Boatyard lands Olympic boost

Nick Spurr with The Flow  that has been constructed at Amble Boat Company. Inside are Antony Hall, Nicholas Cook, Simon Blackmore and Ed Carter from The Owl Project.
Nick Spurr with The Flow that has been constructed at Amble Boat Company. Inside are Antony Hall, Nicholas Cook, Simon Blackmore and Ed Carter from The Owl Project.
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A BOATYARD boss from north Northumberland has just completed his most unusual vessel to date – one which will literally make the water beneath it sing.

Nick Spurr’s firm, Amble Boat Company, won a commission to build an ambitious floating artwork called Flow, which uses a waterwheel to power a range of unusual musical instruments.

Nick Spurr with The Flow  that has been constructed at Amble Boat Company. Inside are Antony Hall, Nicholas Cook, Simon Blackmore and Ed Carter from The Owl Project.

Nick Spurr with The Flow that has been constructed at Amble Boat Company. Inside are Antony Hall, Nicholas Cook, Simon Blackmore and Ed Carter from The Owl Project.

And it will take pride of place on the River Tyne from the end of next month, as part of Newcastle’s Olympic celebrations which will run through the spring and summer.

What’s most remarkable about Flow is that it monitors tidal changes and even how much salt is in the water to produce a range of different tones from its electronic array of instruments, which are geared to respond to a variety of natural inputs. The waterwheel itself will generate the necessary power, along with two solar panels, making it eco-friendly. And it’s a considerable size, capable of holding a maximum of 100 people.

The project was one of 12 public art commissions funded by the UK Arts Councils for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, put forward as a collaboration between the Owl Project and Gateshead-based art and music producer Ed Carter.

Managing director Nick said: “Six companies had been invited to tender for the job and luckily for us, Amble Boat Company was chosen. It’s a really pioneering concept and has involved working with some very creative people, including Ed, the Owl Project and the architects who came up with the design.

“It has taken us about four-and-a-half months to construct, first in the workshop. We then had to take apart all the components and reassemble it on the water, which was the biggest challenge for us.

“The hulls were made of steel and the deck, frame and millhouse are timber, while the waterwheel itself is steel with wooden panels.

“The instruments are still being installed as we speak, so we haven’t yet heard what it actually sounds like. We’re all looking forward to that.”

The work came at a crucial time for Amble Boat Company, says Nick, which usually deals with everyday maintenance and servicing of seagoing vessels that use the town’s harbour and marina.

“We would probably have had quite a quiet winter without this project,” he said. “We’re like many other small family-run businesses which are finding it hard to operate in these difficult financial times. We have seven employees, so this has been a very good project for us all.”

Flow will be shipped from the Coquet to the Tyne in March and is due to open to the public on Sunday, March 25, when visitors will be able to interact with the instruments and alter the music. There are also workshops planned at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and storytelling aboard the vessel from Seven Stories, while jazz musicians will be playing their own instruments and those built by the Owl Project onboard during the evening.

Alison Clark-Jenkins, regional director for Arts Council England, said: “The Cultural Olympiad is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for everybody to be a part of London 2012, by taking part in one of the thousands of free arts and cultural events around the country.

“Flow is a landmark project for the North East as part of the national Cultural Olympiad celebration. The detailed craftsmanship, engineering and creative vision which has enabled Flow to come to life is spectacular.

“I hope people in the North East take their chance to board Flow to experience this beautiful and unique work for themselves.”