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.
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.”
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.