Biodiversity and the Tidal Thames

The Tidal Thames is a recovering ecosystem of great ecological importance and the Estuary supports a diverse flora; rich populations of invertebrates; 121 species of fish and many internationally important aquatic birds.

In 1957 however the River Thames was declared biologically dead with water quality so poor that it could not sustain life. Since then the river has undergone a massive transformation, water quality has improved, and wildlife has returned. Nevertheless long stretches of concrete flood defense walls on the Thames are still preventing plant growth and the invertebrates that thrive in healthy riverbank habitats.

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Photos from the Lambeth Floating Marsh launch

On the evening of 15th September 2015, Lambeth Floating Marsh was opened by Professor Geoff Petts, Vice Chancellor of University of Westminster. Loraine Leeson and Nithin Rai described the project, while Chris Coode, Deputy Chief Executive of the environmental organization Thames2, provided an overview of the challenges and opportunities for wildlife along the urban reaches of the Thames.

Science and Technology dean Professor Jane Lewis drew on her specialist knowledge of micro organism behavior to consider the benefits of new habitat, and concluded the event by reflecting on the value of the arts and sciences working together to bring these issues to public attention.

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Professor Geoff Petts, Vice Chancellor of University of Westminster opened the event and spoke of his specialist interest in river ecology.


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The GLC Story

On 8th May 2017 A Greater London published interviews on its GLC Story web site together with a new zine to commemorate the achievements of the Greater London Council (GLC) in the 1980s.

Loraine Leeson was interviewed in relation to the work of the GLC’s Community Arts Sub-Committee, on which she served during the Labour administration of the 1980s. During this period the most radical re-working of cultural policy that this country has seen took place in the capital, with £millions transferred from London’s ‘centres of excellence’ into cultural projects in which ordinary citizens could participate.

In 1986 the GLC was abolished by Thatcher, but A Greater London aims to recover that lost history, and uncover lessons for today. A group of volunteers collected and recorded these memories, which can be heard here. The oral history project is now complete and to share it with a wider audience a paperback zine has been published, which can be downloaded here, together with transcripts of the interviews.

New Active Energy turbine to be launched at Three Mills

3.30 – 5pm Saturday 13th May 2017
at National Mills Weekend

For this new phase of the Active Energy project a floating water wheel is being placed in the River Lee close to an historic tidal mill. The outflow from the mill pool will turn the wheel, which will then drive an aerator to oxygenate the water and counteract the effects of pollution on the river’s fish and wildlife.

The process has been led by artist Loraine Leeson working with the Geezers, a seniors’ group based at AgeUK, and supported by the Lea Valley team of the Hydrocitizenship research initiative. Engineer Toby Borland designed and implemented the new wheel, while Thames 21’s Love the Lea has provided facilities, advice and further support. The wheel’s low-cost open source design will soon be viewable on the Active Energy web site so that others can take up the idea.

House Mill, Three Mill Lane, Bromley-by-Bow, London E3 3DU
info@housemill.org.uk 020 8980 4626
Nearest tube: Bromley by Bow

MA Art and Social Practice at Middlesex University

Loraine Leeson will be running a new MA in Art and Social Practice commencing September 2017

The course builds on the UK’s significant history of community-based and socially engaged art initiatives addressing social and environmental issues. Students take their creative practice beyond the institution to build on their own interests, networks and communities, grounding this in critical understanding and theory. Loraine Leeson will lead the course, drawing on her longstanding experience in cultural activism and community collaborations. Additional input will be made by artists, writers, designers and cultural entrepreneurs active in the field of socially engaged practice in the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries.

The course offers:

• Experienced practitioner-led teaching combined with the rigour of an academic environment renowned for its cultural studies.

• Off-site project work based on own interest, contacts and communities.

• A supportive environment for developing collaborative, peer and professional networks.

• Active research context with specialism in socially engaged practice.

• A wider university context to support interdisciplinary working.

• State of the art facilities, studios and workshops with contemporary and traditional equipment, archives and digital tools including software labs, 3D printing and media studios.

• A programme of visits, trips and seminars to experience and debate London’s thriving scene of social engagement, cultural activism and arts-led urban regeneration.

• Opportunity to share critical debate and research across a cluster of masters programmes.

Further information

To apply

Funding support

UK student loans for postgraduate study 

Active Energy: Three Mills – open workshop for National Mills Weekend

11am-4pm Saturday 14th May 2016
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To celebrate National Mills Weekend The Geezers will be working with artist Loraine Leeson and engineer Toby Borland in front of House Mill at the Three Mills heritage site to construct a stream wheel for later installation in the Lower Lea. The wheel will be activated by the outflow of water from the mill and will power an aerator to help oxygenate the water and counteract the effects of pollution on the river’s fish and wildlife.

This current phase of the project is taking place as part of the Hydrocitizenship initiative.

New Active Energy turbine planned for the Lower Lea

The next phase of the Active Energy project is to take place in the Lower Lea, where the outflow from part of the Three Mills heritage site will be utilized to drive a small turbine. This will in turn power an aerator that will help oxygenate the water to counteract the effects of pollution and support survival of fish. This is a continuing collaboration with The Geezers and engineer Toby Borland. Other partners include Thames21House Mill and Middlesex University via the Hydrocitizenship research project.
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Launch of Lambeth Floating Marsh

On the evening of 15th September 2015 projections of river organisms were projected along the Thames embankment in Lambeth  to draw attention to the importance of supporting biodiversity along urban rivers.

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This arts/science collaboration between artist Loraine Leeson and scientist Nithin Rai includes new reed bed habitat for micro organisms and invertebrates in long basket structures attached to the hull of the Dutch barge Tamesis Dock. Find out more at www.lambethfloatingmarsh.org.uk.

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Celebrating the Active Energy turbine

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._MG_2532

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.

Active Energy Turbine installation October 2013 from Loraine Leeson on Vimeo.

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.•Turbine installation x 2_MG_2504IMG_0903 Edited twoGeezerpowerADJUSTED•Presentation x 2IMG_2551