Liz Sharp at Pennine Water Group, University of Sheffield, and the water@leeds group, University of Leeds.

We began in 2017 by making two research journeys by narrowboat along the Calder/ Hebble Navigation meeting local people, river/canal users, and experts with interests in water, the history of the river and canal, and water governance.

During 2018, under the banner of the ‘River College’, we are organising workshops with local groups and hosting stands at local festivals, using walks, games, geological cake-baking, water testing experiments and exhibits of maps and models to spark conversations around the geology, ecology, history, pollution and uses of the water system, while exchanging ideas around water’s social, spiritual, political and environmental meanings. Alongside, we are holding group meetings and interviews to gather people’s varied understandings about the Calder water system and its management.

Upcoming events include:

Sat 14 July 2018, 12noon - 4pm
Cake and the Calder Valley
Mirfield Art Festival at Mirfield Library, Huddersfield Rd, Mirfield
An informal conversation and cake-eating session thinking about Mirfield’s water systems.
What ways do we come into contact with and consume water on a daily basis? Where does it come from? How is it managed? Is it clean? Is it harmful? Who profits from it? Can we begin to understand our environment and learn about its multi-layered complexities through the creation of geographical cakes?
Join artists and researchers for slice of artist-made geological strata cake and an informal chat about the water systems in the Calder valley.
Everyone welcome. Free, just drop in between 12 and 4pm.

Sat 28 July - Sun 29 July 2018, All day
The River College
Dewsbury Canal Festival, Savile Town Wharf, Mill Street East, Dewsbury
What is the relationship between the canal, the river and the water that we consume on a daily basis? Where does all this water come from and who manages it? Is it clean? Who cleans it? Who profits from it? Come and learn about the Calder valley water system through creative games, exhibits, demonstrations, citizen science activities, geological cakes and tea tasting.
Everyone welcome. Free, just drop into the River College tent!


Ruth Levene
Ruth Levene is an artist based in Sheffield, Yorkshire working in video, performance, events, digital drawings, walks, installations and participatory work. Curious and concerned by the complex systems we live by, she is currently exploring water systems, farming and market driven developments of the countryside.

Megan Clinch
Dr Megan Clinch is an anthropologist and lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London. Her research explores how different forms of investigation, experimentality, evidence, and evaluation are understood (or not) and managed in the development of public health interventions.

Coney are artists and makers of interactive theatre, adventures and games, a BAFTA-winning agency who make play happen all over the UK.

Nicola Triscott
Dr Nicola Triscott is a curator and researcher, working at Arts Catalyst and the University of Westminster. She is interested in curating processes of co-inquiry and knowledge coproduction, through an art-centred approach and a science and technology studies perspective.

Anna Santomauro
Anna Santomauro is a curator, educator and researcher in micropolitics and socially engaged art. She is Programme Curator at Art Catalyst.

Test Sites: Calder Valley is supported by the Wellcome Trust, Canal and River Trust and Arts Council England.

Image: Design by An Endless Supply