Ramsgate Arts Barge project ‘put on hold’

The Ramsgate Arts Barge Photo Mark Stanford

Directors of the Ramsgate Arts Barge project have announced it is on hold, saying this is due to the “cost of living and spiralling interest rates.”

In 2021 planning permission was granted by Thanet council for the 130-year-old barge to have a permanent mooring in Ramsgate Royal Harbour, with the vessel to be used for mixed use including exhibition, event, performance and community space, artist studios, bar and kitchen and a top deck garden seated area.

But directors and Ramsgate residents residents Kevin O’Connor and Natasha De Samarkandi have now announced the project has been put on hold.

Photo Eleanor Marriott

In a social media post the pair say: “With great sadness, we announce the Ramsgate Arts Barge project is on hold.

“For the last few years we have battled uphill through one of the worst economic times in modern history trying to create a ‘not-for-profit’ community arts space within the heart of Ramsgate Harbour.

“Despite our best efforts, we have to accept the back to back events of the pandemic, cost of living crisis and spiralling interest rates have taken their toll on the viability of the project in the current climate.

“It has been and continues to be a tough time to raise significant investment for community based start-up ventures, especially of this scale and nature.

“As Directors of this community project, we have worked tirelessly trying to make the Ramsgate Arts Barge work. We invested a huge amount of love, time and personal finance into a project we continue to believe in; a project built on creating access and inclusivity to the arts, in and for our community.  Sadly, at this time it just hasn’t worked out.

“Despite this tremendous knock we endeavour to continue to explore all options to see if it’s still possible to make this project work in the near future.

“For clarity, if it is possible to continue the Ramsgate Arts Barge in the future, we would need to acquire a new vessel and start again.

“The Vriendschap vessel is soon to be owned by EAP Ltd (Ramsgate Slipway). RAB CIC ran into funding difficulties while the barge was on the slipway and the transfer of ownership was agreed between RAB CIC & EAP Ltd as a full and final resolution between the two companies to reflect the remaining monies owed.”

Vreindschap before coming to Ramsgate

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.

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 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 in August 2019.

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

However, the group stepped down in 2020 Vriendschap was taken over by Ramsgate Arts Barge CIC – a social enterprise ‘not-for-profit’ organisation founded by Kevin O’Connor and Natasha De Samarkandi.

In the year end to June 2021 the CIC made a loss of £4,471. Further accounts have not yet been published on Companies House.


  1. well i never , seems i was right all along then , and i think thats a great idea to dump in margate , or better still make it a monument to failure somewhere else

  2. Surprised the arty community arent backing this with their money.

    No I’m not lol !!

    Looks like if its funded by our taxes the art community love it. If it’s got to pay it’s own way they arent interested 😉

    • Quite agree,art should fund itself,goes to prove ,arty people are only after state funds ,not dipping into their own pockets,

      • Ray the Bread you are talking cobblers, like many on this thread. No state money went into this apart from a small grant from RTC. The investors were private. The mooring was paid for, not gifted by TDC and even the new Pontoon was paid for. Like the project or not, funding did not come from your taxes.

        • We are talking in general with the arts ,Turner centre etc,where is the private money for this ,gone gone gone as usual with the arts people,truth hurts ,and it’s not cobblers ,you using personal insults ,you even agree some money from RTC went into this,a grant is a grant,and it’s you talking cobblers to use your terminology

        • You stated money came from RTC and TDC,(tdc paying mooring fees ),where do these two organisations get their money ,oh tax payers of course ,hoisted by your own petard

  3. Whilst I appreciate high-level art, I feel this barge was always doomed to failure due to the incredibly low level talents of those behind it and those who supported it. The writing was finally on the wall as soon as it was shoddily decorated with a smattering of fake plastic ‘greenery’, and a banner that was too long to fit it properly (and had to be folded to fit) with the most basic Microsoft Word beginners level design on it. What a pitiful aesthetic language for the local arts community to present to potential supporters in a prime harbour spot. Margate gets a lot more of the art-thing right, they seem to attract better practitioners.

