Raised by Canals

A film by Lauren Hatchard and Olivia James commissioned by the Living Memory Project.

Raised by Canals chronicles the life and memories of Ruth Collins, who was born in a toll house in 1939. Her story is intertwined with the iconic black and white images of canals from the photography collection taken by her father Will King during 1930s-1960s. 

Ruth reflects on the importance of her dad's collection which captures an important period in the history of the Black Country.

A note from the filmmaker Lauren Hatchard

Ruth’s life story was instantly cinematic for me. I loved the idyllic and romanticised imagery of a childhood by the canal and this was further evoked by the photographs of Ruth on a canal boat on her wedding day.

Already hooked on Ruth’s story, I also discovered that her father, Will King, was a keen photographer and took over 2000 photos of canals during his lifetime. I was fascinated that they captured a completely different view of life on the canals than what we see today.

One of Will King’s photographs that stood out for me in particular, was a black and white photo of a young man smoking a cigarette at the side of a canal, with his horse pulling a working canal boat. This is such an iconic image, it could easily pass for a film poster! Will King clearly had an eye for a great photograph and I am honoured to have had the pleasure of using his images in this short film.

I was excited about the idea of interviewing Ruth, learning about her life and finding out more about her father and his fascinating photograph collection. It seemed like the perfect fit to take her out on a canal boat to reflect on her ‘trip down memory lane’.

I have had the pleasure of filming in lots of interesting places over the years, but filming on a narrowboat was a first for me! Co-producer Olivia James discovered Rosemary and Glyn Phillips who owns an old working narrowboat, ‘Aquarius’ that appears in the film. They simply couldn’t have been more accommodating, with Glyn steering the narrowboat up and down the canal wherever we wanted it and also even allowing me to stand on top of the roof (which was a hairy moment) and to top things off - Rosemary had provided tea and cake for us after the shoot, which we were very grateful for.

I set out with the intention of creating a nostalgic and reflective piece, hoping to situate the audience straight into Ruth’s living room and hearing stories as she unearths old photo albums, with the surroundings reflecting her character and the gentle tick of the grandfather clock setting the pace.

The original music score by Samuel Mansfield really helps to elevate the piece as the gentle piano moves us through the different chapters, but also evoking the calm and steady rhythm of meandering down the canal.

Raised by Canals is a short film about a fairly unique upbringing but I hope that an audience will be able to relate to the importance of looking back and holding on to their own family photos, reflecting on the memories from yesteryear that are captured to be remembered for tomorrow.

Ruth Collins with the clapperboard
Filmmaker Lauren with Ruth on the narrowboat.
Olivia James on the narrowboat
Lauren with Gyln who owns the narrowboat.

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