Scotland’s first canal artist-in-residence encourages public to go gongoozling

Scotland’s first ever canal artist-in-residence is set to capture the beauty of the nation’s waterways on canvas – and the public’s stories and memories of them – as a 15 month project gets underway.

Entitled ‘Gongoozler’ – a term for someone who takes joy from watching the world, and one or two boats, pass by on canals – the residency will see artist Lesley Banks travel the Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan Canals creating paintings that celebrate the environments and stories of Scotland’s 250-year-old waterways. The project, funded by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland Open Project Funding and supported by Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals, will see Lesley showcase her work at various venues around Scotland and will culminate in an exhibition in May 2017 at The Park Gallery in Falkirk.

As part of the project, Lesley is appealing to people to channel their inner gongoozler to share their stories and memories of Scotland’s canals and what they mean to them. Whether it’s tales of following in the footsteps of the Gods on the Caledonian Canal’s iconic Neptune’s Staircase, soaring through the sky on The Falkirk Wheel, watching Clyde Puffers chug along the Forth & Clyde Canal or reminiscences of the Monkland Canal’s glory days, gongoozlers are encouraged to share their experiences, stories and memories by emailing The stories will be used to inform and accompany Lesley’s work.

"I’m very excited to be Scottish Canals’ first artist-in-residence. From the water to the banks and beyond, Scotland’s canals are incredible environments with over two centuries of stories to tell and I can’t wait to capture some of them as part of the project.

“Using the towpaths as a studio, I’m in the process of walking the 137 miles of the Scottish canals network. That experience, and the stories submitted by the public, will allow me to create five unfolding sequential visual journeys depicting the unique character of each canal. I’d encourage everyone to share their gongoozling experiences and play a part in the project.”

Lesley Banks, Scottish Canals’ artist-in-residence

Leonie Bell, Director, Arts and Engagement at Creative Scotland said: “We are delighted to be supporting this residency which will provide the opportunity for the public to come together and share their memories of Scotland’s canals. The project will create an historic record of Scotland’s canals shaped by the memories collected throughout Scotland and further afield.”

Once bustling transport arteries that stoked the fires of the industrial revolution, today the character of Scotland’s canals is very different, with the waterways home to cyclists and social enterprises rather than coal scows and Clydesdale Horses. Passing through some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes, rural villages and the bustling cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, the 250-year-old waterways remain vital venues for business, leisure and tourism that attract more than 22 million visits a year.

Richard Millar, Director of Heritage, Enterprise & Sustainability at Scottish Canals, said: “From Neptune’s Staircase to The Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies, Scotland’s canals have been associated with innovative art and engineering for more than 200 years. Lesley’s project will celebrate that rich heritage and the vital role the waterways play in the communities that line their banks by capturing their iconic sights and stories. We can’t wait to see the results.”

For those looking to catch an early glimpse of the Gongoozler project, Lesley will be taking part in Forth Valley Art Beat’s Open Studio Afternoons during June, with her work available to view in The Old Teashop at Callendar Park in Falkirk. More information is available here.

Lesley O’Hare, Culture and Libraries Manager at Falkirk Community Trust, added: “Falkirk Community Trust is delighted to be able to support Lesley’s research by providing a studio space and we are looking forward to hosting her exhibition next year. Open Studio Afternoons will give people the opportunity to view Lesley’s work in progress and share their stories of Scotland’s canals.”

Notes to Editors

About Scottish Canals

Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of the Union, Monkland, Forth & Clyde, Crinan and Caledonian Canals. As well as the waterways themselves, Scottish Canals care for 251 bridges, 212 buildings, 256 locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and 19 water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland. The reservoirs cover an area equivalent to 7,494 football pitches and supply the canals with the 332 million litres of water which flow through them each day

The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, today the canals contribute to the Scottish Government agenda of developing a Greener; Healthier; Smarter; Safer and Stronger; and Wealthier and Fairer Scotland by acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, regeneration and tourism; contributing to education, biodiversity, heritage and promoting active living and healthier lifestyles. The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22million visits per year

For more information, visit or follow @ScottishCanals on Twitter

About Falkirk Community Trust

Falkirk Community Trust is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status and was established by Falkirk Council.

As a not-for-profit organisation we strive to support community aspirations, deliver inspiring services and ensure that the experiences we offer provide equality of opportunity and access for all.

We deliver Arts, Heritage, Libraries, Fitness, Sport, Parks, Outdoors and are operators of The Helix and The Kelpies.

Falkirk Community Trust gratefully acknowledges the support and funding from Falkirk Council

About Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life.  We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit  Follow us @creativescots and

About Lesley Banks

Born in 1962, Lesley Banks grew up in Denny, Stirlingshire. In 1980 she began a four year Degree course at Glasgow School of Art specialising in Drawing and Painting.

After graduating she travelled and painted throughout Europe funded by an Elizabeth Greenshields Scholarship.

In 1988 she became a gallery assistant in the Compass Gallery, Glasgow. Here, encouraged by Cyril and Jill Gerber, Lesley began to exhibit more of her artworks winning various prizes and awards, such as The 1991 Scottish Prize, Royal Overseas League London. This gave her the confidence to concentrate on painting full-time.

In 1999 Lesley was appointed ‘Artist in Residence’ at Edinburgh Zoo where her popular “Urban Zoo” exhibition gained funding from the Scottish Arts Council.

Since this time Lesley has exhibited throughout the U.K. and even as far afield as Singapore and the U.S.A.

In spite of a lifelong love of Italy, a country reflected in some of her more recent works, Lesley continues to live and work in Glasgow with her partner and three sons.

See for more information on Lesley and her work.

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