A 'floating library' of short stories - the UK’s first national collection - has launched on the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

The RV Furor Scribendi is a fully-functioning canal boat and will be moored on the canal around Accrington until the end of June before wending its way along the UK’s canals to Coventry City of Culture for the summer. It then returns to Lancashire in the Autumn.

People are being invited to take virtual and real tours of the boat and participate in conversation with the artists. A Captain's Log will be kept capturing the conditions and conversations, within and around Furor Scribendi.

Small Bells Ring is an artwork created by artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison of Studio Morison, centred on The RV Furor Scribendi, a fully functioning sculptural narrowboat which operates as a living research vessel, housing a floating library of short stories and a retreat for writers and readers.

Lancashire Telegraph:

(Photography by Charles Emerson)

As it journeys back and forth between East Lancashire and Coventry, many of the places along the way have a shared post-industrial heritage and common social issues. Small Bells Ring will be a catalyst for change, empowerment and expanding a sense of shared community as people get involved along the way.

Heather Peak, the artist will be on board the boat in Lancashire told us the project was five years in the making.

“It takes a long time to put something like this together. There were lots and lots of people working on it and we would have launched last year if it was not for the pandemic.

“Luckily we managed to have the boat built and were able to work it through the summer. It was also wonderful to have this library to make during lockdown.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

The boat presently has 650 books but can accommodate up to a thousand titles. Stories range from first love laments to ghost tales to alien worlds. Award-winning writer Sarah Schofield joins the boat on 31 May as the first Small Bells Ring writer in residence.

Books were sourced from independent book sellers and libraries.

Heather said: “Choosing anything is really important. Librarians have such an important role to play as they choose what you read. And it was really good working with local librarians and looking at which books should be included.

“We have a range of collections ranging from joy and love to humour and canals.

The boat’s name, Furor Scribendi, meaning ‘furious writing’, takes inspiration from an essay by Octavia E. Butler from her short stories, Blood Child, originally written for the Writers of the Future anthology series.

Heather said there was always need for another boat, “I have had so much interest and a lot of people wanting to visit. If ever we going to look at another boat it would be good to have one full of poetry books.”

The boat will visit set locations at set times each month and visitors will be able to borrow books just as they do in a regular library.

Visitors will also be able to browse or read on board as the library moves between stops. It will also make specific day trips along the canal for pre-booked visitors and groups when an entire story will be read aloud by invited artists, actors and writers over a day. 

Lancashire Telegraph:

(Photography by Charles Emerson)

Laurie Peake, Director of the Super Slow Way in Lancashire and co-commissioner of Small Bells Ring said it was wonderful to see artist Heather being inspired by Accrington and the local libraries and working through the lockdown when all the buildings were closed.

She said they were hoping the boat would encourage a whole new generation of bookworms, “We can’t wait for all the restrictions to lift so we can get all the communities on the canal.

“We really want to be inspiring people to read. Eventually we want to be running story writing sessions so we can produce a collection of new stories.”

Laurie also revealed details of another Super Slow Way project, “We have a new project named wet lab which is a ‘floating laboratory and kitchen’. The aim to invite local communities to come together and cook and explore wildlife.”

The boat’s steel hull was fabricated to the artists’ design by a third-generation boat builder in Stoke on Trent with the exterior by a specialist boat hand painter.

The interior was fitted out by the artists and their team, incorporating specially milled local oak and chestnut, a series of new oil painting by the artists, new seating and upholstery, a set of new ceramic vessels cast from items found floating in the canals, and many bookshelves for the short story collection.

Small Bells Ring is supported by Arts Council England and co-produced by Studio Morison, Super Slow Way & Coventry City of Culture Trust with support Canal & River Trust and British Council who are the international partner for Coventry’s UK City of Culture in 2021. 

For further details and how you can visit the boat click here

You can view updates on Instagram here