Hopes sink of finding local home for floating artwork

Nick Spurr with Flow.
Nick Spurr with Flow.

Admirers have said farewell to hopes of giving maritime artwork ~Flow a permanent home as an attraction on the Northumberland coast.

The floating creation was a hit of the Cultural Olympiad, visited by 37,000 people when moored on the Tyne.

Now the musical tidemill made from recycled materials has returned to Amble Boat Company, where it was built to a design by Gateshead artist and musician Ed Carter.

Amble – famously the friendliest port – thought of extending its hospitality to the artwork into the future. But that changed when town councillors heard on Thursday what it would cost:

The current mooring is £100 a week plus VAT.

Parts removed for transporting it to Amble would have to be re-installed.

It must be kept indoors all winter and the cost of removing it from the water each time is about £5,000 for maintenance and relaunching; maintenance would cost £3,000 if there was no welding.

It has to be assessed by a structural engineer.

The waterwheel has to be dismantled and rebuilt with new bolts and paddles at a cost of £5,000.

A visit by a waterwheel engineer every other month is recommended. Insurance is about £650 a month. Staffing has been about £60,000 a year, with at least three on board at a time, one of whom who must be trained in water safety.

The considerable bill for creating a permanent mooring and a ramp has not been costed. It is not known if the Arts Council, which commissioned ~Flow, would seek a fee.

After a stunned silence, Coun Robert Arckless moved the council take no further action and that was agreed. “It would be more than half the council’s budget,” he said.

Coun Jane Dargue said: “It’s a very great shame.”

The artwork, a £500,000 commission, uses the waterwheel as an electro-acoustic musical and scientific instrument. It makes sounds in response to the tide and checks water quality.

Ed Carter has said the last thing he wants is for it to decay, so if it is not taken on by a custodian with deep pockets, it will be broken up.