Thirty feet of memories to tour south-east as Cultural Olympiad sees The Boat Project off

By Culture24 Reporter | 08 May 2012
A photo of various people sitting in a vessel inside a boat yard
© Courtesy Lone Twin
Live Art: The Boat Project, various venues, until August 11 2012

There are giant roaming lions, bus tops turned into revolving illuminated art canvasses and breathing carnival puppets involved in Artists Taking the Lead, the Cultural Olympiad’s outbreak of showstopping regional art projects which will climax this summer.

Of the dozen commissions across the country, funded to the tune of £500,000 each, there’s an arctic island appearing in the south-west and a floating waterwheel on the River Tyne.

But perhaps few of these determinedly inclusive ideas have been as long in the planning as The Boat Project, made by Lone Twin pair Gregg Whelan and Gary Winters. Until now, they were best known for making affecting, thrilling theatre, giving vaudevillian spins to Victorian tragedies and more in The Catastrophe Trilogy, a triumvirate of shows backed by everyone from Glasgow’s Tron to the Barbican and numerous international festivals.

After winning the south-east commission, though, they spent most of last year imploring the public to help inform the build of a vessel crafted from items which held personal memories for donors.

Between February and July 2011, more than 1,200 of them arrived, collected from 20 venues. Lollipop sticks, witch’s brooms, hearts made of wood and personal mementoes dedicated to the memories of family and friends featured.

Among the most high-profile bits, a Jimi Hendrix guitar and parts from the Mary Rose have ended up in this “collage of memories”, all craftily melded in a kind of timber jigsaw, curved in different shades.

It took almost two months to build at Thornham Marina (helped by Mark Covell, a Scotsman who won Silver at the 2000 Olympics), and an eight-man crew – captained by Mike Barham, an experienced Gosport sailor – set off on a maiden voyage from its Emsworth yard last week.

The sold-out launch ceremony was a moving and poignant one for those bidding goodbye to the treasured pieces which made it up, and its public-voted title of Collective Spirit was steadfastly appropriate amid the testing weather conditions.

Having been winched into the sea, it will now stop off across the coast, including an eight-day mid-May Brighton Festival stint at the city’s marina as well as spells in Portsmouth, Hastings, Margate and Milton Keynes.

The journey will end in Weymouth in August, when the boat will be given to a collection as a permanent gift to the public.

  • Visit www.theboatproject.com for more.

    Tour dates:

    May: Hayling Island, 18; Shoreham, 18-19; Brighton, 19-27.

    June: Lymington, 5-6; Isle of Wight, 6; Portsmouth, 23-30.

    July: Portsmouth, 1; Littlehampton, 2-3; Eastbourne, 5; Bexhill-on-Sea (sighting), 6; Hastings, 6-8; Dover, 9-10; Folkestone, 10; Ramsgate, 10-12; Margate, 13-16; Gravesend, 18; Milton Keynes, 20-29; Barford St Michael, 30.

    August: Weymouth, until 11.

More pictures:

An image of a section of boat made out of bits of differently coloured wood
Members of the public were invited to donate any wooden object to the build
© Courtesy Lone Twin
An image of a section of wood on a piece of scrapped black road
HMS Victory, a piece of the Brighton Pier and a Victorian policeman's truncheon are among the objects
© Courtesy Lone Twin
A photo of a boat inside an exhibition centre on a pink and light blue coloured carpet
Volunteers have been helping the team shape the boat since February 2011
© Courtesy Lone Twin
A photo of six members of a boat crew pictured seperately in portrait style
The crew was announced in September 2011, and began training immediately
© Courtesy Lone Twin
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