We have a unique opportunity to become a part of history by saving an incredible 120+ years old Dutch coal barge and giving her home in the Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour. Our aim is for her to be in the centre of the 200th anniversary Royal Harbour (status) celebrations in 2021, and a local attraction celebrating the town regeneration.

Vriendschap (Friendship in English) is an impressive, 50m by 7m, historical vessel, built as a cargo ship in the Netherlands and launched during the reign of Queen Victoria. She was brought to the UK from her native Holland twenty years ago and was recently purchased with a view to be converted into a local community centre on the river Roding at Barking Creek.

Due to unforeseen circumstances the promised mooring spot in Barking was denied and she was under serious threat of being towed away and scrapped by the Port of London Authority.

This is when we stepped in and secured her a permanent mooring along the Harbour Parade at the Ramsgate Royal Harbour. Currently we are awaiting our time in the slipway, so that she can be surveyed, and the required maintenance works can be carried out on the hull.

Our Mission

We aim to save and restore this beautiful 19th century barge and give her a new lease of life as a thriving community-centric creative hub. Onboard we will offer workshops, talks, exhibitions, performances, film screenings, radio broadcasts, podcast production and much more. We will encourage skills exchanges and foster mentoring, with resident artists and visiting experts, with plans to expand to invite artists and lecturers from overseas art institutions and educational establishments.

With initial funding via grants and fundraising initiatives, we will aim to become self-sufficient once the boat is fully restored, the resultant art studios are occupied, and the event calendar is up and running. We will be minimizing our carbon footprint by generating electricity from solar and wind power, which will additionally contribute to the reduction of running costs.

The Crew

The initiative is captained by Zuza Czarniavska, who provided the mad idea for the whole adventure, and Paul Powlesland, who owns the barge and went with the mad idea.

Zuza is a local artist who, prior to moving to Ramsgate, lived and worked on board a barge for 7 years on the Rivers Lea and the Stort.

Paul is a London barrister, environmental and social activist, who lives on board his narrowboat on the river Roding.

They are supported locally by Gemma Dempsey, Ian Atkinson and many more amazing volunteers.

Gemma is a radio producer involved with several Thanet initiatives, and will set up Ramsgate Radio & Podcast Studio on board.

Ian, Zuza’s husband, is a Visualisation Director at a media agency and uses his magic to make our website and posters look fantastic.

The Five Masts

Our mission is to help Ramsgate’s ongoing journey to become the recognised centre of creativity the town deserves to be. A heart of cultural and artistic development where the whole community both contributes and benefits. We aim to deliver this by becoming a community-centric creative hub built on the following five masts

1: Heritage

There is a nice synergy in bringing our historical 120+ years old barge to Ramsgate just before the town starts preparing for the celebrations for 200th anniversary of the Harbour’s Royal status. We are hoping to embrace and celebrate that connection.

2: Art and Culture

Not only will the barge provide space for existing artists, it will attract new ones to the area. The reason many artists opt for Margate or elsewhere is due to a paucity of spaces in Ramsgate itself. The barge has the potential to be a magnet for artists and practitioners from a wide variety of disciplines, who would in turn bring opportunities for commerce and local spending in the area as well as developing and enhancing the creative community.

Providing a much need venue for local artists to display their works and attract audiences from near and far.

Organizations such as Looping the Loop and Screaming Alley need rehearsal space as well as venues for paid shows and performances.

Providing a studio to broadcast and train children and adults in audio and video production. Radio Ramsgate will promote local businesses and rent out podcast space and air-time on a per-hour basis.

3: Community

Community will be in the heart of the Ramsgate Arts Barge bringing the network of creatives keen to share their skills and offer mentoring to those from the local community. We are aiming to engage local schools, exiting creative institutions as well as heritage organisations.

4: Learning

A strong learning stream flows throughout everything we will be engaging in, giving locals an opportunity to benefit from the skills on board the barge. We will be reaching out to local schools and have big plans to offer a wide variety of interesting ways for students to get involved with the project.

5: Environment

We intend to demonstrate low-environmental impact by becoming completely off-grid by using solar panels, wind turbines, compositing toilets and water collection solutions. Our goal is to become champions in this sphere, to continue to learn, develop and share knowledge. We see this as an opportunity to inspire conversation and drive social change. We would like to partner with local schools and engage the students in research, whilst encouraging our local wind power company to design bespoke showcase systems for the needs of our barge.

The Plan

The project will be run by a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC), that will have a lease of the boat for 3 to 5 years, in return for covering the costs and maintenance of the boat. We will then have an opportunity to purchase the barge outright at a pre-agreed rate.

The internal space is split into two halves. A large publicly accessed community space for exhibitions, talks, events, workshops, gatherings etc., and a separate area that will be designed to offer co-working art studios, which we will offer to artists and craftspeople at affordable rates. In addition to this, there is also a captain’s cabin which, when refitted, will play an integral part in our residency scheme where artists will be invited to live and work on the boat.

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