Brighouse & Rastrick will help poet Ian Macmillan and composer Ian Stephens celebrate the 200 year history of the world’s first super highway as part of a high-profile arts production about the famous Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Brighouse & Rastrick Band will play a central role in a forthcoming high-profile arts production celebrating 200 years of heritage of the famous Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Super Slow Way

The waterway was an essential artery of the Industrial Revolution, forever changing the lives and landscape of the north of England, and ‘Super Slow Way: A Rhapsody to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal’ celebrates its history, people and stories using a series of poems specially written by the Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan.

Taking place on Sunday 16th October at King George’s Hall in Blackburn (4.00pm) with an hour of outdoor entertainment outside Blackburn Town Hall from 3.00pm, the Rhapsody draws together musical forces from Liverpool, Lancashire and Yorkshire.


Under the baton of Prof David King, the 70-strong Blackburn People’s Choir will perform alongside 100 school children from Blackburn, celebrated soprano Amanda Roocroft, cellist Jonathan Aasgaard, tabla player Kuljit Bhamra and Brighouse & Rastrick Band, on music written by the acclaimed composer Ian Stephens.

Ian McMillan’s series of poems depict community life alongside the canal over the past centuries; from moments of quiet spent by the waterside, to families from faraway places arriving and finding new homes, to the ambitious Victorian ‘fat cats’ and pioneers who sought their fortune in creating the Victorian version of the ‘super highway’.

Ian McMillan will narrate alongside Liverpool actor Lisa Parry and Farmeen Ahmed.

Musical celebration

Ian Brownbill, who has been overseeing the project told 4BR: “It’s a wonderful musical celebration. There won’t be another occasion this year where you can hear this combination of outstanding choirs, soloists and musicians.

The Rhapsody represents a coming together of different forms that perfectly reflects the communities and stories along the canal over the past 200 years, celebrating this great ‘super slow way’ that transported the huge barges of cotton and coal which made Blackburn a lynchpin of the Industrial Revolution.

The audience will get the chance a combination of some of the best soloists and bands in the world and the inter-generational choir comprised of Blackburn locals is going to go all-out in this one great event, as people from all walks of life and capabilities come together.”

Words and music

Poet Ian McMillan added: “I’m looking forward to the culmination of this collaboration made from words and music and water! It will float like a canal boat, sing like a harmony!”

The Rhapsody runs for about 80 minutes, and is formed of contrasting sections, each running into the next, which form a seamless exploration of the canal’s story.

The Rhapsody represents a coming together of different forms that perfectly reflects the communities and stories along the canal over the past 200 years, celebrating this great ‘super slow way’Ian Brownbill


Ian Stephens, who was commissioned to compose the work, said: “I’ve aimed to create hummable, catchy melodies; harmonies that are stirring, beautiful and unexpected by turn, and rhythms that can be bold and exciting in one section, trance-like and meditative in the next.

“I’ve greatly enjoyed setting Ian McMillan’s words, getting to know the canal and its background, working with the many people who have contributed so much to this project, and forming it all into a musical celebration that I hope people will enjoy.”

Public performance

After the premiere, the organisers are planning another public performance for 2017 and hopefully a smaller touring version, with the ultimate ambition to make a recording for broadcast.

More information

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