Lookout 21

A decommissioned Lighthouse Ship turned arts venue in Kent
Kent Autistic Trust aboard LV21

Ideas Test’s support for LV21, a decommissioned Lighthouse Ship turned arts venue based on the River Medway at Gillingham, saw the local community working with professional artists to explore their interests and creativity and inspire others to do the same.

The project

LV21’s Lookout 21 project sought to uncover and invest in local creativity by supporting local people from all kinds of backgrounds, ages, abilities and interests to explore their local surroundings and heritage through the arts.

Three very different commissions were created on board and around the ship.

Radio Arts and Colin Turner
Gillingham resident and prolific member of voluntary and community groups Colin Turner worked with Magz Hall and Jim Backhouse of Radio Arts to combine practical engineering and artistic radio skills. Colin, Magz and Tim created a series of workshops and events on LV21 and around Gillingham where people could try out radio making as well as donate sounds to create a ‘Human Foghorn’ for the ship. Jim and Magz documented their time aboard LV21 with a series of audio recordings and the residency resulted in a participatory online sound map, which collected, archived and shared local sounds submitted by local people. 

 "I’m a firm believer in collaboration and that great results come from sharing skills and interests, getting people involved in new activities, and this project reaffirmed this." Colin Turner

Kent Autistic Trust, Wendy Daws and Underground Pearl
The second Lookout commission was led by Kent Autistic Trust (KAT) who wanted to explore how working with professional artists might open up opportunities for their service users to build confidence and get involved in the arts.

Medway visual artist Wendy Daws worked with the autistic adults to create an immersive, multi-sensory underwater world that friends and family were invited to step into. KAT staff noticed that those who took part were more willing to step outside of their comfort zone as a result of the project. 

"Some people have just been amazed, others have found it very funny and again some people have just found it magical and can’t stop mentioning the SHIP and the Captain!" Christine Edwards-Daem, KAT Operational Manager for Medway

Dizzy Dare and the Neale Family
The third commission, Deep Sea Treasure, saw three generations of one Sittingbourne family working with local theatre companies Dizzy O’Dare and Play on Words Theatre youth group to create a new radio play based on Grandfather Robin Neale’s extensive knowledge and passion for the history of the River Medway.

What was the impact of the project?

The project was a great success in terms of introducing LV21 to new audiences in the area. More than 1100 people visited LV21 during the period of the Lookout 21 project, with 50% of those being first time visitors and 70% attending more than one workshop.

Many of those who took part in the commissions have continued their creative journey. Since Making Waves ended, engineer Colin Turner has continued to pursue his interest in sound art and, working with Jim and Magz of Radio Arts, ran a series of radio-making workshops in Spring 2014 in venues around Kent including The Beaney and Turner Contemporary.

Artist Wendy Daws who worked with Kent Autistic Trust has recently received support to run her own project in care home settings in North Kent and Robin Neale now acts as an advisor to Dizzy O’Dare and says he has been newly inspired to finish his memoirs.

"I never knew that my stories would be of interest to anyone outside my family and friends so wasn’t sure what would come out of the collaboration. I really enjoyed the whole process of sharing memories around old photos and some of the artefacts I have collected over the years. I have been writing my memoir for a few years now and this project has given me the extra push to keep going with it." Robin Neale