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Arrived back today from self-imposed exile in a cottage in the Norfolk Broads to find a hive of activity here at The November Project HQ.

The decks are being painstakingly stripped of rust and primed as part of November’s routine maintenance. We want to achieve a high quality, smart and attractive finish, which is also as tough and river-worthy as the barge itself. For £10,000 or so we could have the whole deck sand-blasted, but as part of our mission to achieve a stunning finish on the lowest possible budget and the lowest possible carbon emissions, we are painstakingly banging and chipping out the rust by hand, inch by inch across our entire 26m length.

Removing the rust leaves pocking, which requires sealing and filling. We are using linseed oil to seal, priming using red oxide, then filling with a two-part filler and following that with another priming coat of red oxide paint.

Over the top of this, once all the pock marks have been filled, the entire deck is coated with red oxide paint mixed with linseed oil, producing the glossy red finish you can see in these images.

Due to its polymerizing abilities, linseed oil used to be commonly used on its own or blended with other oils and resins as an impregnator and varnish, and as a pigment binder in oil paints, and as such is an invaluable resource in treating steel.

The November Project’s Jay Fitzsimons has single-handedly (re?)introduced it to many of the tidal Thames boat operators maintenance schedules as a way of cost-effectively sealing steel and improving the quality of the paints used on steel. The oil soaks in, acting as an effective sealant and ‘drying oil’. It looks great on bare and painted steel, and smells good too!

My Norfolk break away from the site was in order to find the space to intensively align all of our project processes with an APMP-driven methodology, which we are introducing to The November Project’s organisational processes across the board.

Guiding us is our recently introduced Project Management consultant. With so many different aspects involved in starting a new enterprise, the APMP methodology is introducing a much needed discipline and rigour to our processes which is enabling us to be more efficient working with our various legal, accounting, design and development teams, suppliers and partners, hauling us out of ‘panic’ mode and back into glorious and creative ‘comfortably stretched’ territory once again. Phew!

We highly recommend early-stage intervention of the type we are getting from our consultant to anyone taking on a multi-faceted project.

Shortly after ‘raining’ 100,000 poems over London’s as part of South Bank’s Poetry Parnassus, the UK’s largest poetry festival which saw over 200 poets from all over the world gather for over 100 free poetry events, The November Project’s Writer in Residence Karen McCarthy Woolf brought Julio Carrasco from Chilean art collective Casagrande to have a tour of The November Project.

Read more about the Rain of Poems

November Project friends Gareth and Emma from Halo Events visit The November Project during a rare break from the rain. Site visits are important to us right now as we build relationships with the people who will make the Project one of the most exciting venues in London.  Watch this space!

The November Project, as an innovation hub and a green-energy solution for the city, will be an incredible learning resource for generations of London school children.

Becoming part of a community and respecting your environment, overlayed by the global green agenda, are an essential part of our children’s education.

But this project goes far beyond citizenship. It also brings together the grandeur and history of the location and the River itself with the innovative collaborations in design and technology of the project – all in the heart of urban London.

It has the potential to inspire a generation.

Parrish, Matt Sketch of The November Project roof design: one of a series 2012

Design competition launched!

A huge number of people are involved with The November Project, which is what it is all about.

So we were overjoyed when Peter May, a student at Plymouth University – a uni with a strong marine heritage – came to see us with one of our partners, tensile specialists Timber Intent, about running a competition to design the roof of The November Project.

This part of the build is one of its most exciting – and challenging – features. It will be a tensile structure (tent-like in other words) and must withstand weather conditions on the river, be durable, use environmentally responsible materials, and be designed so that it does not make November  sail away!

You may have seen the Tender Opportunity we published about the roof challenge late last year.

Since then, students from a range of faculties including Architecture and Contemporary Design, have come up with over fifty sketches and two models, and have been sharing and discussing them using a specially created Facebook group.

A large and impressive body of work has emerged.

The sketchbook stage of the design process really is the most fertile and exciting aesthetically and creatively, and we are thrilled to have such a range and standard of visualisations and great ideas now in existence relating to November.

Roger Brisley, MD of Timber Intent, who presented the Tensile Structure CPD (Continuing Professional Development) to the students in February as part of the competition, and Jay Fitzsimons, the marine engineer and artist who founded The November Project, will be feeding back on all submissions and announcing the winner next week.

We will present an online exhibition of the designs here.

