Southend turns into a spectacular art walk this September

Published Thursday, 31st August 2017

Silk River

Southend is celebrating the UK’s rich cultural relationship with India hosting Silk River, a spectacular 10 day ‘art walk’ that will culminate in Southend on Sunday 24th Sept from 9:30am - 4:15pm.

Silk River has been created by Kinetika, the internationally renowned company responsible for the art installations that led the Athlete’s Parade at London 2012 Olympic Games to the delight of approximately one million onlookers.

Silk River will feature twenty colourful hand-painted Bengal silk scrolls, each 6 metres high, which explore the unique relationship between London and Kolkata, India, and reveal the stories of those who live and work on the river and the connections they have with parallel communities living alongside the Hooghly in West Bengal.

Southend-on-Sea is a seaside resort town that marks the point where the Thames Estuary joins the North Sea, and this year the Borough celebrates its 125th anniversary. Ready for a hearty portion of Leigh-On–Sea’s fish and chips, we begin our last day carrying all 20 scrolls through this thousand-year-old community of fishermen. We meet local artists and hike up the hill to Chalkwell Park to experience Metal’s NetPark, the world’s first Digital Art Park.

Fuelled by legendary Rossi Ice cream, we gather in numbers to parade up the pier for a finale performance from the Mudlark Choir, and a parting moment when we send our stories out into the ocean with a blessing from the Hindu Association for the scrolls’ safe passage from London to Kolkata.

Register for the walk here:

The event will take place in 10 different locations across London, from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew to Southend, and the full list of locations, times and meeting points can be found here:

Kew will host an exhibition during October half term school holidays of all 20 of the silks accompanied by a programme of activities.

Ali Pretty, Kinetika’s Artistic Director said: “It was my first visit to India in 1984 that inspired me to work in the arts, using them as a tool for social change and community development. Silk River will build on my experience over the last 30 years, bringing together communities from the UK and India for a meaningful 

exchange of stories and ideas. By sharing and celebrating the similar histories and narratives between the River Thames and India’s Hooghly River, the Silk River Project hopes to encourage the celebration of rich local history, and engage the community along the journey of rediscovery.”

Cllr Ann Holland, Executive Councillor for Culture, Tourism & The Economy at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: “I'm delighted that Southend has been selected to host the final leg of this wonderful tour and set the silk scrolls out to sea from the iconic Southend Pier. 

“Southend has a rich and diverse community and this spectacular finale will be a unique opportunity for residents and visitors of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate the cultural ties between the Thames and the Hooghly rivers in a riot of colour and sound.”

Following the London Silk River walk, a twelve-day performative walk will take place alongside the river Hooghly, India, from Murshidabad to Kolkata. Along the journey together from Azimganj, Murshidabad to Botanic Gardens, Kolkata, on boat, foot and by train, participants will engage with contemporary artists, historians, writers and musicians, and participate in curated events comprising of talks, workshops and film screenings. More details about the India walk can be found here:

Silk River is brought together with the associate Artistic Director Ruchira Das from Think Arts, India and an international team of artists, writers and photographers and is supported by Arts Council England, British Council, Dartford Council, Kent County Council, Thurrock Council, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Barking & Dagenham CPP, Metal, Royal Opera House Trailblazers, Thurrock, Long Distance Walkers Association London Group and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.