An area of high ground where rain collects, bounded peripherally by a dividing ridge, draining into a particular river or body of water
A significant event or period that represents a change in direction, or tipping point, in how people think about something
In 1892, an Act of Parliament allowed the City of Birmingham to claim 72 square miles of upland in Mid-Wales for a scheme that would supply the urban population with fresh water. This area was the gathering ground for the Elan and Claerwen rivers. The Watershed Line, defined by the scheme’s hydrologists, was calculated as the point at which the drainage of water changed direction. Simply put, all rain that fell on ground inside the Watershed Line belonged to the City of Birmingham. A series of huge dams allowed the rain to be captured and stored as it drained from the tributaries of the two rivers. The water could then be released into an aqueduct which allowed a constant flow to Birmingham.
The Watershed Line was marked by concrete posts, the majority of which still stand today. There is scant archival documentation recording the placing of the posts but it has been suggested that a number of contractors were responsible. This would account for the subtle differences in the posts’ shape and construction.
In 2019 Kate created Walking the Pipe, a community project of songs, events and walks inspired by the 73 ½ mile aqueduct that has carried water from Mid-Wales to Birmingham for almost 120 years. As Wales emerged from the final lockdown in Spring 2021, Kate became resident artist in the Elan Valley. From May to September, she walked the Watershed Line and photographed every concrete post she encountered. In the evenings, staying alone in a remote cottage without electricity, Kate read by candlelight, listened to audiobooks and wrote new songs.
Work(s) created while undertaking an Arts Council of Wales funded Artists Residency scheme, part of the greater five year Elan Links programme supported by HLF, Elan Valley Trust, and DCWW.
WATERSHED LINE 2021 onwards
‘We are from Jordan,’ said the younger woman, ‘I take this handbag around the world and photograph it, posting on Instagram #Sakaker.’ She went on to explain: the Arabic word ‘Sakaker’ means peace and harmony – it was this word that was hand painted on to the handbag.
Song inspired by reading
the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
It had taken me 5 ½ hours to locate the first post of the day and, without shame, I knelt down to kiss it.
With the assistance of Birmingham community group, the GOATS, my song ‘Weedspray’ (inspired by Guy N Smith’s 1980s horror novel) is performed at the Cannon Hill Park model of the Elan Valley dams. See 2023 ‘Watershed’ show at MAC