Working River: An Oral History of London’s Boatyards

HD_170602_4143 © Hydar Dewachi
South Dock Marina. Photo © Hydar Dewachi


Since March 2017 I’ve been working on a project to document the living history of London’s boatyards, from the Thames Barrier up to Teddington Lock. The project has been run by the Thames Festival Trust, in partnership with the Museum of London, supported with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Working with 25 fantastic volunteers, we’ve interviewed 28 men and women who have worked in London’s boatyards and shipyards, from ages 18 to 87 years old, recording their memories of the yards, their training and skills, and the changes that have happened to this industry during their working lives. These audio interviews are being placed within the collections at the Museum of London, and have also been the basis of two exhibitions of this history in September 2017, one along the Southbank outside the National Theatre, and the other in a specially converted boathouse exhibition space on Richmond Riverside as part of Totally Thames festival.

HD_170525_0206 © Hydar Dewachi
B J Wood & Son, Isleworth. Photo © Hydar Dewachi


The project commissioned contemporary photographer Hydar Dewachi to visually respond to the environments of London’s working yards, and the people working in this industry today. Hydar’s photographs are currently on display at two exhibitions in London until October 1st, at Waterman’s Art Centre in Brentford, and at the London Bridge Hive Gallery in Bermondsey.

HD_170614_2624 © Hydar Dewachi
Ted Leppard, Eel Pie Island Slipways. Photo © Hydar Dewachi.


As part of the project, we also worked with arts and education charity, Digital:Works, to make a full length oral history film, No Cash, No Splash: An Oral History of London’s Boatyards on the Tidal Thames, which focuses on the voices and memories of London’s boatbuilders. The film was shown on the Community Channel on September 8th 2017, and screened at locations across London as part of the Totally Thames festival. You can view the full film below:

A book about the project is currently being produced, and will be going to participants and local archive collections in November.

For more information about the project, interviews, film, photographs and the book, go to


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