Wet Dock visitors

In October 2018 a familiar red-painted vessel appeared in the Wet Dock (see the photograph on the front cover). At one time light vessels could be seen moored on the (pre-marina) Island quay and scattered around the river estuary at Shotley.

The Pharos Trust restored the former Trinity House Manned Light Vessel No. 18 for use as a visitor attraction and heritage learning facility using volunteer help over ten years. LV18 is a survivor from the heyday of British shipping and is unique because she still contains the original crew quarters, galley, mess room and six Gardner diesel generators to power the lantern, foghorns and ship’s equipment. She does not have motive power owing to her original purpose of being towed to a mooring position and anchored to provide light warnings to shipping. This last manned light vessel was withdrawn from service in 1995 and has been open to visitors to take a tour below decks since 2011, moored at Ha’penny Pier in Old Harwich.

Two tugs manoeuvred the vessel from Harwich, up the Orwell, swinging her round to pass through the Wet Dock lock stern-first with about a metre-and-a-half clearance. It stayed on Orwell Quay for about six weeks, during which her Harwich berth was dredged. The ship was used in the film The boat that rocked about pirate radio. It has been a pirate radio museum recalling the days from 1964 to 1967 when Radio London, Radio Caroline and many more broadcast pop music just off the Essex coast starting the careers of DJs John Peel, Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, Simon Dee and Johnnie Walker.

To coincide with graduation ceremonies for the University of Suffolk being held nearby, the skies were lit by the LV18 powerful rotating beam, which can be seen 25 miles away. The residency of the light vessel overlapped with the 11 days of an impressive sound installation as part of the 2018 SPILL Festival.

Clarion Call by Australian artist Byron J. Scullin & Supple Fox features the voices of Beth Gibbons (Portishead), Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins), Elaine Mitchener, Melanie  Pappenheim, Cherise Phillips and guidance from English folk pioneer Shirley Collins.

Over the 11 days of SPILL Festival, this large-scale outdoor sonic artwork rang out from the Ipswich waterfront into the town’s public spaces at dusk for eleven minutes each day. The voices of women and girls calling to the setting sun in daily incantations were broadcast with audio technology usually employed for emergency and control (banks of trumpet-shaped speakers mounted on top of a number of the dock’s highest buildings), repurposed as a mechanism for ‘public ritual’. Some residents didn’t like it so well…              

R.G.

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