THE world’s first canal comic book, inspired by the Lancaster Canal, is to be launched at the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival in Kendal on Friday.

Commissioned by the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership (LCRP), the 40-page book ‘The Lanky’, by Manchester artist Oliver East, captures people and places along a 27-mile route from Kendal to Lancaster.

Funded by a £15,000 Arts Council England National Lottery grant, the project also hopes to inspire a new generation of artists by hosting comic workshops at three primary schools in Holme, Stramongate in Kendal and Christchurch in Lancaster.

The major driving force energising the partnership is the potential of the Lancaster Canal to create new opportunities for leisure, tourism and economic development in South Cumbria and Lancashire.

Charities and local authorities making up LCRP include the Canal & River Trust, Cumbria County Council, Inland Waterways Association, Kendal Town Council, Lancashire County Council, Lancaster Canal Trust, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council.

“This project is a great way to shine a fresh light on a historic waterway," said partnership chair Audrey Smith. "The comic book celebrates the heritage of the Lancaster Canal in a unique and exciting way, increasing awareness of the canal and promoting the development of the new towpath trail.

“Artist Oliver East has done a marvellous job of collecting stories and weaving them into a comic book interpretation of the canal. The Lanky promises tales of unpopular navvies, skinny dipping antics, secret Sunday sails and hardy old canal characters. We’re hoping it will entice a new audience of visitors to the wonderful waterway.”

Oliver has reinterpreted anecdotes and historical facts in his comic book style to bring to life two centuries of the ‘Black and White Canal’. Sketching on the move, he has walked the canal towpath between Kendal and Lancaster several times over recent months, collecting stories about local people and places.

Oliver explained: “The Lanky is a fictional work inspired by facts and stories, not a history book or a guidebook, and with an element of poetry within each panel, echoing the movement of walking. I prefer to draw directly from real life unlike many other comic book artists - there’s more life in a line created in the field.

“The comic’s narrative interweaves different periods of history, looking at life on the canal from the viewpoint of a variety of characters, starting at the grand opening of the canal 200 years ago to the present day. People visiting the Lancaster Canal will recognise scenes in the book from real life, including landmarks such as Hincaster Tunnel and Lune Aqueduct.”

For more information about the Canal Comic Book project, check out the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership website: