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Last chance to step on board floating public artwork ~Flow

  • Date: 6 September 2012
  • Area: North
~Flow on the River Tyne

~Flow on the River Tyne. Credit: Jill Tate

On Sunday 16 September, the day of the Great North Run, ~Flow will close its doors for the last time. ~Flow is a floating tidemill on the River Tyne, home to electro-acoustic musical machinery which respond to the changes in the river, powered by a huge waterwheel. Since opening in March it has welcomed over 37,000 visitors on board to interact with the instruments and take in unique views of the River Tyne.

Created by Owl Project and Ed Carter, ~Flow is our north east project for Artists taking the lead, as part of the Cultural Olympiad celebrating the London 2012 Games.

The project has captured the imagination of thousands of visitors from all walks of life; school groups, engineers, an Olympic athlete (Jonathan Edwards) and even a Hollywood actor (Alan Cumming).

The creative programme running alongside the project has hosted artists in residence, dancers, writers, filmmakers and musicians; and staged special events, engineering talks and even commissioned a children’s writing competition.

Ed Carter, project lead and initial concept for ~Flow, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted with the response ~Flow has received. The aim was to create an engaging experience that the public would enjoy, and seeing so many people on board and attending our events this year hopefully means we have gone a long way to achieving that. It’s exciting that we still have a few weeks to go but I do think it will be quite emotional when ~Flow closes its doors.”

What next for the project?

~Flow was initially designed as a temporary public artwork, using materials that could be recycled or re-used. After receiving such positive feedback from the public, with over 50% of visitors rating the experience as 10/10, the ~Flow team have been considering how to extend the life of the artwork. Options include keeping ~Flow in its current form, or housing separate elements of the mill house, instruments and waterwheel in different locations.

On the future of ~Flow, Ed Carter said:

“Throughout the year we’ve had a number of conversations with potential partners regarding the future home for ~Flow. These have included options of repurposing the mill house, and different future iterations of the many elements that make up ~Flow. At this stage however, a future home for ~Flow has not been confirmed. If this remains the case, the instruments on board will become part of Owl Project’s portfolio for touring and exhibition, and the mill house, wheel and hulls will be dismantled and recycled.”

Alison Clark-Jenkins, Regional Director Arts Council England said:

“~Flow was conceived and created locally, and has brought national and international talent to the North East as part of its thriving creative programme. The artwork has been one of the most exciting additions to the region in this ground breaking year for arts and culture – thousands of people have stepped on board to engage with this unique artwork.

“Although ~Flow was always supposed to be a temporary project, I hope a future for the artwork is secured, in some guise. The project has been a great success and is something the Arts Council is hugely proud to have supported. If you haven’t yet, go and see it before it leaves us on Sunday 16 September.”

~Flow facts and figures 

37,000: the number of people who have stepped on board ~Flow since it opened

3,500: man hours taken to build ~Flow

700: the number of times the tide has turned on the River Tyne since March 2012

55: the distance in kilometres ~Flow travelled from Northumberland's Amble Boat Company to the NewcastleGateshead Quayside

43: events inspired by ~Flow as part of its Creative Programme

30: the number of staff members who have manned ~Flow, from The Sage Gateshead and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

20: the skilled workers it took to construct ~Flow, including engineers, architects, artists, designers and craftsmen 

4.5: the diameter in metres of the waterwheel powering the instruments on board ~Flow

Opening times and getting there

~Flow is moored on the north shore of the River Tyne in the heart of NewcastleGateshead, directly opposite BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and next to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

~Flow is free to board and open to all, 11am - 5pm, Wednesdays - Sundays, until Sunday 16 September 2012.

For more information about ~Flow you can visit its website, follow the team on Twitter and like its page on Facebook.

~Flow Tow: from Amble to Tyneside

[+] View Transcript

Footage of ~Flow making its way down the North Sea, and up the River Tyne, to its home on the NewcastleGateshead Quayside. Click the arrows for full screen video, then select HD for best picture.