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Memories set sail
The Boat Project, by artists Lone Twin, is a living archive of people’s stories and lives – a real, 30ft sailing vessel that has been constructed from wooden items donated by members of the public.
The boat will launch from Emsworth, Hampshire, on May 7 and set sail along the coast, arriving in Brighton during the Festival on May 19, before continuing up to Milton Keynes on May 27.
The Boat Project is one of several public art schemes commissioned to celebrate the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and has been funded by Arts Council England.
A programme of events around the landing form part of this year’s Brighton Festival.
Here, Nione Meakin finds out about three of the personal stories that led people to make donations to the project.
* Ghita Thomas, Preston Park, Brighton: “I wanted to give a gift from one boat builder to another.
“When I heard the Boat Project was looking for donations, I whizzed back to Brighton Marina, where the boat I built is now moored, and got a piece of the scrap wood I had left over from the project. I thought it would be really nice to give a gift from one boat builder to another.
“Building a boat is an emotional business. My husband and I built our 30ft catamaran from scratch and it was a hell of a project. It’s the first and last time I’ll build a boat! It took us ten years and it was a huge financial and personal commitment.
“I’d been sailing for a long time but only ever as crew. In 2000, I decided I really wanted a boat of my own. They’re not cheap things to buy, so my husband and I bought plans and set about building one in the back garden of our home near Scarborough, Yorkshire.
“We then had to get it out of the back garden and to Hull, which was the only place we could launch it. We hired a crane and had it lifted over the top of our house on to a lowloader.
We then managed to block up the A64 and had to travel 110 miles down A-roads to get to Hull with a police escort.
“When we launched it, we all cried, including the people lowering it into the water.”
* Fred and Polly Cole, Shoreham: “It was a way of helping a historic boat to live on.
“We’ve donated two pieces of wood. The first is from Lunasea, the old motor torpedo boat we used to live on here in Shoreham Harbour.
“The MTB 682 was the first boat over in the D-Day landings in 1944 and had the commander of the 55th flotilla on board, so it is a real piece of history. It was brought to Shoreham in the early 1950s and we bought it on sight in the late 1970s.
“At the time, the economy was going wrong and we sold our house – the only one we’ve ever owned – and bought the boat for £800 as a way of staying in Sussex. Sadly, it sank a few years ago. We now live on Fische [a German minesweeper with a halffinished concert hall inside], which we’ve also donated a piece of wood from.
“Both boats are so important to us. Lunasea was historically important and this seemed like a way to help it go on living.
“We brought up our three sons on the boats. One of them still lives in a self-contained flat within Fische and two of them have formed an electronic music outfit called the 55th Flotilla. They play what they like to call ‘rum and bass’.”
* Carol and David Hancock, Whitstable, Kent: “Dad would have loved to be part of something like this.
“We got married 32 years ago and honeymooned in Brighton on the spring bank holiday, so it’s somewhere we come back to pretty frequently.
Last year, we came down with the specific aim of taking part in the Festival and I found The Boat Project.
“We donated a plaque that had belonged to Carol’s beloved dad, which said, ‘Why be awkward? With a little more effort you could be ruddy intolerable.’ “Carol didn’t want to chuck any of his stuff away after he’d died but we knew people wouldn’t want to buy it. We thought giving it to the project would be a way of helping his memory live on for ever. He was great fun but he always liked to make life difficult for anyone who came into the house! He’d be delighted to see his motto making up part of a boat.
“Brighton’s a really special place to us as a couple and we were so pleased to be able to play our part in its Festival.”
* For more information about the project, visit www.theboat project.com and for details about the boat’s visit to Brighton, go to www.brightonfestival.org