A bid to save a 120-year-old Dutch cargo barge and bring it to Ramsgate has been launched by a community group.
The Ramsgate Arts Barge group has been set up to save and restore the Vreindschap (Friendship), a 50m by 7m 19th century vessel.
The craft has been denied mooring in Barking, where the plan was to convert her into a community centre, and now faces the possibility of being scrapped by the Port of London Authority (PLA).
Ramsgate Arts Barge wants to take on the project and convert the vessel to an arts centre. The initiative is being captained by Zuza Czarniavska, an isle artist who, prior to moving to Ramsgate, lived and worked on a barge for seven years continuously cruising the rivers Lea and Stort.
After starting a family and a new life as a land-lubber in Ramsgate, she’s now keen to invite the local creative community to jump on board the project and fall in love with barging too!
She is supported by Helen Pipins and Gemma Dempsey. Helen is an experienced journalist known locally for her role as editor of the Ramsgate Recorder. Gemma is a radio producer involved with several Thanet initiatives, such as Screaming Alley and the Festival of Sound.
The Barge is owned by Paul Powlesland, a London barrister and environmental /social activist, who lives on board his narrowboat on the River Roding.
He had hoped to create a community space on the barge and moor it at Barking Creek but was ordered by the PLA in January to move the vessel. The PLA then towed it away to the Royal Docks. It was again towed yesterday (April 26) by the craft Plashy and put onto a mooring buoy outside West India Dock on the Thames. It is up for sale for £20,000.
The vessel was built and operated by the Van der Veen family of Amsterdam until 1994. In September 1998 Vriendschap left Holland for England.
A statement from the group says: “Our initiative aims to save and restore this 19th century barge, so she can become a thriving community-centric creative development hub. Onboard we will be offering workshops, talks, exhibitions, performances, film screenings, radio output and much more, including constant skill-exchange opportunities with the resident artists.
“The long-term sustainability of this project is evident. Although it will be initially funded from grants and fundraising initiatives, we aim to become self-sufficient once the art studios are occupied, event calendar fulfilled and the barge is fully restored.
“We will be minimising our carbon footprint by generating electricity from solar and wind power, which will additionally contribute to the reduction of running costs.”
Ramsgate Arts Barge hope the vessel can be centre stage for celebrations marking Ramsgate’s 200th anniversary of royal harbour status in 2021.
The group is submitting a bid to Thanet District Council to secure permeant mooring along the Harbour Parade at the Ramsgate Royal Harbour.
A website is due to be launched on Wednesday. Search RamsgateArtsBarge.org