A creative programme featuring new artworks and performances created in response to the rich heritage, forgotten stories and hidden histories of Gravesham riverfront...
LV21 together with a crew of creative professionals and volunteers from the surrounding community have been examining the theme of SILT: “...soil that is carried along by flowing water and then dropped at a bend in a river or at a river’s opening…”
SILTings explores the Gravesend’s boundary at the edge of the River Thames, by sifting through metaphorical silt and in so doing, dredging deeper into the layered sediment of untold tales left behind by the rushing tides and strong currents passing by.
Commissioned artists and performers working with local people of all ages, embarked on a creative journey to discover, capture and bring to life the forgotten stories and histories of Gravesham that have over time, sunk deep into the riverbed.
SILTings brings back to life the memories of mudlarks digging for treasure and calls of the shrimpers returning with their hauls, the creaking timbers and flapping sails of their boats, stormy seas and tidal surges, mixed with soundscapes, projections, lights, visual displays, contemporary music and dance to create a fascinating, immersive experience showcased online, aboard LV21, the surrounding riverfront and across the town during Estuary 2021 festival period.
You can meet all the commissioned artists aboard LV21 and the quayside on Saturday 5th June and a programme of family-friendly participatory workshops, talks and walks led by artists accompany the programme throughout May-June 2021.
Use the links below to Navigate to each section
12 POINTS OF TIDE
Drawing inspiration from descriptors within the Beaufort scale, 12 Points of Tide is a new mini opera, written and composed by Opera Activist Tania Holland Williams, that explores the corrosive and additive qualities of tidal movement, through the eyes of Mona, Minor Goddess of the Silty Waterways.
Alongside the compulsive mudflat combing and her burdensome haul, Mona also has a superpower - she can hold back the tide - for a while at least. Meantime her Shipping Forecast itch seems to be getting worse.
12 Points of Tide is sweet and salty in equal measure - built around the slow accretion of guilt and loss and the surge that invites release.
The piece is written for cello and singer, performed by Clare O’Connell (Cellist) and the composer.
Six “Shipping Forecasts” that range across the Thames Estuary locations along Gravesham riverfront – Bawley Bay; Hole Haven; Mucking Flats; Oven’s Flat; Gravesend Reach; Higham Bight and Lower Hope Reach – are available to listen online from Friday 4th June and on the shoreside surrounding LV21 on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th June with one ’Shipping Forecast’ broadcast every hour on the hour starting at 12pm and finishing at 5pm. Downloadable PDF summary of the story, Libretto and information about the Beaufort Scale, Shipping Forecast and the navigation charts used in researching the piece available here.
Libretto section from Shipping Forecast 3
Wind Westerly 5 to 6 decreasing 4.
Sea state? - Wilful, unpredictable;
Conditions are changing, water escaping….
The air moves in the standing deep.
Just a lick, no spittle spat
The weave wears thin.
The flow reversed,
A shiver in the brine
The Bore Tide climbs.
About the artist: fatladyopera.com
Filaments Art Collective is a group of five north Kent based contemporary artists, initially brought together in 2020 to put on a site-specific two-night art event in the Medieval church of St Mary’s at Burham. The occasion was named Filaments because it was based on ideas of thread and light. Only open to the public after dark, it included work utilising textiles, installation, candlelight, reflective materials, light boxes and projections. For SILTings the collective has created bespoke works while continuing their exploration of combining these elements.
Karen uses visual stories of local people to subtly reveal cultural change of the Thames Estuary, projecting reworked images from old photographs obtained from archives and personal family albums, featuring relatives and friends who lived and worked on the river. The projection measures the passing of time, bringing the past to life and creating a link between the people of today and the ghostly figures of the past. Projected in the lower deck area aboard LV21 the piece also explores the interaction between the human stories and the atmospheric space below the waterline.
Elizabeth’s work celebrates the historically vibrant and industrious Bawley Bay, where shrimpers would unload their barrels full of shrimps from the Bawley Boats and transport them cooked and ready to sell at Gravesend borough market. Using recycled fish tins and lights, Elizabeth constructs miniature homages to past times, celebrating the life along the estuary, with particular interest in the shrimpers. The magnetic tins are displayed across the steel hull surfaces aboard LV21 along with an installation of colourful handmade origami shrimps cascading from a chandelier structure.
Rosie’s work also refers to the work done by the local shrimpers and the history of the shrimping industry in Gravesend. Large scale stitched, collaged drawings made using old sails, threads, cords and fabrics, focus on the work and tasks involved in shrimping, using vintage images of local shrimpers as inspiration. Some of her sail fabric artworks will adorn the outer hull of LV21, bellowing in the wind, while others will take refuge in the calm of the internal decks.
