GROUNDBREAKING art gallery Ikon has been awarded over £200,000 from the arts council to bring art into the Black Country.

The Birmingham gallery's converted slow boat will be sailing the Smethwick to Stourbridge canal stopping off to display art and be involved in community events.

Fledgling arts group Creative Cradley Heath has been chosen as a partner for the programme, called Black Country Voyages.

Fran Wilde, founder of Creative Cradley Heath, said: "We are delighted to be a partner of Ikon Gallery in this very exciting project to bring arts to the Black Country including Cradley Heath.

"For a small and new organisation like us it is a massive boost and we are really looking forward to bringing the brilliant slow boat to Old Hill and holding arts events in Cradley Heath.

"I do not know how many events will be organised at the moment but we will be working with Ikon, which is one of the best galleries in the country, to bring some great art to this part of the world."

The funding is part of Arts Council England’s £45 million strategic touring programme, which supports galleries to show art to new communities.

The Black Country Voyages programme of events is currently being thrashed out with arts groups in the Black Country.

Jonathan Watkins, director of Ikon, said: 'Black Country Voyages will be a wonderful adventure for the young people taking part in Ikon's Youth Programme, participating artists and audiences alike.

"The canals in this region are under-appreciated, but for Ikon they represent the perfect means of touring to local communities."

Ikon Youth Programme, a group of 15-19 year-olds with an interest in visual arts, - will assist in crewing the boat and leading activities.

The tour will feature artist-led workshops, on-board performances, writing workshops and book design, amongst other activities.

People who encounter slow boat will influence the development of the programme, contributing thoughts and ideas.

Peter Knott, Arts Council England area director, said: “This is great news for Ikon and the Black Country. Ikon’s Slow Boat takes great art right in to the heart of local communities in a non-traditional way.

"But what will be really exciting about Black Country Voyages is the connections Ikon will be able to make with existing arts groups and local people, giving them the opportunity to shape the future of the tour."

The slow boat will travel the Black Country’s industrial canal routes from Smethwick to Stourbridge, Sedgley to West Bromwich and Birchills to Aldridge.