A Northumberland boat company’s enthusiasm and inspiration helped it win a contract to produce a musical floating water-wheel and mill house, commissioned to celebrate the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
The artwork – called FLOW– has been built by the Amble Boat Company in Northumberland. It is a tide mill containing a huge waterwheel that draws energy from the River Tyne’s current to power mechanical musical instruments on board.
It has been commissioned to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic Games and will be moored next to Gateshead’s Millennium Bridge from March 25 and through the summer.
Nick Spurr, managing director of the Amble Boat Company, told thisisnorthumberland.com that six companies were invited to tender for the project. He said that as well as costs, he believes his firm’s capabilities, problem-solving abilities, enthusiasm and inspiration gave it the edge.
“I really, really wanted this project and I was very excited about it,” he said. “It drew on all our skills, and it was something I found inspiring.”
Flow has been three years in development, and was one of 12 public art commissions funded by the UK Arts Councils for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad as part of Artists taking the lead.
The artwork is a collaboration between an artists’ collaborative called Owl Project and art and music producer Ed Carter. Ed has been delighted with the project to-date and says: “It is brilliant to see it all coming together, it has been nearly three years of work to get to this stage and to see it being a physical presence in Amble is a very exciting thing.”
Flow is designed to monitor the River Tyne’s environmental details, including how clear the water is, temperature and speed. Visitors will also be able to play along to FLOW’s musical creations.
The sounds created by the handcrafted instruments will respond to the changing nature of the River Tyne, using sensors to test how the water changes over the course of the tidal cycle.
“The instruments will be powered by the water, responding to the changing nature of the river,” said Ed. “For example, it will take samples of the river every hour and as the level of salt in the water changes, the music will change. Different instruments respond to different things; another response is to how much dirt there is in the water.”
Nick said that people of a Green persuasion will enjoy and appreciate FLOW. “We have used reclaimed items on the project and in the building materials,” he explained. “And it is designed so that the power from the tidal flow is stored in batteries. It also has solar panels. There’s no electricity on board. So it’s a very Green project.”
Flow is schedule to begin its journey from Amble to the Tyne on February 20. It opens to the public on March 25, with family activities and workshops hosted by BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and onboard storytelling from Seven Stories.
In the evening FLOW will host jazz musicians Seb Rochford and Andy Sheppard, playing their own instruments and those built by the Owl Project onboard.
Alison Clark-Jenkins, Regional Director, 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,” she added. “The detailed craftsmanship, engineering and creative vision which has enabled Flow to come to life is spectacular.
“I hope that people in the North East take their chance to board Flow to experience this beautiful and unique work for themselves.”
A launch event and preview night will be held in the Riverside Cafe at the BALTIC on March 21 from 8pm. For more information on FLOW, including details of special events and opening times, visit flowmill.org.uk.