Ruth is working in collaboration with Dr Anna Freeman, an environmental scientist, to delve into the sediment and silt of the Thames Estuary to find and identify the tiny, largely unseen organisms that live below the surface. Looking at microscopic images of phytoplankton, the work investigates lifecycles, and plays with ideas of scale and importance and how we often conflate the two. Displayed aboard LV21, reflective materials such as glass and mirror reference the surface of the water, and also use the viewers’ reflected image to place them within the work, becoming part of the lifecycle depicted there.
Through the manipulation of appropriated materials, Linda’s work decodes the semiotic language of safety communications used on the waterways. The work references the imagery of the nautical flags used to communicate vital information to water traffic; from the International Code of Signals, understood globally by seafaring vessels, to the Port of London Authority ebb tide flag system used to convey the fluvial flow of the River Thames. A series of flags and safety signage will be hoisted up aboard LV21 for people to view from the shoreside.
SHRIMPERS & MUDLARKS
A collaboration by textile artist / illustrator Nicola Flower and dancer / choreographer Daisy Farris inspired by a photograph from ‘Fishermen from the Kentish shore,’ where a woman stands alone on Bawley Bay looking out to the river from the bank of the Thames, her view is blocked by Bawley boats, she is waiting to start work and there is the suggestion that others will join her.
This solitary, isolated woman is anticipating the day’s activity, her work has purpose in its endeavour. In a cape encrusted with pearly shrimps she moves to show glimpses of her patchwork dress underneath. In her changing form of vulnerability and strength, she discards the cape to reveal a giant skirt of patched fabric, which she uses like heavy nets against her body, repeatedly pulling, laying out, billowing in the wind, gathering and draping to her silhouette.
This is practical work, undertaken by a woman, her movements are a combination of femininity, struggle, repetition, ritual, her muscles familiar with her daily tasks, working with and against the elements, the landscape and sodden nets.
As the end of the day approaches her cape and nets capture the golden glow of shrimps and mudlark’s treasure.
During the 18th and 19th century Bawley Bay was a thriving and bustling area. Shrimpers would catch and cook brown shrimps aboard Bawley boats and bring in their hauls to sell at Gravesend market, an industry that came to an end in 1965. Mudlarks were also a common sight, wrestling and scavenging in the mud for coins, copper and coal to sell. All that remains from this vibrant and crowded bay is a small quiet pebbly and silted beach next to St Andrew’s church.
Daisy and Nicola have combined elements of collected stories of shrimpers and mudlarks and the industrious activities at Bawley Bay with children’s drawings from local primary schools and written memories of elderly care home residents to inspire and develop their creative work. Using contemporary dance and visual art they have reimagined the human activity that would have dominated the bay, focusing on the movement of labour, physical struggle, interpreting unusual objects and environmental restraints.
The final result is a contemporary response as a short evocative film shot on location, featuring a solitary dancer moving to a bespoke score composed by Aleph Aguiar.
The film premiered online at lv21.co.uk on Friday 4th June and is also screened aboard LV21 throughout the weekend.
The costumes Nicola created for the performance, including a cape encrusted with shrimp embroideries which were made by volunteer makers and local community groups, are on public display at Gravesend Library window throughout Estuary 2021 until Sunday 13th June.
THE TRAIL OF THE BLUE PORCUPINE
A collaboration by poet James M'Kay and artist Sarah Sparkes in association with Inspiral London...
The Trail of The Blue Porcupine launches at the quayside on Saturday 5th June 11am and concludes with an Award Ceremony aboard LV21 on Saturday 12 June 7pm.
Some of them have been here all the time, but hardly anybody gave them a second glance; this June, strange Blue Porcupines are appearing on the streets of Gravesend – as part of 'The Trail of the Blue Porcupine', a week-long installation by artist Sarah Sparkes and poet James M'Kay, which leads visitors and locals on a mystery tour of the town centre. At 11am on Saturday 5 June, the first of the Blue Porcupines will be unveiled alongside LV21 on Gravesend Riverside, and instructions on how to find the rest are available here.
Find all the hidden Blue Porcupines, then submit your photos of them to email@example.com and be in for a chance to be granted a lifelong membership of the Order of The Blue Porcupine in an award ceremony on the quayside next to the ship between 2.30-4pm on Saturday 12 June as part of the Fish & Ships event.
The Blue Porcupine History
This rare heraldic beast is one of the supporters of the arms of the Borough of Gravesham. derived from the arms of the Portreeve of Gravesend, whose office was the medieval fore-runner of the Port of London Authority. An image of the Porcupine steering a boat under oar appears in various significant places in the town: on the gate of Milton churchyard, outside the Borough Market, behind the altar in St Andrews Church.
About the artists
Sarah Sparkes is a London based artist and curator. Her work explores magical or mythical narratives, vernacular belief systems and the visualisation of anomalous phenomena. Her work is often research led and an exploration into the borderlands where science and magic intersect. She works with installation, sculpture, painting, performance and occasionally film.
