PLATFORM works across disciplines for social and ecological justice. It combines the transformatory power of art with the tangible goals of campaigning, the rigour of in-depth research with the vision to promote alternative futures.


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Vessel, 1997 -

A rolling exploration of, and proposal for, a transformed ex-industrial craft for the use of artist and community activists on the River Thames.

a possible think-tanker?

A dreamboat for the Millennium - an agitboat for a democratic and ecological city - a think-tanker for the future

Today few people would say that the Thames is at the heart of London life. Despite the achievements of organisations such as the London Rivers Association and the Thames Festival, of progress such as the Thames Path, and the opening up of major public spaces around Tate Modern, the city has largely turned its back on the river as a living, touchable thing - except, of course, when there is a profit to be made. Its industrial and transport role has declined and most of its warehouses converted into expensive housing - the river banks privatised. Many of the historic public steps have had gates - albeit unlocked - placed deterringly at their entrances, ensuring that even fewer people venture down to the foreshore. The Thames is a water vista whose past is often erased and whose future beyond the tourist boat is yet to be imagined.

Vessel is about the possibility of the Thames to link, as only water can link, Londoners with their city and beyond, towards other lands - opening up the space in which the community and its diverse cultures are determined.

Vessel will be a platform for visions - a moving phenomenon that challenges, alchemically rather than politically, creating ideas and actions to surprise, entertain and inspire, open and democratic - a dreamboat for the Millennium.

Vessel may well be many things - a centre of ecological, artistic and cultural research; a meeting, exhibiting and performance space; an alternative ferry service; a demonstration of innovative technologies and plurality of ownership (many ideas have been put forward). Yet it will be both real and practical, visionary and fantastical. It will be a public and dynamic space - a neutral country where everyone is a citizen. An inspiring celebration and catalyst for social change - an agitboat for a democratic and ecological city.

Vessel will not only help to revitalise the Thames as a public space, but also ensure that the river becomes a place where part of 21st century London is created - a think-tanker for the future.

Imagine Vessel then, as a Thames ship reborn, slipping its mooring on the tide - another day's adventure about to begin. Its cargo, the monumental possibility of transformation that is inherent in ideas.

PLATFORM launched the idea of Vessel after nearly 3 months of research and labour : at a meeting in January 1998 thirty eight artists/ecologists/activists/architects/mariners came together to brainstorm the challenge of Vessel. As one contributor said "Vessel is a vision, and this is perhaps its main purpose. A symbol of Real Democracy: Anarchic, Agitprop, Community, Neutral Ground."

Vessel is an idea waiting to happen : it will require the vision, skill and commitment of a range of people, and above all the timing of an appropriate craft plus an injection of cash. PLATFORM feels no ownership over this idea , but let us know...

"Vessel is a vision and this is perhaps its main purpose. A symbol of real democracy, anarchic, agitprop, community, neutral ground."

"Why is it so potent?"

"This doesn't become a confident answer, but a dynamic question to the issues relating to the natural environment. What is art for? Process not product."

Dan Gretton, John Jordan, James Marriott, Emma Sangster - artist, John Sprange - mariner, Jane Trowell

Thanks to the Ashden Trust for funding the research phrase of this project.