A restless interlude

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Some may have been wondering how the Some:when flatner has been doing over this long and changeable summer. While long-term plans for a river trip have been simmering slowly on a back burner (and there are some exciting developments in that area), the boat itself hasn’t been content to wait in silence. After a long stay  at the exhibition Imagined Landscapes at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, the flatner travelled back to Langport for a while, where its thirsty timbers were greeted with their first taste of rain for a very long time.

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From there, the flatner pressed on south to participate in the exhibition Weather Station II – coordinated by OSR projects as part of Portland’s prestigious B-side Festival. Weather Station is an “artist-led response to flooding,  extreme weather and the changing relationship we have with landscape and the natural world” – involving the cumulative contributions of a selection of artists working across South West England.

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Ideas for staging the hoped-for tidal journey on the Parrett are still afoot – and we are finding new ways to embed it within the wider locally-led project to re-connect Langport with the River Parrett. The logistical challenges of a tidal journey on this river were greater than we ever imagined – but we are confident that everything will eventually come together!

In the meantime, watch out also the Duchess of Cocklemoor – another inspiring boat-centred project to re-enliven the Parrett as a space of culture, leisure and transport…

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First dip!

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Photo: Simon Lee Dicker

It was an incredible feeling – that moment when the flatner first touched the water, and the dead weight we’d been manhandling down the slippery banks suddenly came alive in our hands and slipped up and out to float proudly at our feet. For all its solid wooden mass, the boat dances very lightly on the water.

The event was a lovely one – a flotilla of local craft travelled upriver to meet others from Thorney and even further afield, then circled back down as far as the old locks before landng back at Cocklemoor to celebrate with some of Burrow Hill’s finest local cider. After so many hours of toil, often in semi-darkness and near-freezing conditions, it was amazing to celebrate with such a bright, gorgeous day on the water, with a gathering of old and new friends and strangers there to celebrate the launch.

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OSR Project Weather Station booklet (B-Side Festival, Somerset)

That same weekend we took the flatner as part of the Weather Station project. After so long focusing mainly on working with other humans – and with the wood and materials of the boat itself – it was exciting to be working with new, nonhuman collaborators. The wind, the currents, the buoyancy of wood in water, all spoke to me through the dance of boat and ball and the tug at the oars in my hands.

This sense of the boat’s aliveness in the river environment was like a foretaste of the longer journey we have dreamed of, and still hope to realise – riding the incredible tides of the Parrett between Bridgwater and Langport.

[Post added 5 Dec 2017]

 

Under the Arches

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Traffic paused on Langport’s Bow Street for an unusual spectacle on Sunday 22nd March, as a Parrett Flatner made its way up the road for probably the first time since the high street flooded at the start of last century. This time the boat wasn’t floating. Instead it was carried in procession from the historic port at Bow Wharf, to the arches beneath Langport Town Hall, where it will be on temporary display.

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The procession went by land because access to the river isn’t possible, as the only slipway, by Black Bridge, is currently not in a useable condition. With the help of the Environment Agency, however, residents hope eventually to see the slipway back in operation, and access to the river made available again for all to enjoy. The boat will be formally launched as part of the Langport Festival in June, when summer water levels provide easier access to the river. Seila Fernandez Arconada and Jethro Brice – the artists leading the project – arranged the celebration to thank some of those who have been involved in the project so far, without whom the project could never have happened.

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A Sea Captain’s Tales

We are pleased to share in our blog a story from Captain Peter Hull who kindly came to visit the making of the boat, telling us stories and supporting us in the process: thank you.

“INDONESIAN BUGIS” by Capt Peter Hull

I am a Master Mariner by profession and formerShipmaster. In 1984 the Shipping Company for which I worked posted me to Indonesia to act as Operations Manager in South East Asia.Indonesia is a busy, diverse and fascinating country. It is the largest archipelago in the world with over 17,000 islands. It is also one of the most populated. Hence boats have always formed an essential part of life in Indonesia, enabling people to travel and trade between the islands.What I normally referred to asBugis are part of a group of sailing vessels often called Makassar Schooners orPhinisi (sometimesPinisi). They are probably the last such fleets of sailing boats in the world that still ply for trade. They carry a wide variety of goods such as timber, copra, rice and raw materials to centres like Jakarta, and return to the various river ports throughout the archipelago with material such cement, steel and manufactured items. The main centre in Jakarta is known as SundaKelapa, which is the old sailing ship port nearTanjungPriok. It is well worth a visit.It is interesting to see the Bugis being loaded and discharged. Most of the cargo is carried as loose bags or single boards of timber and the stevedores walk up and down a narrow plank carrying a bag of cement, rice, or a couple of planks. The planks of timber are sometimes cut by hand in ‘saw pits’.

I had been to Indonesia before this and seen numerous Bugis at sea under full sail – an impressive and colourful sight. But my new posting gave me a chance to see one being built in Kota Baru (South Kalimantan). It was rather fortuitous to stumble on this vessel while I was supposed to be doing something else, but it gave me the opportunity to learn a bit about Bugi building. The most interesting thing is that they build the shell first and the frames second.