She leads the visual arts and creative research project GHost. Which has been supported by Folkestone Biennial, University of the Arts, University of London, FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), NTMoFA (National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts), Inspiral London and Arts Council of England. She led ‘The Haunted Gallery’ workshops for Tate Britain, 2018. Her work The GHost Formula, commissioned by FACT, toured to NTMoFA in 2017 as part of the exhibition No Such Thing As Gravity curated by Rob La Frenais.
Collaborations with sound artist Ian Thomspon include 'the Cosmic Pond' a residency at Allenheads Contemporary Arts, 2018 and 'Earley Chorus' for SoundCamp International Dawn Chorus event REVEIL, 2021. She created her first Blue Porcupine inspired artwork, Azure, Chained and Quilled, for the exhibition Hell or High Water, curated by Caroline Gregory on LV21 in 2020.
Poet and compère James M'Kay (rhymes with 'tie'), has been part of the UK spoken word community for over 20 years, achieving Radio 2 airplay for his work with poetry-and-prog-rock outfit The Morris Quinlan Experience, and fronting key nights such as Home Cooking (Newcastle) and Utter! Spoken Word (London & PBH Free Fringe Edinburgh).
On moving to Gravesend several years ago, he set up popular spoken word night Reverb Chamber at No.84 Tearoom & Café, where he is Poet in Residence. Best cake in town.
You can hear his work (including tracks from his notorious 2016 live performance for Newcastle's Milk The Cow podcast) at https://soundcloud.com/mckay_poetry/, and follow his blog at https://blueporcupinepoemsthings.substack.com/.
Book launch with Gravesham based celebrated poet Patience Agbabi FRSL...
It's midsummer's day and thirteen-year-old Elle and her Leapling classmates are visiting the Museum of the Past, the Present and the Future. But on the day of the school trip, disaster strikes, and the most unique and valuable piece in the museum, the Infinity-Glass, is stolen! And worse still, Elle's friend and fellow Infinite, MC², is arrested for the crime!
To prove his innocence Elle must leap back centuries in time, to a place very different from today. Along the way she will meet new friends, face dangers unlike any she has ever known, and face an old enemy who is determined to destroy her. Can Elle find the missing Infinity-Glass and return it to its rightful home before it's too late?
Patience Agbabi FRSL is a Gravesham based celebrated poet best known for her fourth collection, Telling Tales, an exuberant retelling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Now she has turned her talents to writing for children aged 8 to ∞. The Leap Cycle is a thrilling time-travel adventure series. Her debut novel, The Infinite, was CBBC Book of the Month for July 2020 and was recently longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2021.
Philip Pullman said of it: ‘Vivid, funny, exciting and inventive…Patience Agbabi has created something fresh and original here, and I look forward very much to what she writes next.’
GTown Talents, Gravesham based youth organisation working with cultural partners and mental health providers to support and inspire young people across Kent to pursue a creative career and gain access to the music industry, ‘highjacked’ the ship for one day in August 2020 with local aspiring musicians and produced a short video documenting their ‘takeover’ experience aboard. Meet founding members Jimmy aka ‘Bones’ and Ihsan aka ‘Vybz’ aboard the ship to find out more about their work. Precious Baculi aka @THISISCANDYSWORLD is taking over LV21’s IGTV channel to feature SILTings artists and artworks as well as capture visitors’ reactions, comments and feedback.
On the Gravesend Town Pier adjacent to the ship you can admire a collection of vintage ships’ flags kindly donated to LV21 by Bill Sutherland from a well-known Gravesend riverside family of fishermen and seafarers, before continuing your journey to the end of the pier to visit Thames barge Edith May moored at the pontoon. Weather permitting she is taking small groups of 12 people on short sailing trips along the River Thames over the weekend. For more details please contact Heather and Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of the Gravesham Estuary Fringe programme join artist Duncan Grant on the quayside to view his artwork, find out about his inspiration and create your own souvenir postcard using cyanotype printing techniques.
Gravesham Urban Knitters have created a colourful display of knitted and crocheted Fish & Ships inspired by the marine life and busy shipping lanes of the River Thames. You can also pick up a free craft pack and join Gravesham Urban Knitters on the quayside to take part in the World Wide Knit in Public
About the artists:
SILTings is one of four Creative Estuary commissioned creative cultural projects with Estuary-based producers and artists, to contribute to the Associated Programme for Estuary 2021 estuaryfestival.com. Also supported by Arts Council England, Gravesham Borough Council, Kent County Council and Visit Kent EXPERIENCE programme.
Creative Estuary is a partnership of public sector and cultural organisations working together to transform 60 miles of the Thames Estuary across Essex and Kent into one of the most exciting cultural hubs in the world. For more information visit creativeestuary.com.