Consultation open from 7 February to 18 March 2022.
To the River: a new public artwork commissioned to celebrate and promote the story of the River Cam in Cambridge, as part of an artist residency on the river.
In 2016, we approved the development of a new public art commission to promote and celebrate the story of the River Cam through an artist in residence commission.
The project aims to promote the use of the river and its environs; to understand its heritage and encourage social engagement and leisure activities to the wider residents of and visitors to Cambridge. It's a project that celebrates and promotes the River Cam and recognises the river’s importance to the city and associated heritage value.
The project seeks to acknowledge and mark the place of the River Cam within society and the landscape. To engage with local communities to research stories, facts and aspects of the river to reveal its position in the city.
The project is funded by public art S106 developer contributions, which have been secured specifically for the delivery of public art projects in accordance with our Public Art Policy.
The project has been overseen by a steering group comprising of representatives from the city council, the Museum of Cambridge, the Conservators of the River Cam and external public art expertise.
The brief for the artist in residence required an artist to be resident on the river for at least one year and to creatively engage the local community and stakeholders to build a resource and to discover hidden narratives. To explore the river’s relationship to the foundation of Cambridge as a city, its ecology and social history through research and community engagement and activity leading to the development of a permanent work to be located somewhere on the river within the city’s boundary.
In 2018, we commissioned artist Caroline Wright as artist in residence for the River Cam. As artist in residence, Caroline has spent two years engaging with the local community and discovering hidden narratives about the river. She has developed several live and participatory projects in response including ‘Flow’ and ‘Knit for the River’.
Flow was a community performance in September 2018. It involved as many forms of transport as possible along the River Cam, to transport a container of river water upstream after which it was returned to the flow of the river.
Flow was part of the In Your Way festival and established the moving river water as the focus for the overall project.
Knit for the River
Building on the tradition of laundry washing and a short-lived textile industry in Cambridge, Knit for the River involved over 100 Cambridge residents knitting over 400 small squares from undyed organic wool.
The squares were sewn together to form several larger knitted blankets that were then installed in the River Cam to support the natural environment as part of the river regeneration programme to re-build eroded land.
Watch an interview with Caroline explaining the series of community engagement events. The events have informed the final design for the permanent installation on the river.
Further information about the project can be found on the To the River website.
Site-specific public art proposal and consultation
The work that artist Caroline Wright has undertaken thus far as artist in residence has inspired the development of a site-specific permanent work of public art to be located at Sheep’s Green. The research element of the residency has informed the development of the concept design and identified the site for the proposed artwork.
The concept design is grounded in the context of the river and learnings from research to be site specific. We now seek your views on the concept proposal.
The riverbank where the proposed artwork will be installed has recently undergone improvement – it comprises 50m of sheet metal piling to address erosion issues. The artwork will utilise this existing metal sheet piling as a framework on which it will be fixed and formed.
The work doesn’t impose itself into the natural riverbank. There is potential for the artwork to aesthetically improve the current engineered sheet-metal structure and create opportunities to enhance the views from Mill Pond, Laundress Green and Silver Street Bridge.
The proposed artwork is a three-dimensional sculpture formed in a subtle gold-coloured metal. It will be positioned along the riverbank at Sheep’s Green, dipping into the river water and folding along and up, connecting land and water and etched with the pattern of Cambridge lace.
The colour is described as gold, but it will be subtle with an effect that can be described as like the range of colours seen in sunlight when oil has been dropped into a puddle. It is not proposed that the work will be shining as a bright metallic gold. The project is a concept design and yet to reach the detailed design stage.
- Read about the community engagement aspect of the To the River project [PDF, 0.7MB]
- Read about the concept proposal for the sculpture [PDF, 20.5MB]
- Read about the site context and information [PDF, 1.5MB]
The final design is subject to planning permission, Conservators of the River Cam consent and Environment Agency consents.
Installation is hoped to enable a launch event as part of the World Rivers Day in September 2022.
How to comment
The proposal is in the concept design phase and the detail will not be developed until the next stage of the project and after this consultation. There is an explanation about what the detail and finishes may look like. It is just the principle we are looking for feedback on, to further inform the detailed design of the work.
We’d like you to tell us what you think of the concept proposal for the sculpture. To submit your views please email email@example.com.
We hope to be able to deliver the final piece of work in time for a launch event to coincide with World Rivers Day in September.
An exhibition displaying the proposals was held at Cambridge Central Library from Monday 7 to Friday 11 February.
The final date for submitting comments is 18 March 2022.