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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Turning point

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Today’s session was a really productive one – probably the first time we’ve done more, not less, than we’d hoped. You can’t really see it in the pictures, but the base now has an elegant sweeping bevel to its sides. Once this was done, we could turn the boat, and begin transferring fine measurements and angles to shape the knees, locker fronts, and other components.

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We left the boat frame set out ready for assembly, looking somewhat like a primitive space craft, or the fossil of an ancestral fish. At the far left you can see one of the knees in already in position – we couldn’t resist fixing one in place to see what it was going to be like.

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It was a long day at the workshop today, so we were doubly pleased to arrive ‘home’ to the house where we’re staying, and find a surprise gift left hanging from the door handle. We hope it was intended for us… Thank you to the mystery chef!

“… and I saw a boat appear”

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

(from the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”)

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Following the trail of the Somerset Flatner, we discovered a set of plans to build it had been drawn up by enthusiasts at the Watchet Boat Museum. That was  how we ended up in Watchet, looking for the plans, and hoping also to see the real boat. After an interesting journey, getting to know a few more people along the way, we arrived in Watchet – possible birthplace of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. An interesting small town on the coast which that day was blessed with remarkable and irrational weather…

2:00 pm: the museum opens… and we get to enter this fantastic space packed with floating inspiration, independently created and curated by a passionate and inventive local group, Friends of the Flatner. Bruce, a founding member, kindly met us at the museum and we had our first tantalising glimpse into the world of knowledge the group have accumulated over the years. We begun to realise just how complex the project is – the boat we want to build, the “Flatner” is a whole spectrum of plan variations depending on their functionality, context and owner. A couple of hours’ explanation opened windows and even doors, to look at the making of this fascinating project. Finally able to explore its history in depth, and being able to touch and handle the actual boats, we started to see the boat take shape in our minds’ eyes.

 

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Thank you so much to Bruce, on behalf of the Watchet Boat Museum and The Friends of the Flatner. So much passion in one little shed – so much knowledge to learn from!

 

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