Saltways in Droitwich

Katy Beinart revealed her project Saltways in a symbolic journey which saw salt from around the world make a journey back to Droitwich.


Sculpture travels by boat to the historic salt centre of Droitwich to celebrate the town’s unique place in history

Hundreds of people gathered in Droitwich this bank holiday weekend to witness the culmination of a historic canal boat journey by artist Katy Beinart. The event celebrated the salt trade in Worcestershire that dates back more than 2,000 years.

The artist’s innovative work, entitled Saltways, takes inspiration from the town of Droitwich’s heyday as an international centre for salt production, when local waterways were used to export hugely valuable salt around the world.

Katy travelled on Scorpio, a heritage working boat, from Gloucester Docks to Droitwich between 4-6 May, arriving in time for the annual St Richard’s Festival in Vine’s Park. The boat carried the sculpture which is based on the town’s former salt works factories.  On arrival, the sculpture was filled with salt from around the world, including from Bolivia, Turkey and South Africa, among others, as well as that which is locally produced at Churchfield Saltworks.

The work is part of The Ring, an arts programme and cultural first for Worcestershire that celebrates the region’s canals and rivers. The project, run by the Canal & River Trust – the charity that cares for the nation’s waterways – will see a series of new commissions created by local and internationally celebrated artists in response to the 21 miles of waterways encircling Droitwich and Worcester, namely the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the Droitwich Canals and the River Severn.

Droitwich was founded on its natural salt brines and, at its peak, exported 120,000 tonnes a year. Katy has been inspired by the last “Wych Barge” to leave Droitwich in 1916, a salt cargo boat designed to navigate canals and the open sea.

Katy’s salt pavilion sculpture will be on display at the Salt Museum in Droitwich from May until September before departing on board a canal boat as part of Salt Fest on 8 September.

Katy says: “I’ve been working with salt for eight years so I was really excited to be invited to make this commission. Working with the people of Droitwich and its history has been inspiring to me and I’ve also learnt a lot more about the inland waterways and how integral they were to trade, import and export. The opportunity to use a historic working boat and the support of the Heritage Working Boats Group has taken this project to another level.”

Tim Eastop, executive producer of the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways programme says: “It was fascinating to travel on the river and canals leading to Droitwich, with the Saltways sculpture onboard. And the scenes in Droitwich, with so many people out enjoying the arrival of the salt by boat in the glorious weather, couldn’t have been better. Artwork like Katy’s offer unique insights into the past and the contribution Droitwich has made to the world. It also prompts enticing glimpses of the future and what role the waterways can play for modern society.”

Cathy Mager, artistic director of The Ring, adds: “The completed sculpture reveals the huge variation of colour, texture and density of the salt Katy has transported into Droitwich from around the world, including local salt – all of which is now encased in beautiful contrasting layers, poured by people from different ages and walks of life.”


Upcoming events as part of Katy Beinart’s Saltways:

Artist’s Talk: Droitwich Spa Heritage & Information Centre, 14 July. Join Katy at Droitwich Arts Network as she talks about the Saltways project, as part of the arts festival. Join in the family activities on the day

Boat Farewell: Salt Festival, Droitwich, 8 September: Enjoy the carnival atmosphere of Droitwich Salt Festival: bands and craft stalls pop up in Vine’s Park as the salt pavilion embarks on its farewell journey

The Ring is a part of the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways programme and is funded by Arts Council England, Canal & River Trust together with support from local authorities, trusts and foundations. For full details please have a browse around our website: artists’ details are on our Projects pages.

For details about the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways programme click here.