Many thanks to Roger and Peter, Plymouth University, and entrants Alex Jess, Matt Parrish, Alex Pyers, Ian Reveley, Nicole Shadbolt, Oli Smith, Rebecca Thomas, Tom Tregaskes, Tim Unsworth and Henry Williams.

One of Peter May's sketched designs for the roof of The November Project
May, Peter Design sketch for The November Project roof: one of a series  2012

Top: Parrish, Matt Design sketch for The November Project roof: one of a series 2012

Portrait of Peter May

Peter May_MA Contemporary Designer Maker, Plymouth University

Peter has come on board to run a competition at Plymouth University to design The November Project’s tensile roof canopy.  Although officially enrolled on the ‘Designer Maker’ course, his work has leaned more towards the general Design award and work relating to the University’s Centre for Sustainable Futures (CSF).

Peter’s involvement has already seen a raft of foundational work envisaging November created by students at Plymouth as well as by Peter himself, which are now a part of the wider collection of experiences and evidence relating to The November Project.

Peter’s mission is to improve the world around him through design – simple but hugely challenging and a life’s work. He has certainly contributed design-led value to the November story. You can take part in his latest work exploring ‘value’ in design, through the act of giving – anonymously or in person – by visiting his blog  addsomevalue.

Writer in Residence 2012: Karen McCarthy Woolf

The November Project is delighted to announce that London-born poet Karen McCarthy Woolf will be its inaugural Writer in Residence.

Portrait of Karen McCarthy Woolf, Writer in Residence at The November Project

The November Project will be providing residencies for poets from before its launch: Karen will be taking up her post at its current exciting development phase.

Karen will be given a very special level of access to The November Project while we prepare to build and open the Project in Spring, and will see and be inspired by its transformation from a cargo barge into a world class tidal-powered visitor’s attraction, social enterprise, community hub and green-tech workshop.

November floats in the middle of the river opposite the Houses of Parliament, a logistical challenge that Karen relishes, as being neither in north or south London, but floating in the middle of the river – a feeling of being in two places at the same time that is familiar to her as a mixed-heritage (English/Jamaican) Londoner.

The Thames has captured the imaginations of some of the greatest artists of our times, particularly from eras when the river was a much more integrated part of London life, and The November Project works towards shining a new light on the unique perspective the river gives of London, re-igniting its power to educate, entertain and enlighten.

Through Karen’s work we hope to explore what part the Thames plays in our lives and to work towards re-connecting Londoners and visitors to London to their valuable ‘green corridor’.

On November, Karen is ensconced in a powerful and natural environment and yet firmly seeded in the heart of the city. Both within London and detached, the tidal Thames currently feels inaccessible to many Londoners and yet is critical to its identity.

Karen McCarthy Woolf was born in London to English and Jamaican parents. Her poetry has been exhibited on the London Underground, broadcast on BBC radio and is published in magazines and anthologies, most recently in Poetry Review, Poetry London and Ten New Poets: Spread the Word (Bloodaxe, 2010). Her pamphlet The Worshipful Company of Pomegranate Slicers was a Poetry Book Society recommendation and a New Statesman Book of the Year.

Karen is also interested in exploring the creative process online in her blog http://www.opennotebooks.co.uk which was commissioned by literature development agency Spread the Word. Follow her on Twitter @KMcCarthyWoolf.

Karen will be developing work from her base on The November Project barge and in this state of being within the no-man’s water of inbetween (neither North nor South, both within London and apart from it) will be considering the environment and ecologies we encounter as urbanites and our relationship with climate change and how we explore it/integrate it/reject its presence in our lives, as well as reflecting on her more personal responses to the environment in which she finds herself on November and its resonance within her own journey.

She will also be inviting other poets to share in the process along the way, sharing her experiences with literary audiences on November through readings and workshops, and working with talented emerging poets from the local tidal Thames community.

Karen’s first public events will take place on November when it opens in Spring 2012. The events will  be part of The November Project’s cultural events programme.

The residencies that The November Project provides for poets, and all of its contemporary literature activities, are key pillars of The November Project’s cultural programme.

Karen McCarthy Woolf visiting The November Project

For further information on the residency or any activities associated with it contact Lucy Granville, Development and Communications, The November Project, 07825 447 772 info[at]thenovemberproject.com

Karen McCarthy Woolf will be available for interview from April 2012

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