Before heading off to this years Battlemesh in Porto, Portugal, James Stevens got together with 20 Deptford locals, Inurian activists and Mazi partners for a low tide walk on Deptford Creek. Our guide for the walk was botanist Nick Bertrand of the Creekside Education Trust, leading river ecology and environmental experts.
We had a splendid experience of the creek and learned a lot about how our impact on the environment, even one already so compromised and contaminated by waste and decades of abuse can have unexpected outcomes on ecology of plants and animals. When 400 shopping trolleys were removed in 1990’s it caused a collapse of fish populations! So now things a mostly left as they are.
Hundreds of school and public groups a year visit the creek and gain a unique experience and insight into the workings of Thames tributaries and an understanding of this most urban of British coastline, it’s place in history and current state of play.
Fresh water from the River Ravensbourne washes into Deptford Creek having soaked up Spring Brook, Pool and Quaggy rivers on its wander from Bromley. Daily tides swell the Thames 7 or 8 meters, yet the creek remains mostly fresh water with very little saline effect to deter plant and animal propagation. The sea wall containment of all these rivers has restricted the opportunities for nature to gain a firm footing, yet many wild flowers and water creatures thrive in the stew of manufactured and organic rubbish the river drags along. We saw leaches, shrimp and crabs and should expect flounder and eels in abundance later in the season. Decaying timber ‘bumpers’ along the length of the creek serve alongside purpose built terraces as home to small fish and plant life, nurturing success of species variety.
Many human lives also rely on the ebb and flow of the river not least the boating community here, many of which we continue to talk to and engage with, as our MAZI pilot develops. Minesweeper Collective operate an art lab aboard the wooden triple hull 2nd world war minesweeper in the creek. A screen printing workshop and image creation lab occupy the below deck areas whilst on deck the space suits symposium and performance both of which are well used by local and visiting artists. The collective seeks energy autonomy and uses 12v throughout, currently relying on large batteries, charged by diesel generator but intent on harvesting solar and wind before long. Slow repairs to the boat following a fire in 2008 are in progress but a crowd funding campaign and or public funding is needed to complete the majors works still required.
Yesterday, Greenwich Maritime Museum hosted a public consultation for those interested in artist and community collaboration projects seeking funding. The presentations from GAVS, ACE and Royal Borough of Greenwich, each explained how funding and support was available to nurture project development of public arts. Greenwich operate a Community Arts Fund which would particularly suit existing minesweeper project work and may offer a pathway to greater development funding in the future. In particular with a view to participating at the tall ships event in 2017 where a season of community arts and creative interaction events a planned to celebrate the return of the Tall Ships regatta to Greenwich . The theme for this year’ is ‘Voyaging, Discovery and Adventure’ perfect.