In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

The Floating Cinema

The Floating Cinema is an old work boat re-imagined into a cinema for intimate on-board film screenings, larger outdoor film events and other film-related activities curated by artists Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie (known collectively as Somewhere). The structure navigated the waterways of the five Olympic host boroughs during the summer of 2011, hosting events at 26 venues including screenings of more than 60 filmmakers, 10 bespoke tours, and was visited by over 75,000 people.

The existing boat was 2m wide by 16m long with two enclosed cabins at either end, a 4m long glass-fronted interior, and a 3.5m length open to the elements. The boat has an engine allowing the cinema to move around the canals autonomously.

The transformation of the boat into a cinema was a collaborative process involving an array of expert fabricators and local craftspeople. The existing boat was refurbished by local canalboat dweller Will Austin. This crisp structure was contrasted by the soft quilted canopy, which consisted of a treacle tart-like lattice made from steel tubes by local steel fabricator Peter Scully; and a soft quilt made by sailmakers. We also worked with illustrator Jill Tytherleigh who designed the unique pattern that is sreenprinted on the sail fabric.

To create the interior, furniture maker Simon Jones devised bespoke flip-up cinema seats that allow 12 people to either face forward towards a screen at one end, or face each other for workshops and seminars.

These seats are designed to fold away and flip up to allow this small space to be cleared for non-seated events.

Textile designer Georgia Bosson made removable upholstery cushions for the seats to ensure comfort during feature-length films or longer journeys...

...and creating the sense of luxury and glamour associated with cinemas, even on this small boat.

The Floating Cinema also acts as an outdoor viewing area protected from the elements for admiring the landscape when the boat is on the move.

The fabric pattern draws inspiration from Art Deco, a style strongly associated with both boats and cinemas, and Roses and Castles, the traditional narrow-boat decoration style. 

The pattern encapsulates the nature of the project as a whole: an extraordinary melange of diverse functions and characteristics that come together to form an unusual and expressive creation.

This project formed part of CREATE festival 2011 and is the latest commission in UP Projects’ Portavilion programme, an ongoing project that explores the possibilities for temporary, large-scale public art. Portavilion 2011 was commissioned by Olympic Delivery Authority as part of its Arts and Cultural strategy and funded by Arts Council England. It is an important strand of the cultural participation programme in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The making of The Floating Cinema.

Emma Underhill and Laura Harford of UP Projects : The Curators


UP Projects initiated the project and brought us and Somewhere together.

Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope of Somewhere : The Artists


Karen and Nina found Cole (the boat) and programmed the Floating Cinema. Here they are testing projecting from the boat while it’s on the move.

Annie Myers and Hazel Saunders : The Boat Owners


The Floating Cinema is actually a boat originally named ‘Cole’ owned by Annie Myers and Hazel Saunders. Originally built as a British Waterways workboat Annie and Hazel bought Cole in Stockton, Warwickshire and sailed her down to London, ‘camping’ on board. Work had already begun on adapting the boat for community trips when Somewhere first saw it early in 2011.

Fortunately they met Annie and Hazel just at the point that the boat shell could still be adapted to make the on-board cinema.

Will Austin : The Boat Whisperer


Houseboat owner Will has carried out extensive refurbishment works both clearly visible (painting the boat bright turquoise!) and invisible.

In installing a bathroom and doing up the kitchen, Will has made the boat habitable; in being there to lend a hand with the installation of every component, he’s helped the whole thing come together; in installing the electrics and audio visuals, he’s turned the boat into a working cinema; and in singing suitably cheesy songs (eg ‘The Final Curtain’ when the curtains were going up) he’s kept us laughing.

Jill Tytherleigh : The ‘Puff’ Pattern Designer and Illustrator


Illustrator Jill created a fantastic love child of art deco, roses and castles, and the East London waterways.

Jill’s work is used on the Puff as well as on printed info, the website and in the sign.

Peter Scully and friends at AB3 Workshops : The Steel ‘Treacle Tart’ Fabricators


AB3 Workshops fabricated the Puff’s structure in their fantastic Hackney Wick workshops.

The structure resembles a treacle tart and is made from welded steel tubing.

The installation was quite exciting as the steelwork had to be lifted onboard by hand from the tow path.

It was welded directly to the gunnel making for a neat detail.

Everyone at Jeckells The Sailmakers : The not-a-sail ‘Puff’ Makers


The Puff was made from sail fabric by Norfolk-based sailmakers, Jeckells.

They used their sailmaking skills to create a rather un-sail-like quilted item...

...that fits snugly over the Treacle Tart.

Jill’s pattern was silk screen printed in the Floating Cinema’s signature bright turquoise onto silver sail fabric.

Simon Jones : The Furniture Maker


Simon made twelve flip up seats for the cinema.

They’re made from reclaimed oak tables.

Responding to the tight, narrow space of the boat, the seats face diagonally inwards...

...offering legroom at the same time as angling cinema-goers towards the screen.

Georgia Bosson : The Curtain and Upholstery Creator


Textile designer Georgia has created a fantastic smocked curtain that blacks out light in the cinema.

The use of smocking creates a fabric that can fold up neatly and create texture alluding to the opulence of cinema interiors while being space-conscious in this tight space.

Cats like it too.

Solly Vaughan and Peter Hardwicke : The Sign Painters


The final touch was a traditionally painted version of Jill’s design.