All aboard for a unique CultureDale canal experience

A canal boat with a difference is setting sail to celebrate Calderdale’s Year of Culture this late-May bank holiday.

‘Opal’s Comet’, by outdoor arts organisation Mr Wilson’s, is a special CultureDale(external link) event taking place along the Rochdale Canal and Calder and Hebble Navigation from Wednesday 22 to Monday 27 May 2024.

The vivid, animated performance taking place on a boat, which also acts as a stage, will be navigating Calderdale’s heritage waterways over the six days. Each voyage will be soundtracked by a live band called The Greyhounds, whose performances are inspired by the traditions of pilgrimage, folk music and storytelling.

Mr Wilson’s is one of the local creative organisations that Calderdale Council has commissioned to deliver big projects and events as part of the Year of Culture 2024, to support community groups and harness local creativity.

Mr Wilson’s Second Liners performed at the CultureDale opening event in Halifax on Saturday 13 April 2024, wowing audiences with 90s dance classics on brass and percussion instruments along the town centre streets, wearing brightly coloured, tailored uniforms. 

Co-founders Sonya Moorhead and Will Lenton established Mr Wilson’s over 10 years ago. Opal’s Comet is the brainchild of Sonya, who has drawn upon the imagery and themes of a short story she wrote during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s about navigating grief and inspires audiences to consider their local environment, magic and the act of pilgrimage.

Aboard the boat are a crew of 10 artists and performers, all clad in yellow and gold. Among them is four-piece band, The Greyhounds, on cello, keyboards, harp and vocals. The music is in the folk tradition and perfectly suited to the slower pace of travelling along the canal.

Many of Mr Wilson’s team and collaborating freelance artists live in or near Calderdale, supporting the CultureDale ethos of nurturing and celebrating local talent.

Mr Wilson’s has also worked with local communities to produce Opal’s Comet, and encourages people to learn the songs and sing along with the band, moving alongside the canal boat as it travels from one end of the Calder Valley to the other.

A digital pack of resources is available, including sheet music, lyrics, maps of the journey and videos showing what to expect. Inclusivity is important to Mr Wilson’s, and British Sign Language versions of the Opal’s Comet songs have been created.

Mr Wilson’s wants to make sure everyone in Calderdale can enjoy Opal’s Comet in a way that works for them. For those who can access the internet, Opal’s Comet will be live streamed via Twitch.

During the event, the friendly CultureDale Access Champions will be at key points along the route to welcome and direct visitors. People can plan their visit using the maps and GPS tracker: Opal’s Comet Journey Planner(external link). Disabled visitors who would like more information to plan their visit can email

Sonya Moorhead, Artistic Director of Mr Wilson’s, said:

“We are delighted and proud that our commission is hyper-local. We’ve drawn together a top-class, dream team of artists, musicians, a print designer, a film maker, a photographer and a producer who all live in the immediate area of Calderdale and West Yorkshire. Opal’s Comet is delivered by local people and sails through neighbourhood communities. The aim of Mr. Wilson’s is to create performances like this for public spaces, because we really believe that free access to music, performance, colour and joy can be transformative. It can change how people view the place they live and how they feel about their community.

“We’ve had a blast talking to everyone about the project at every opportunity; we’ve reached out to schools, community groups and the recovery community to share some of the music in advance, as well as going door-to-door and finding opportunities to share what’s going to happen and how everyone can get involved. Opal’s Comet is ultimately about hope, we want to offer some light to Calderdale. Someone suggested we should do it every year.”

Cllr Danielle Durrans, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with Mr Wilson’s, and can’t wait to welcome Opal’s Comet to CultureDale. I know it will be a unique, ambitious and engaging event – perfect for enjoying culture and the great outdoors and bringing in visitors to our towns and places during the busy bank holiday period.

“We are proud to have commissioned 12 local creative organisations to hold major events and activities, helping to make our Year of Culture one to remember. Many other community organisations across Calderdale are also holding events and celebrations for CultureDale, and we are providing support through grant schemes.

“This approach puts local people, their talent and creativity at the very heart of CultureDale, supporting our aim to bring all our diverse communities together through culture.”

The Council has raised around £2 million from external grant support to fund CultureDale, including contributions from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

For more information, please visit: link) link)

The local creative organisations delivering big projects and events as part of the Year of Culture are:

Mr Wilson’s

Hebden Bridge Arts

Northern Rascals


Everybody Arts

Curious Motion


Happy Valley Pride

Hebden Bridge Film Festival

Handmade Parade

Northern Broadsides


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