Crowdfunder launch for Ramsgate Arts Barge community hub project

The Ramsgate Arts Barge Photo Mark Stanford

A crowdfunder campaign will be launched at 6pm today (October 19)  to help raise cash to turn a 130-year-old Dutch barge in Ramsgate harbour into a waterfront community arts hub.

The aim is to complete works to create an arts and performance space, with theatre, films, exhibitions, workshops and more aboard the Vriendschap (Friendship) barge by September 2021 – in time for Ramsgate’s 200th year celebrations of being the UK’s sole Royal Harbour, granted by King George IV in 1821.

The social-enterprise ‘not-for-profit’ Ramsgate Arts Barge community project is headed up by directors and town residents Kevin O’Connor and Natasha De Samarkandi.

Ramsgate architects Del Renzio & Del Renzio is providing concept design assistance for the renovation and refurbishment.

Idea for the Ramsgate Arts Barge (Image: del Renzio & del Renzio)

Kevin said: “In a challenging time, the project aims to create some much-needed good news, unite the community and create an incredible arts space in the heart of Ramsgate. Over 100 volunteers have already registered to get involved with the project.

“This will create Ramsgate’s first large multi-faceted arts events and performance space, hosting a year-round diverse offering of arts events including visual arts, exhibitions, comedy, theatre, art installations, acoustic music, cabaret, film screenings, spoken word, poetry, debates, talks and community events. In addition, a wide range of child and adult art courses, classes and workshops will be available throughout the whole year.”

Kevin and Natasha say the aims are to create new jobs and boost the local economy  by attracting day trippers and overnight tourism to Ramsgate year-round.

Ideas for the Ramsgate Arts Barge (Image: del Renzio & del

There will also be free access to the arts for all Thanet schoolchildren through workshops and programmes, ten hours per week of free community studio hire for schools, colleges, charities, not-for-profits, performing arts groups and all societies with a social aim and objective operating across Ramsgate, Thanet and Kent.

Profits will be reinvested in the Ramsgate Arts Barge  for local community initiatives.

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

Photo Eleanor Marriott

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.

It was taken over by Kevin and Natasha in March and brought under the legal ownership of Ramsgate Arts Barge CIC in August.

To support the Ramsgate Arts Barge Crowdfund Campaign, visit:

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  1. Sounds like a great initiative but I think it woud get more support if it were not for the appalling paint scheme on the outside that not only messes with my eyes but would be completely out of keeping anywhere in the harbour.

  2. Very similar to “dazzle camouflage” , hardly an original idea. Another Community Interest Company who’ll no doubt raise a bit of cash and then be after public funds to chase their dream. Boats being notoriously expensive to improve , maintain and run , fingers crossed they have a large and deep pocketed crowd.

    • Exactly. Hope they realise what is involved financially and practically and the skills required. They haven’t even bothered to cover and protect the wheelhouse. Just because it floats doesn’t mean it’s stable or safe.

  3. This is a really great idea. Hope they succeed. Community minded and it’ll make a cool venue to enjoy some music and theatre etc. I wonder what the capacity for gigs etc will be? Exciting times.

  4. Looks like a bottomless money dump to me, unfortunately. Why a boat, and why such an old run down one at that? Clearly just for the ‘novelty’ factor and not a serious venture; otherwise why this? So much money will have to go into essentially rebuilding the thing not to mention maintenance; and why when there are so many empty buildings around Thanet that would serve the purpose far better and less expensively?

  5. With two local theatres about to announce closure due to lack of funds, and Trinity Community Resource Centre already closed and the staff dismissed, some bright spark wants to renovate a rust bucket with other people’s money. An immensely rich London Borough with a potential audience of millions has already turned it down. Poor Ramsgate, which cannot even keep its streets clean, is expected to fund the renovation and the £25,000 per annum cost of a barge? These old boats eat huge sums of money and have to be taken out of the water regularly to preserve them. It’s why they get scrapped and almost given away in the first place. Have your arts centre at the Granville or Sarah Thorne or one of the many empty industrial buildings. Support truly local ventures, not Johny-come-lately exciting new white elephants. The history of Ramsgate shows clearly how money gets spent on projects that do not benefit the entire community either culturally or financially. Sadly this looks to be one that benefits a few dozen folk folk close to the action.

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