Herbert Gallery and Canal Basin, Coventry

When Sonia Rolt published the remarkable photographs of Robert Longden in 1997 in A Canal People , I was immediately taken by them and I made sure that it was one of my Christmas presents for that year! It was therefore inevitable that when I read Granny Buttons blog about the exhibition of Longden's photographs at the Herbert Gallery, Coventry that we would have to plan a visit. I had toyed with boating up to Coventry but our busy summer plans made that very difficult. With the closing date imminent (August 30th) we went by car yesterday.

It had been years since we visited Coventry and regretfully we have never boated along the canal from Hawkesbury into the city. We firstly visited the cathedral, When we both lived in Solihull in the 1960s the cathedral appeared brand-new and modern; a wonderful statement to the ideals of reconciliation. It still resonates with ideas of world peace; the additional art concerning the holocaust, atomic weapons and genocide have made sure of it. The centre-piece Sutherland tapestry, now 50 years old still stuns.

The Herbert Gallery is a marvellous place. The range of activities and exhibitions going on was very impressive. Being a relatively small gallery the collections on display were not extensive but they made up for it for being displayed well. They were particularly child-friendly. We very much enjoyed the thought provoking and impressive Face to Face exhibition by Kate Boyce and is on until 26 September, that features 2m high photographic portraits of gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans. The life histories attached to these portraits causes you to examine our relationship to our closest biological relatives.

So what of the main purpose of our visit, the Robert Longden exhibition. The photographs are marvellously reproduced and the large format certainly enables you appreciate the quality of Longden's photography. Each photograph was indexed to the Rolt book and the captions were very informative. There were a number of unpublished photographs that impressed us. The images available were all from glass lantern slides. One wonders what would have happened if the bulk of Longden's photographs had survived. There were some exhibits on loan from Stoke Bruerne and the Coventry Canal Society that were well displayed and entirely appropriate to the theme and a video featuring Sonia Rolt (Splendid People) put the whole thing into context. Our only disappointment was the slideshow of images from the curator of the exhibition, Robert's great grandson Stephen Pochin. Although he appears to have done wonderfully well with the exhibition as a whole, and he states quite clearly that he wanted to avoid the cliched "then and now" view of Hawkesbury Junction (Sutton Stop), his concentration of the detritus and minutia of life, not necessarily related to boating, appeared out of context and the quality of the photography appeared incongruous. There was some criticism of Stephen's work in the visitor's book, particularly from those mooring at the junction.

If you can make the exhibition in the next 10 days I would recommend it.

We also investigated the Canal Basin. It has a statue of James Bridley looking out towards Hawkesbury and 48hr moorings that appear secure. We will try and visit Coventry by boat next time. Apart from what we saw today it would be interesting to pass through Foleshill where I worked in the late 1960s for Courtaulds. I operated a pilot plant in a building that backed onto to canal.

James Brindley looking out over Coventry Basin

The bridge in the distance is said to be the smallest on the canal system, according to the display nearby

Canal Basin, Coventry

As Granny Buttons put it, "the Basin is an underused jewel, an unpolished stone".