The Black Country has some 100 miles of canals, enjoyed by walkers, boaters, fishers or those simply admiring them from a train.

Most, if not all, of the area’s canals exist today because a group of dedicated campaigners wouldn’t give up when they fell into disrepair. They protested, lobbied, dug out the weeds, removed tons of rubbish, took risky journeys through tunnels to prove they were still navigable, and learned how to lay bricks. There are lots of accounts of these campaigners, but they are mostly about the role played by men.

We want to hear unheard stories from women involved in campaigns to save and restore canals in the Black Country in the 1960s and 1970s.

Were you on or around the canals at the time? Did you take minutes at meetings, make tea and piles of sandwiches, look after children and keep them safe amidst all the digging and debris? Did you run a raffle to raise funds, or try to entertain visiting dignitaries on a boat that suddenly ran aground, launching your carefully prepared grapefruit starter across the cabin?

Our next reminiscence event is on Friday 1st November 3pm-5pm at Wildside Activity Centre. There will be refreshments and there’s an evening performance of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways too (seat reservation required – click here).

“I Dig Canals” was a phrase used in the 1970s by canal supporters. The project is all about hearing and saving stories like these. Please contact us if you have a story to share.

How you can get involved

  • Share your story
  • Put us in touch with someone who might have a story to tell
  • Come along to a reminiscence event
  • Volunteer with us


Volunteer opportunities include:

  • Conducting short oral history interviews (training provided)
  • Summarising interviews (training provided, can be done remotely)
  • Audio editing for podcasts (training provided, can be done remotely)
  • Documentary research (training provided, mostly at Ellesmere Port)
  • Helping at reminiscence, workshop and sharing events
  • Proof reading


The training and activities will be between September 2019 and Easter 2020


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