Writing the Water – Eco-poetry workshops cruising the Sheffield waterways as part of Being Human festival – 18 November 2023

Writing the Water image - barge on canal, courtesy of Amy Carter Gordon

Update: Professor Harriet Tarlo featured on BBC Radio Sheffield’s Creative Lives to talk about eco-poetry and Hallam’s upcoming Being Human Festival event, Writing the Water. Listen back from 2:14:28.

Join us on 18 November 2023 for an eco-poetry workshop exploring the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal – Writing the Water.

Sheffield Hallam University, in collaboration with the River Don Project and Opus Independents, presents two eco-poetry workshops exploring our unique interactions, meaning, value and connections to our waterways.

From commercial beginnings in 1819, the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal is now home to an array of wildlife, vegetation, residents, and industrial heritage.

We will be hosting two cruises:

  • 10.00am-11.30am: Family-friendly workshop led by Danae Wellington, Poet Laureate of Sheffield

In many indigenous cultures across the world, the river has many names. For centuries, tales of gods and goddesses and mythical creatures of all kinds have inhabited the water. During this workshop, we’ll be looking at four myths: the Celtic river goddess Danu, the Jamaican tale of the River Mumma and her golden table, the West-African Mami Wata and Yoruba river goddess Obba Nani. We’ll be looking at what connects them, what they teach us about the land and water around us and ourselves and what they reveal about themselves through the flora and fauna. You will hear a reading of a newly commissioned poem by Harriet Tarlo, Professor of Ecopoetry and Poetics and have an opportunity to write your own myths and tales about the water and discover the magical worlds that live deep beneath them.

  • 1.00pm-3.00pm: A workshop for people aged 15+ led by Harriet Tarlo, Professor of Ecopoetry and Poetics.

During the afternoon workshop, you will be the first to hear a reading of a newly commissioned poem by Harriet Tarlo, Professor of Ecopoetry and Poetics, inspired by Sheffield’s historic waterways. You will then engage in a place-based, guided ecopoetic workshop, writing your own poetry focussing on the industrial and natural past, present and future of the canal landscape. Do bring along any memories, photographs, or stories you have that are connected to the Sheffield waterways.

Ella Barrett, Community Curator, will join both cruises and share historical and present-day narratives from communities bordering the canal.

No prior writing experience is needed. Everybody is welcome! To book your place please visit Eventbrite.


Please arrive at least 10 minutes before the cruise time. Unfortunately, we cannot wait for late arrivals. Staff will allocate you to your table when entering the boat. Please note that tables on the boat will be shared between passengers and therefore multiple parties may be seated together.


We will embark on the boat at Victoria Quays and will cruise along the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal and return. You can find further information about the route HERE.


The floor of the passenger boat can be raised and lowered to create step-free access and accommodate standard and electric wheelchairs to a maximum width of 740mm including any external wheel rims and nuts. The boat has an accessible toilet on board.

Please let us know at your earliest convenience if you require a BSL interpreter.

We want our event to be as inclusive as possible, if you have any accessibility requirements, please contact us ahead of the event.

Photography / Filmography:

Photographs and filming will take place during this event. If you do not wish to be photographed or filmed, please inform a member of the team upon arrival on the day of the event.


The boat operates a bar serving tea, coffee, soft drinks and a full bar service. Payments can be made by cash or card.

Please note this is a ticketed event and we cannot allow walk-ins on the day. If you have any questions, please contact us.

This event is part of Being Human Festival, the UK’s national festival of the humanities, taking place 9-18 November 2023. Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, with generous support from Research England, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. For further information please see beinghumanfestival.org. #BeingHuman2023

Professor Harriet Tarlo is the author of eight single-author poetry publications with Shearsman Press, Etruscan books and, most recently, Cut Flowers (2021) with Guillemot Press. She has collaborated for ten years with the artist Judith Tucker, exhibiting widely here and abroad and publishing five artists’ books with Wild Pansy Press, the latest being Saltwort (2022). Her anthology on radical landscape poetry, The Ground Aslant (2011) is a key text in the field, and she had edited special features on women and ecopoetics for How2 Vol 3:2 (2008), on ecopoetics for Plumwood Mountain Vol 4:1 (2017) on cross-disciplinary environmental art for Green Letters Vol 23:3 (2019). She is the author of numerous essays for academic publications and journals such as Jacket, Sociologia Ruralis and Critical Survey. She has worked extensively on projects which both celebrate local places and engage with environmental concerns, most recently, with geographer Jon Bridge and the Wildlife Trust, on the AHRC-funded Hydrospheres (the local river/reservoir network), with scientist Nicola Hemmings, on Royal Society-funded project, Every Bird a Nest, and, with Judith Tucker, on Arts Council-funded Hideaway (the Lincolnshire saltmarsh).