Michael Candy is an international, award-winning artist and engineer with a special interest in the industrial heritage of the West Midlands. Originally from sunny Australia and now based in the US, Michael flew to Birmingham back in April and arrived to a very grey and wet city, ready to explore the vast canal networks of the West Midlands. 

After watching a lot of YouTube videos of canal walks in 2021, he’s been fascinated with our Victorian transportation system ever since and we were excited to join his research visit and explore the canals for a special project featuring water bots…

Michael Candy stands beside a canal with graffiti on the brick wall on the other side of the canal.Tell us more about the project…

Everything began back in 2020 as BOM was researching and developing ideas for Festival 22. Our ideas centred around the Mother Nature project with a wide range of organisations and artists including Canal and River Trust, Bangor University, The Space, Harmeet Chagger-Khan, Gloria Adereti, Aston University, Betajester, Code Your Future and Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust. 

While we weren’t successful in gaining the full funding for a Festival 22 production, we were still committed to bringing several elements of the project to life – which includes aquatic robots! Our plan is to bring the water bots to the West Midlands and for them to be swimming in canals across Birmingham and the Black Country in the summer of 2025.

Two canal tunnels with overgrowth.

More about the Water Bots…

We were aware of Michael Candy’s fondness for the canals and so we approached him to design a unique, remote controlled, water travelling robot to celebrate the canal network. With a nod to the past, these bots exhale steam and are dramatically lit from within by a colour-changing LED system, enhancing their impact as they process the waterways.

Canal tunnel image in the centre. Michael Candy stands beneath a structure and Louise poses in a raincoat beside the canal.

Exploring the canals with Michael Candy

We loved having Michael visit and Louise Latter (head of commissioning) joined him on his mission to find a location to release the water bots. Together they visited Blowers Green Dudley, Furnace Parade Tipton, Bratch Locks, Wombourne, Warren’s Hall Nature Reserve, Dudley and the City Centres of Wolverhampton, Walsall and Birmingham.

A collage of three images. The first image is of Louise crouching beside a sign for 'Bumblehole', followed by an image of Michael looking out towards a bridge and then the final one of Michael walking alongside the canal in the city centre.

We’re envisioning a flotilla of water borne robots which will navigate West Midlands canals in a series of public events. Visitors will experience industrial history and 21st Century engineering come together as BOM invites the public to experience the canal network in an exciting new way!

Stay tuned for more updates on Water Bots coming soon!