Small discoveriesMarch 9, 2019
Imagine my surprise when, on being called to fix an overloaded bookshelf at home, I came across a 1943 volume entitled The Fair Rivers of Southern England with an introduction by Fletcher Allen and photographs by J Dixon-Scott. My husband immediately recognised the cover as one from his father’s collection. Eric Wright was a great collector of books about geography and travel in England and a publisher under the imprint Wright & Brown.
After a short introduction, the book takes the reader on a visual photographic journey. At a time when tourism was being established, enabled by the railway network, increasing numbers of cars and significantly, the Holiday Pay Act of 1938 which gave those workers whose minimum rates of wages were fixed by trade boards, the right to one weeks’ holiday per year, travel books were increasingly popular.
The introduction speaks of rivers as ‘More than waterways more than quietly moving streams which drain the land, they have served to build up local character, to establish communities and to determine the siting of industrial enterprise’. Further on, the river Cam is noted with ‘As for sheer entrancement, travel the Cam, to catch a clear sweep of King’s Bridge framing Clare Bridge, or to see the Bridge of Sighs, enclosed and monastically aloof, disclaiming any puritanical merit’.
My father in law determined to educate his children in the geography of their country, by planning trips and holidays to different locations across England. Knowing this book must have spurred many family trips, it suggests the river as destination. Even the concise introduction offers a sense of the river viewed as a spectacle to see and experience. That notwithstanding, the book illustrates the beauty of the river, and the manner in which it ’fits’ into our lives and landscape.
FLOW – the filmFebruary 14, 2019
Very excited to write that the film of FLOW is now live! So great to be reminded of everyone who took part in so many ways, watching, carrying the precious water, cheering people on and of course the excellent support crew. Click here to watch the film.
Footage captured by Ryd Cook and editing by Rosie Powell. FLOW was part of In Your Way.
The Works of Gwen RaveratJanuary 28, 2019
It is not unusual for creative people to be drawn to rivers as a source of inspiration. The ever changing constitution of a river through colour, sound, shape and form may be some of the reasons but the contemplative nature of being near water, and looking deeply at it over a period of time is a pursuit that offers much to everyone whatever their interest.
Gwen Raverat, the granddaughter of naturalist Charles Darwin, was born and brought up in Cambridge and pursued an artistic path, including study at The Slade School of Fine Art in London. Her practice to a great extent is a diary of her life as a woman in the early and mid 1900’s, depicting scenes from her home city, her husband, painter Jacques Raverat, as well as imagery from a period living in the south of France.
It is fitting therefore that there are substantial collections of her work in two Cambridge institutions, Murray Edwards College (as part of the New Hall Art Collection) and The Fitzwilliam Museum. Working in paint and in print, usually woodcuts, Gwen Raverat had a keen compositional eye, exploiting linear perspective to maximum advantage in her work to give the viewer a sense of distance and invitation into the scene. Her attention to detail is evident in the meticulous mark making in her prints, coupled with a sensitive and delicate balance between light and shade requiring keen observation. The river Cam appears frequently in her works, as a feature in the landscape or at the centre of the community, where it forms a main character in the works, passing under bridges and alongside the buildings of Cambridge.
Works by Gwen Raverat from New Hall Art Collection, Murray Edwards College and The Fitzwilliam Museum can be viewed by appointment by contacting the institutions via their websites below.
Museum of CambridgeJanuary 25, 2019
During the project, I have the pleasure of being based in the fascinating Museum of Cambridge, a place that is filled to the brim with rich stories about the city of Cambridge and its people. The archives contain fascinating material including some old photographs that show the changing nature and character of the river over time. In the collections room, the deep grey/blue box files are delicately and elegantly labelled in black ink in a stencilled font. Those that interest me are titled Rivers & Barges/Ferries and Boathouses Barges & Boats, but there are also box files labelled Fens, Events and one which contains Crafts Trades & Occupations, all equally enticing. I also spot the Oversized Photographs box and make a mental note to explore the contents later on.
The contents of the boxes reveal collections of photographs categorised according to subject that span time and location. They contain clues as to how the river and the city have been shaped out of social, economic, geographical and historic factors. A photograph of the Lion Hotel staff on an outing on the river Cam evokes the sense of the river as the place for celebration and relaxation – no different to some of its uses today. A further image of a horse drawn boat reminds me that the towpath, which is now more used to human trainers and bicycle tyres than horseshoes, disappears into the middle of the river as it flows past the University buildings. To enable the continuation of trade and the river as a highway, the towpath was transferred to mid-river by building up and raising the river bed as a way to avoid horses trampling the university grounds.
Archive investigation is an activity that is hard to stop. One discovery leads to another and on to something even more interesting. Time passes rapidly and my notebook is soon filled with notes and sketches.
FlowNovember 16, 2018
The river flows from source to sea, a passing of time, a freedom of movement.
Yet even the river is not safe from ownership, boundaries and private exclusivities.
FLOW was a durational performance following the flow of the Cam and the different ways in which we travel along and next to it. Once a significant trade route, still crossing the city of Cambridge and connecting the communities along its path, FLOW takes the idea of the river as a moving entity.
The piece marked the river’s path through a line of performers along its route through the city, transcending the boundaries and barriers found along the river pathways. From foot to punt, to narrowboat to eco boat, to bike to swimmer, a token of the river was transferred from one end to another, carried by the tide of human hands as well as the water itself.
Watch the film of FLOW here
Family WorkshopsNovember 16, 2018
The River Cam is home to the CHYPPS (Children and Young People’s Participation Service) narrowboat, a bright pillar box red vessel that is used as a base for the groups’ work with children and young people of all ages across the city. CHYPPS organises activities in local neighbourhoods in response to need both on land and on the river. Caroline joined the staff for some of their late summer workshops on the narrowboat and spent time with families talking about what the river means to them. Imaginative drawings were made in response to the questions ‘what is on the river’ and ‘what is in the river’.