    • Well said.
      It was telling how you never really saw anyone on it doing any of the thousand little jobs that could be done prior to funding.
      The CIC seems to concentrated solely on raising funds. In four years they’ve had a crowdfunding project, an online auction, one art show (about the barge), and three gigs at the RMH. That’s not enough to attract arts funding, as a track record is vital.
      As a result, a lot of folk see this as an effort to get a barge renovated with other folk’s money.

  4. What a miserable bunch of comments from a bunch of saddos who have absolutely no idea of the effort, level of commitment and financial input into this visionary project. Thanet’s children will be the more impoverished by the failure of our social institutions to get behind, let alone fund, this project. And our local MP, Craig Mackinlay, seems to take a personal delight in vilifying this project without any facts getting in the way of his vile utterings. Shame on you all.

    • I agree that some comments on here are unnecessarily harsh.
      But the stark reality is that no one invited this barge to Ramsgate. Its arrival here is not the consequence of a study into children’s arts provision in the town.
      It is an ambition by a couple of enthusiastic but possibly misguided people.
      I hope that not too many fingers are burned, and not too many are out of pocket as a consequence of the demise of this project.

    • Ramsgate lover

      Just because people arnt into art doesnt mean they are saddo’s. I could say the same about the arty sector trying to take thanet over

      • It’s not the lack of interest in the arts. That’s down to personal preference. It’s the sniping comments based on no evidence. A huge amount of effort went into this, mostly invisible from the outside. Projects can succeed or fail for all sorts of reasons but I defy any of the naysayers to attempt anything good for Ramsgate. It’s easy to moan – how about thay do something positive themselves?

        • Thing is Ramsgate Lover 9 times out of 10 its an art related story.

          A large sector of the art community want us the tax payers to fund their hobbies. So when they try to fund it themselves they cant afford it. Why cant the art sector support its self ?

          Turner Centre has had millions of taxes and even after 10 years still cant stand on it’s own two feet. Still needs are taxes.

          I am not against art we have local art shops that dont rely on our taxes. Nothing against free enterprise. I am just fed up to the back teeth of all the free money given to the art sector. The TC is a disgrace that it needs our taxes to survive. We are told the TC has huge visitors so why not charge them or is the TC scared that these numbers would drop if people had to pay to see their hobbies ?

          We have so many other areas in thanet that needs support from our taxes. In the time that the TC has been open only an area of a couple of hundreds has improved. It’s not good value for our taxes.
          Personally I think going down the arty community has ruined thanet move by pushing up house prices and rental prices beyond local wages.

          Perhaps if local people felt involvement in their area the graffiti, litter etc might be reduced. Until the next banksy graffiti appears which is art lol

          Rant over

    • Why not actually do something to help raise funds then, instead of just posting comments under a pseudonym?

  5. There was never any commercial logic in using a rusting old barge for anything other than scrap. Especially so in a town with some of the lowest commercial rents in the South East. Finally it’s dawned on the people behind this that owning an expensive to maintain, depreciating asset is only viable when you have an unlimited supply of other people’s money!

  6. Well at least they gave it a go. Unlike Dean Stalham and his art box. I hear Dean has escaped Thanet to return to London, got bored and lost interest in “helping” other criminals, drug users and the homeless express themselves through art on his glorious floating box.

  7. You can see why it was denied a mooring in Barking..
    They didn’t want a load of old scrap taking up space on a mooring that could be earning some money.
    I’m not against art but I don’t like the way that every art project expects someone else to fund it. Who is going to fund the maintenance on a rusting 80 year old barge when an art gallery in Margate needed millions spent on it after only 10 years? If you want art in Ramsgate then get something that isn’t going to sink. Spend money on the former motor museum and have that as an art venue.

  8. Project Motorhouse, according to a piece on another Kent newspaper, would have cost at least £5 million.

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