Next chapter for Ramsgate Arts Barge project with new directors and a call for volunteers

Vriendschap - the Ramsgate Arts Barge

A project to save a 130-year-old Dutch cargo barge brought to Ramsgate harbour one year ago has been taken on by new directors.

The bid to save and restore the Vreindschap (Friendship), a 50m by 7m 19th century vessel, saw the Ramsgate Arts Barge group bring the vessel to harbour last August.

The vessel was built and operated by the Van der Veen family of Amsterdam until 1994. In September 1998 Vriendschap left Holland for England.

The craft had been denied mooring in Barking, where the plan was to convert her into a community centre, and faced the possibility of being scrapped by the Port of London Authority (PLA).

Ramsgate Arts Barge project was captained by Zuza Czarniavska, an isle artist, with residents Helen Pipins and Gemma Dempsey.

Photo Eleanor Marriott

However, the group stepped down and as of this month Vriendschap is now under the legal ownership of Ramsgate Arts Barge CIC – a social enterprise ‘not-for-profit’ organisation founded by new directors, Ramsgate residents Kevin O’Connor and Natasha De Samarkandi.

Project lead Kevin said the craft is now in the inner marina but there is still a lot of work to do.

The 36-year-old said: “Ramsgate architects Del Renzio & Del Renzio are on board, initially providing concept design assistance for the renovation and refurbishment of Vriendschap into a community-centric creative arts hub.

“It is some way off from being ready. There are repair works and we will be painting the top deck and making it look lovely in September. There will be lights around the whole barge and lots of plants.

Photo Eleanor Marriott

“It needs total renovation and refurbishment so we will be applying for arts grants to help with that.”

Kevin and artist Natasha, who have an 18-month-old son, hope to fulfil the arts hub proposal for the craft.

Kevin, who has worked in areas including marketing and as a tour manager, said: “It’s really exciting. We love the arts and thought this was a project that was too good not to take forward.

“Everyone has been so supportive, including Kent, Ramsgate and Thanet councils. We think there is potential to create jobs and bring people to the area and hope it will reach across Thanet.”

Photo Eleanor Marriott

The couple have started a drive for volunteers, with some 40 people signing up since Sunday.

Kevin said: “There are lots of volunteer opportunities to get involved now and throughout September.

“An upper deck light refurbishment will be complete by the end of September and we will be releasing more plans for the barge, including a timeline, throughout that month.”

To get involved/volunteer, email: [email protected]

Follow the progress


  1. Absolutely fantastic opportunity for Ramsgate. A real family and community hub on the waterfront!! Would love to contribute to this in anyway I can

  2. I think challenging the decision to inflict an airport on us is a good cause.
    I notice that 100’s of people have donated tens of thousands of pounds towards the JR.
    How much have you donated to the barge project?

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