A planning application for works for access and permanent mooring of Ramsgate Arts Barge at the harbour has been submitted to Thanet council.
The proposal is to turn the 130-year-old Dutch barge in Ramsgate harbour into a waterfront community arts hub by converting the lower hold into an open hall with toilet facilities and accommodation and a new deck for a landscaped terrace with cafe.
The mess deck would be converted in to kitchen /ancillary accommodation with the wheelhouse used as a small dining or seating area.
Stairs and a lift would be provided by a small turret structure clad in timber.
The plan is for the exterior of the hull to be painted in a ‘Dazzle Camouflage’ pattern to make the boat hard to distinguish. The current proposal is for a black and white version but other coloured patterns could be used.
The project would include an arts and performance space, with theatre, films, exhibitions and workshops, small scale studios for hire by local artists.
Planning documents say company profits will be used to help disadvantaged children (2-16 years of age) living in the district through complimentary multidisciplinary arts classes, courses, workshops and programmes.
Ramsgate Arts Barge CIC, headed up by directors and town residents Kevin O’Connor and Natasha De Samarkandi, says it will be working with the EKC Group to provide learning opportunities throughout the project and creating valuable ‘hands on’ work experience for students.
They say it will also provide complimentary community studio hire to schools, colleges, charities and not-for-profit organisations within Thanet.
Ten full-time jobs, and a number of part-time posts, are also promised.
The Vriedschap – meaning friendship in Dutch – is a 50-metre, 200-tonne, former cargo barge which spent 80 years working the waterways across Holland by three generations of the Van der Veen family, before arriving in the UK in the early 1990s to be used residentially.
But it was 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).
The vessel was then taken on by the Ramsgate Arts Barge project, initially captained by Zuza Czarniavska, an isle artist, with residents Helen Pipins and Gemma Dempsey.
This was taken over by Kevin and Natasha in March 2020 and brought under the legal ownership of Ramsgate Arts Barge CIC in August of that year.
Speaking to The Isle of Thanet News last year after launching a crowdfunder to help with the scheme, Kevin said: “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.”
Ramsgate architects Del Renzio & Del Renzio has provided designs for the renovation and refurbishment, including the dazzle camoflauge.
‘Dazzle camouflage’ was used on ships in both World Wars I and II as a defence mechanism. The intention was to confuse enemy ships as to the direction of travel, making it more likely to avoid attack from enemy ships. The ‘dazzle camouflage’ has been selected as the proposed exterior hull design for the Ramsgate Arts Barge as a nod to Ramsgate’s unique maritime heritage and links to the world wars including the Dunkirk evacuations.
Planning permission is also being sought for a new gantry structure attached to the harbour wall with any invasive fixings or anchorage installed past the marble stones into the paving or Pier Yard to avoid too much harm to the listed basin wall. A rubber mat will be put in place to protect existing granite blocks and a galvanised steel gate with galvanised fish net fencing will also be put in place.
Documents say the scheme will create “a visitor attraction in Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour, bringing year-round tourism and footfall into the area to stimulate the local economy by increasing ‘daytrippers’ and ‘overnight stays’ to Ramsgate.
“The project seeks to attract internationally established artists, putting Ramsgate on the map as a ‘must visit’ destination for the arts” and “support and champion artists from across the local area via regular exhibitions and events throughout the year.”
Find the application on Thanet council’s planning portal reference L/TH/21/1339
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