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Here is an extract from an article about them……

‘Pinisi have always been assembled using wooden pegs to join the timbers. We would call the fasteners “trunnels” or tree nails.

The sequence of assembly is different than we in the West would ordinarily assume. First the keel is laid, then the stem and stern post are erected, as usual. Then however, rather than setting up the whole array of the hull shell. The frames are pegged to the planks, to the keel, and to each other where the frame segments are joined. The frame butt ends either lap across the keel (Sulawesi style), or are joined to a floor member (more common in Kalimantan), depending on the tradition from which the individual boat builders have come.

This “planking first” approach may seem odd to our rigidly defined approach to shaping a ship in the West, but this is as the builders among the Indonesian islands have done it since no one knows when. This is very much the most common method used throughout Indonesian, Malaysian, and other South and Southeast Asian waters, and the method has served the people very well indeed’. 

(I think the ancient Greeks used to build trireme this way)

Suffice it to say that building a Bugi requires a lot of skill and experience. They are impressively large and built by hand using village labour without the help of power tools. (There are quite a lot of websites showing Pinisi building).

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All photos are courtesy of Captain Peter Hull.

Winter’s greetings!

A warm hello to all our friends and followers, this bright winter’s day. We are visiting friends and family (Jethro in Scotland, left; Seila in Spain, right) and recharging our batteries for the excitement of January.

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The exciting news is: we have found an excellent work space and will be starting work on THE BOAT in mid January – we are also looking forward to some more creative workshops while we are there.

We hope you are all having a nice toasty time with your loved ones, and enjoying the spectacular return of the sun.

Best wishes and looking forward to seeing you soon

Jethro and Seila

Some:when gathering and exciting news!

On Saturday we enjoyed another great visit to Somerset, this time to run a workshop more directed to adults in Langport. We wanted to generate a conversation around the project from a different angle, revisiting the history of the Somerset Levels and Moors and looking at poetry, a historical text about Somerset and an image of Bow Street (the main street in Langport) which we found in a visit at the Somerset Heritage Office, to provide inspiration for the discussion.

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The session was really interesting and we talked about all kinds of things: windmills, rivers, water, nature, hydro power, recovery, cycles, boats, history, canals, floods, willow, traditions and many more.

If you couldn’t attend the session and would like to have a look to the resources please do, here isthe link: Some_when_gathering. Feel free to share your thoughts with us!

 

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While we set up the workshop in the Town Hall we looked out on the Christmas market, that we had the chance to visit for a bit afterwards – what an excellent day for it!

We also popped down to visit the river Parrett, in an extraordinary light and  very low water level. This enabled us to see the vegetation at the bottom of the Parrett, which normally gets hidden by light reflections in the surface of the river.

 

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(photos taken from Cocklemoor, Langport)

To finish the post, we would like to share our excitement that we’ve found a fantastic space to build the Flatner!  The build will be taking place in the middle of January!!

So if you are as excited as we are, and you would like to know more about it do get in touch – we might even be able to arrange a visit to the site.

 

Workshops at the Curry Mallet Primary School

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Thanks again to the staff and pupils at Curry Mallet Primary School, who hosted us for two really rewarding sessions. We split the day between the older and younger pupils, and worked in groups across year groups to make sure everybody could take part. There were some really creative ideas and compelling images.
One group focused on recalling how the water flowed over a bridge, another set out a detailed landscape of saturated fields trans-sected by brimming rhynes. Others came up with inventive ideas for the future, including an under-water truck like a wheeled submarine, which would remain stable on the ground and not float, as well as a couple of space-borne craft. I was struck by the detail of some children’s observations and recollections – the precise way water over-spills the raised banks of a river, or the fine feathery branches of pollarded willows strung out along a rhyne.

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What an incredible, talented and entertaining group of young artists – we hope to see you all again!

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Sail making with young people in Langport…

Last week we were back in Langport for another great session with Langport and Huish Youth Club. We heard some interesting stories of young people’s experiences with the floods, some of them happy memories and some difficult.

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It was good to see the different ways people had found to move around and connect with their families or explore the landscape – from visiting grandparents by tractor, to horse riding in knee-high waters.

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The workshop brought up a lot of ideas. One participant’s immediate reactions was to make an image of deforestation – “because that affects the flooding”.

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Ideas became more complex as the session infolded – we’re looking forward to coming back again for more stories and beautiful images!

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Some:when Sail making workshop

We are pleased to announce the next some:when workshop in which we will be working with recycle materials to transform them into collages. We will be looking at Somerset imaginary and how youth experienced the flooding through this particular method. The compilation of these visual stories will be the sail of our Flatner.

We will keep you updated with future dates which we are working on in these days in which other type of workshops will be taking place, and where we have a closer look to the next step, the boat making.

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