The River Tamar Project

The south-west is home to some of the country’s most scenic and historic landscape, with the River Tamar at its heart.

The Tamar Project aims to commission and work with artists who occupy the space between art, architecture, design, science and technology to reconnect the people who lives on the river’s banks with the 22 miles of tidal waters that run through their communities.

The project began with Mike Hooton, owner of Weir Quay Boatyard, who led its renovation to reconnect with the people who use the river.

“He was really interested in the different groups of people who were using the river, and those who aren’t using the river,” says Paula Orrell, Artistic Director of the River Tamar Project.

Use of the River Tamar has decreased, but its status as a historical place with a rich and diverse history of industry hasn’t dimmed; the mining activity that used to take place in the area have led to it being named a World Heritage Site.

The Tamar Project see reuse of rivers as a global concern, and have been looking at redevelopment programmes like those in the Ruhr Valley that bring big agencies together to produce an art programme along its banks, commissioning artists and engaging people again with the landscape.

New Quay, Barry Gamble © Cornwall Council

New Quay, Barry Gamble © Cornwall Council

An initial study by Stephen Hetherington (formerly of Salford Quays) in 2001 proposed two ideas: a solar-powered floating classroom, based at a riverside culture centre; and a programme of temporary and permanent public art commissions that would engage local people and explore the context of the river.

The public art strategy has been developed along with Isabel Vasseur, to support the overall vision of the project to create a new human purpose for the river.

The Tamar Project’s first commission was Adam Chodzko’s Ghost, which gave people a new perspective on the river along which they live by taking people out in a 20ft cedar kayak, and asking them to lie down flat and look at the world in which they live in a new position, from a new position: face down in the middle of the river.

Ghost will be followed by a series of large scale art commissions for 2016/17, both on the river and its banks, that will endeavour to meet the aims of the Tamar Project’s strategy: to develop an awareness of the issues that face the river whilst creating a new audience for contemporary art.

“Ghost is about decay, about forms of entropy, the idea that there are systems out there in our environments but we don’t know how they’re to evolve or what’s going to come out if,” says Paula.

"We don’t know what’s going to come out of [Ghost], but we know that there is this experience that we have created for people about the river. That has started the engagement that we hope will be, in the future - and god knows where it’s going to go - a really big project for the region.

“It’s a slow process - but it’s all about process.”

The second part of the Tamar Project’s strategy is a film festival lasting from 12th September to 12th October; for more information on the films and events, click here.

In the video below the Tamar Project’s Artistic Director Paula Orrell introduces the project, its history, and Adam Chodzko’s work Ghost.

For more information about the Tamar Project, see their website: tamarproject.org.uk