Water, Art and the City

week-long programme of events has been planned to spark creative conversations about further enhancing Chelmsford’s waterways. 

Chelmsford’s relationship with water

Credited as ‘the birthplace of Radio’, Chelmsford is known by many for its pioneering role in communications technologies, manufacturing and engineering. However, with two main rivers flowing through the city centre, Chelmsford’s identity is also built on its waterways.  

 The rivers Can and the Chelmer join together towards the east of the city to form the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, which heads out towards Maldon before flowing into the tidal waters of the Blackwater Estuary.  

Programme Partners recognise the city’s green spaces and waterways are important to its residents. Especially so during the pandemic, when many residents became tourists in their own city, exploring the countryside in their local area. The community’s shared cultural vision ‘Towards 2040’ states the ambition for Chelmsford to be “a proud green heart of Essex, where waterways and outdoor spaces are cherished”. Our waterways are popular routes for cyclists, walkers, canoeists, and wildlife alike, connecting the urban city centre with its surroundings. There is growing recognition of the role riverside regeneration can play in both nature conservation and public well-being.

Blue health research 

The research initiative ‘Blue Health‘ examines how wellbeing might be promoted through the development of blue infrastructure (water elements, like rivers, ponds, canals). It investigates the links between urban blue spaces, climate and health. The Canal and River Trust state that “the arts are helping to change public attitudes to canals and rivers by engaging a greater diversity of people who live near them”. 

Building on Chelmsford City Council’s recent artist commission with Essex Cultural Diversity Project, this programme looks to inspire and develop some creative thinking around the future of our waterways. With the new Chelmer Waterside development and opportunities for more public art, we are interested to reflect on how art and technology can be used to enhance our experience of the rivers and help create a closer sense of connection to the city. The planned events are just the beginning of ongoing conversations to further connect the public with Chelmsford’s waterways.  

What’s on? 

Current Digital Waterways  — Exhibition and website preview by Sian Fan 

Exhibition: 28th July-1st August – Unit 37 Meadows Shopping Center, Chelmsford

Mon-Fri 9am-17.30pm, Saturday 9am-6pm Sunday 10.30am-4.30pm 

Sian Fan, local interdisciplinary artist and artist in residence at the Sarabande Foundation will launch her digital waterways artwork, Current. 

Working with community groups and a range of technologies, Sian has created an interactive website that digitises key sites along Chelmsford’s rivers, forming an immersive and creative digital archive. Commissioned by Essex Cultural Diversity Project and Chelmsford City Council as part of Essex 2020, this exciting new project brings a whole new perspective to Chelmsford’s waterways. The exhibition includes underwater footage, Lidar scans, 3D photogrammetric scans of objects and plants and sound recordings of the river’s ambience.. In the exhibition, you can virtually walk through the environment, experiencing layers and perspectives from the river, previously unseen.  

Sian has exhibited internationally with venues including Tate Modern, British Council, and the ICA, as well as producing work with Channel 4, the BBC and Google, and was recently longlisted for the Lumen Prize. The Lumen Prize is an international award which celebrates art created with technology, especially digital art. 

We are excited to unveil Sian’s creative response to Chelmsford’s waterways. Sian will be available at the exhibition on Sunday 1st August to meet visitors and show previews of her website before it goes live on August 2nd 

Water, Art and Technology: Creating immersive experiences that bring people together 

An Ignite Chelmsford Social with talks from Sian Fan and Canal Convergence 

29th July, 7-10pm – Unit 37 Meadows Shopping Center, Chelmsford

All are invited to attend an evening of talks from interdisciplinary artist Sian Fan and Public Art Manager Jennifer Gill from Canal Convergence, exploring the themes of water, art and technology.  

Using examples from their own practices, Sian and Jennifer will talk about creating immersive experiences that bring people together, inspiring us to think about the future possibilities for Chelmsford’s rivers and canals. Together we’ll reflect on how art and technology can enable people to express their relationship to water and share their stories. Delving into our waterways as shared spaces with opportunities for place-making and community building we are excited to hear about creating personal journeys and ‘wow’ moments that bring the rivers alive.  

Canal Convergence run an inspiring annual programme on the theme of water, art and light on the Scottsdale Waterfront in Arizona. Winners of the 2019 Gold Grand Pinnacle Award from the International Festivals and Events Association, Jennifer Gill will be discussing how they develop the programme and share some of the content for their theme for 2021: “Art & Technology.” Looking at some of their spectacular installations should spark our imaginations as to what we could develop in Chelmsford. 

Sian Fan, local interdisciplinary artist and artist in residence at the Sarabande Foundation will formally launch her digital waterways artwork, Current,  and talk about her creative process working with community groups and a range of technologies. Sian’s interactive website digitises key sites along Chelmsford’s rivers, forming an immersive and creative digital archive and bringing a whole new perspective to Chelmsford’s waterways. Sian will share her interest in using digital technology as a way to reflect on the human experience with reference to her recent work exhibited in Paris, Melbourne and New York. 

This theme of water, art and technology builds on recent Ignite Chelmsford conversations to inspire some thinking about where next for Chelmsford’s rivers and canals. Through the discussion, we will explore how we can use art and technology to create immersive art experiences that bring people together.  

Ignite Chelmsford is a cultural forum for those involved in Chelmsford’s creative community. Whether you are working in the arts, volunteer, potential partner, or simply a culture-loving resident – you are welcome to attend, and we would love to see you! 

 Register here for Ignite! 

 

Creative Waterways Workshop  

Chelmsford Creative Collective and Chelmsford City Council’s Waterways working group are joining together to run a creative workshop looking at improving some of the concrete canalised sections of the river in the city centre. This is part of a wider initiative to enliven the city centre and have more creative spaces within the city. Through sharing ideas and inspiration from elsewhere, we will be developing some potential art-led approaches that could be used to brighten up those unloved areas of the river in the city centre, making the environment more appealing for all.  

You can come to Unit 37, The Meadows between 28 July to 1 August, and see some inspiring examples of how art and landscaping have been used elsewhere to enhance urban rivers and canals and leave your feedback on things you might like to see in Chelmsford.  

Water, art and the city programme is a partnership with Chelmsford City Culture, Meadows Shopping Centre, Chelmsford City Parks, Essex Cultural Diversity Project, Ignite Chelmsford, Chelmsford Creative Collective and Chelmsford Arts and Culture Festival.