Waterfront: a new magazine for the Canal & River Trust

The Canal & River Trust has launched a new magazine and blog highlighting the people who work and live on Britain’s waterways. Produced by Studio Pensom and Smoke Creatives, the new titles make great use of illustration, animation and photography…

The Canal & River Trust has launched a new magazine and blog highlighting the people who work and live on Britain’s waterways. Produced by Studio Pensom and Smoke Creatives, the new titles make great use of illustration, animation and photography…

The Canal & River Trust was launched in 2012, when British Waterways, which managed around 2000 miles of canals and rivers in the UK, rebranded as a charity (Pentagram’s John Rushworth designed its visual identity, which featured a logo depicting a swan on water). Soon after, it launched a quarterly magazine, Waterfront, documenting volunteering and fundraising projects and images from the Trust’s archives.

The magazine has now been relaunched as a biannual title – its name is the same, but the new design places much more emphasis on illustration and photography. The inaugural issue features some lovely artwork by Sarah Maycock, Sunga Park and David Sparshott and imagery is brighter, bolder and larger throughout.

Photography by Matt Lincoln. Illustration by Emily Robertson

Designed by Susanna Foppoli, with creative direction by CR art director Paul Pensom and editorial direction by Smoke Creatives (who also launched Shelter’s Here magazine), the new title also places much more emphasis on human interest stories.

There’s an interview with Cerys Matthews, who discusses her favourite nature poems; another with the co-creator of The Line, a new sculpture walk in East London and a chat with Pete Budd of The Wurzells (who was born near the Bridgewater & Taunton Canal and is still a keen fisherman), as well as a feature on South London’s lost canals.

Alongside the magazine, the Trust has launched a new Waterfront blog with interviews, news and video pieces – including a charming animated short on water voles by Lucy Vigrass (below) and an interview with Bob Nightingale, a blacksmith at Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire. It also recently launched a Humans of New York-inspired tumblr, Humans of the Waterways, designed by Manchester agency Vivid, which features images of people visiting, living and working on the canals.

Artwork by Sunga Park

Lauren White, supporter engagement manager at the Canal & River Trust, says the new magazine aims to offer a more emotive and visually engaging read for the charity’s Friends and volunteers (it will also be used by fundraisers to attract new supporters).

“The magazine was previously in a more traditional format – which does have its place – but we wanted a change in direction,” she says. “The idea was to deliver a broad range of strong, emotive and beautiful stories relating directly and indirectly to our work…Prior to the email programme and blog, there was no defined ongoing communication strategy for supporters, and we know that a multi-channel approach is the best way to increase retention figures.”

“The previous version of Waterfront was a competent publication but it struggled to differentiate itself,” adds Smoke Creatives co-founder Katrin Owusu. “The Trust were keen for the redesign to signal a bold departure from the previous incarnation of Waterfront whilst still retaining a familial link with their brand identity,” she explains.

Illustrations by David Sparshott

“We pitched the Trust a pared back publication, which drew on inspiration from the periodicals of the 40’s and 50’s such as the John Hannah illustrated Country Fayre magazines or the Men Only illustrated covers of the same period,” Owusu adds.

The new magazine retains the Trust’s core font, Clarendon, but uses text and wide cuts for a more distinctive look, (it is also now used in body copy and stand firsts as well as headlines and the magazine’s masthead). “Clarendon is great, but can by its very ubiquity make publications feel a little more anonymous,” Owusu explains. The cover illustration was created by Edward Tuckell, and Owusu says future issues will also feature two-colour illustrations depicting the relevant season and a different canal-dwelling creature.

Artwork by Sarah Maycock

While the new magazine is designed to make supporters feel “more valued and engaged”, White says the blog and tumblr will be used to attract a bigger following online and content will be promoted on its social media channels.

The Trust has also been working with Arts Council England and Arts Council Wales on a series of installations and arts projects which aim to draw visitors to Britain’s waterways: this weekend, it will unveil a new standing sculpture by Anthony Gormley in Warwickshire and has been working with Clive Dutton and contemporary art dealer Megan Pipe on The Line, a new riverside sculpture walk in East London opening on May 23, which will feature work by Damien Hirst, Martin Creed and Abigail Fallis.

Both the magazine and blogs provide a more contemporary look for the Trust, while also giving it the opportunity to create more engaging stories for online audiences and those who may not be familiar with its work – or have much of an existing interest in the UK’s rivers and canals.

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