An exciting new art/science collaboration supporting biodiversity on the River Thames is about to begin between artist Loraine Leeson and biophysical chemist Nithin Rai, who runs the Tamesis Dock barge, recent testing site for the Active Energy tidal turbine. Funding from the Western Riverside Environmental Fund, which re-directs revenue from landfill tax for environmental purposes, will enable the creation of a floating reed bed alongside the barge, situated opposite Tate Britain between Lambeth and Vauxhall bridges. Located on the site of the original Lambeth Marshes, this initiative promotes the ‘greening’ of the shored up banks of the river, while providing a sheltered habitat and monitoring station for river organisms. It will also serve as a pilot for how biodiversity conservation may be expanded along the inner city reaches of urban rivers. An artificial ‘rock pool’ in the form of a large petri dish located in the centre of the reed bed will offer a sustaining environment for organisms brought in with the tide and act a static observatory for observing the organisms inhabiting this pool. Visitors will be able to connect to the project web site via their phones to observe recent activity and learn about the issues affecting biodiversity conservation in the Thames. In summer 2015 watch for images of these organisms projected along the riverbank. There are plans to extend the project to involve young people in both the monitoring and imaging processes.
On Tuesday 8th October a new design of tidal turbine was tested for the first time on the River Thames. Over fifty people including John Biggs, GLA member for City and East, attended an event to celebrating this highspot in the five-year Active Energy project, where a small-scale turbine was moored alongside the Tamesis Dock barge to test its functionality. It is the first turbine of this scale developed for slow moving tidal rivers and has potential for low-cost replication for developing nations overseas.
The turbine was developed and built by engineer Toby Borland in consultation with a group of older men attending the Geezers Club at an AgeUK centre in East London. Five years previously when artist Loraine Leeson, who is leading the project, asked the Geezers what technology could significantly improve their lives, they decided that this would be to use energy generated by the River Thames to power their community. Since that time they have been working with the interdisciplinary team that has gathered around this project to turn their dream into reality.
The project has been supported throughout by the expertise and generosity of a host of individuals and organisations including the arts organisation SPACE; social scientist Professor Ann Light of Northumbria University; engineer Stephen Dodds, Emeritus Professor at University of East London and renowned for developing the control system for the European Space Commission; Tamesis Dock owner and scientist Dr. Nithin Rai; Jamie Hodge who provided expert help with marketing and publicity; and Fran Gallardo who provided graphic design. The turbine has now been taken away for improvements. Further funding is being raised to allow the work to continue.
The Big Money is Moving In photomural featured in the V&A exhibition Postmodernism Style and Subversion 1970-1990, has now moved to the Swiss National Museum, Zurich.