‘A Cut Through Stoke’ a personal and historical celebration of the Trent and Mersey canal.

At a Gallery set beneath the historic gates of Spode, Friday the 19th of June marked the opening of a new photography exhibition. ‘A Cut Through Stoke’ is an informative, historical and reminiscent set of images taken of the Trent and Mersey canal, captured over 50 years, by Stoke born photographer John Snow. Held at Gallery 116, the exhibition is a partial look at John’s extensive archive and takes you on a walk, from the Harecastle tunnel through to Hem Heath Colliery. It’s often said, ‘Every picture tells a story’ and this exhibition certainly achieves that.

Engineered by James Brindley, and partially funded by Josiah Wedgwood, the miles upon miles of slowly winding waterways through Stoke-on-Trent directly led to the development the Potteries. Honoured with being the country’s first long-distance canal, the Trent and Mersey is full of interesting features reflecting its history. This captured the imagination of a 14-year-old John Snow, whose passion for photography stems from walks with his grandfather along the stretch of canal running through Middleport.  Having never spent much time on the canals myself, John explained, ‘There’s a certain smell of the canal. It’s addictive’, with the same passion that uses to talk about his work; a personal, historical, celebration of fifty years involvement with this particular canal. As the landscape surrounding the canal in Stoke has changed an incredible amount over 50 years, I agree with Mark Brereton, curator at Gallery 116 who points out that the beauty of John’s collection, a culmination of his experiences and lifetime connection to the canal, is that there are so many unique photos- images nobody else will ever be able get again.

Developed from slides, John’s images are full of colour, capturing children fishing on a hot day, the red clay of Kidsgrove, iconic factories, and the remnants of a time where there was still amass of trade occurring along the canal side. My favourite image was taken in the 70s and features a row of canals boats, Stoke Minister in the distance, a blue Ford Zaffa, Navy Jaguar and Cream Marina Coupe parked alongside the canal.  Full of colour, light, and the charming grain of film, it looks as though it could be taken somewhere in the Mediterranean and is so rich and textured I felt as though I could step into the landscapes. Looking at the image, I find it a comfort to think that beneath the bustle of our modern day city, there is a peaceful walkway.

John Snow loves the canals and this passion is reflected in his images. He has dedicated his life to documenting its changes since the age of 14, when his grandfather took him to the canal for the first time, and I am pleased that he has chosen to share some of those images at Gallery 116 with us. Having lived in Stoke a while now, there is so much I still need to see. From the exhibition, I took away a renewed enthusiasm to get creatively snapping, the need to jump out of the car once in a while to explore the city at a slower pace and a desire to find the Harecastle tunnel and ‘Heartbreak Hill’ too. The exhibition is open Tuesday to Saturday 10-3 till the 19th of July at Gallery 116 Church Street, Stoke, ST1 4BU, so be sure to go along and experience it.

By Gabriella Gay.
– See more at: http://www.appetitestoke.co.uk/blog/2015/07/CTS#sthash.9Io3Wwas.dpuf