In Droitwich, medieval brine pits gave way to a dense Victorian industrial production of salt from brine. Factories gulped up coal to boil the brine down to salt, and huge cargoes of salt left via canal for the docks at Gloucester and onwards to sea, and by internal routes to the rest of the country. But today, there is little trace of the former industry.
‘Saltways’ both celebrates the past and asks what the future of salt will be for Droitwich. The saltways, and later the canals, were crucial to connecting Droitwich to the rest of the world and allowing export and trade to take place. But as industrial production modes shifted, as well as the value of salt and the modes of transport, these saltways became defunct. Now that the canal is reinstated as a highly valued leisure route, this project recognises and highlights its important history in the salt trade.
In May 2018, a symbolic journey by boat along one of the former saltways brought a gift of exchange to Droitwich. Current salt products from around the world, which relate to the new Droitwich salt and its different, artisanal, and experiential value, were carried as a cargo, alongside the ghostly frame of a model based on the old saltworks factory. In Vines Park, the new and old, the here and the elsewhere met. Droitwich Salt was poured together with the global salt collection into the Saltworks structure, creating a layered landscape of salts of many colours and places of origin. The sculpture contains the past of Droitwich in its form but also the future as an important part of a network of contemporary salt manufacturers. In this way Saltways seeks to present a future vision of the town which inspires and ignites other forms of exchange, and value.
Saltways is part of The Ring, an arts project commissioned by the Canal & River Trust celebrating a 21 mile circle of waterways. To find out more visit www.theringart.org.uk