Silk River

Making of the Silk Scrolls – UK


Twenty artists and community groups from Southend to Kew came together for 10 days in June 2017 to discover and celebrate their local identity and connections with India, through painting giant 6m long silk scrolls for the Silk River project.

Attendees from – Kew, Tower Hamlets, Greenwich and Woolwich, Barking & Dagenham, Purfleet, Dartford, Gravesend, Tilbury, East Tilbury and Southend, previously attended intense design sessions with Kinetika to discover their local history and created designs that will be used on the scrolls.

Fascinating connections have been made between these areas and the areas they have been partnered with in West Bengal.

All twenty scrolls will be walked along the Thames in September and along the Hooghly in December by participants of Silk River revealing their stories on the way.

Kew:  There are rich connections between the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and the Botanic Gardens in Kolkata.  The scroll for Kew has images which include some of the treasures from Kew’s Economic Botany Collection and not only highlights the wonderful plants there but also the trade links between continents.

“Thank you very much for arranging a fun day of research and drawing – the hours just flew by! I hadn’t been to Kew in a number of years and spending it on the Silk River project was special, having followed the project’s progress online for a number of months now.” Saif Osmani, Artist

The scroll for Tower Hamlets includes references to the migrant Huguenot silk weavers who used to live in the area, a mulberry tree and the East India Company.  On the Silk River walk in Sept, you can visit the “Strangers’ Home” learn about the lives of the East India Company lascars and their protests, and visit the church of the East India Company.

The project has been a great way to introduce the history of Tower Hamlets to our participants who are aged 12-25yrs. They have become aware of how research both online and out and about in the borough can inform their designs and they have become excited about the story of migration and refugees to the East End including their own family members.  In one youth club of very challenging boys they weren’t interested in the design and silk painting, but got drawn into a discussion about the different immigrants to the area and how they have contributed to the local, national and international economy, arts and culture. One boy then completed a silk painted piece. It is so unusual to get them to focus on anything”  Sarbjit Natt, Youth Arts Officer for ‘A’ Team Arts ( LBTH Youth and Community Services)

For the Greenwich & Woolwich scroll, there are references to the area’s maritime past which connects them to Barrackpore/Serampore, their Silk River partners.

With landmarks such as the Royal Naval College, Royal Arsenal, Artillery Barracks and the Cutty Sark, Greenwich & Woolwich are known for their maritime and military histories.

With such close proximity to big rivers, both Greenwich & Woolwich and Barrackpore/Serampore were prime locations for the training of soldiers, marines and sailors.

By sharing and celebrating the similar histories and stories between these two places in the UK and India, the Silk River Project hopes to encourage the celebration of rich local history, and engage the community along the journey of rediscovery.

The scroll for Barking & Dagenham shows Captain Cook and his ships – apparently he got married in Barking!  There are also references to iconic buildings such as the Abbey and references to the riverside communities that are a significant part of local history in both Barking & Dagenham and Chandanagore, their Silk River partner.

In Purfleet, students from Belmont Castle Academy have been learning about the Indian poet Tagore.

The Silk River project has been both interesting and stimulating for our children at Belmont Castle Academy. It has embraced many areas of the curriculum but has given us so much more including understanding of Indian cultural identity, Art and Literature. It has enabled our children to explore and use their creative skills in different formats and we have been inspired by the work of Rabindranath Tagore, especially the beauty of his poetry. Our children have produced some superb art work and poetry as a result of our learning and research on Tagore. Furthermore a groups of BCA children have created a large scroll  of their own art telling the narrative of High House Production Park in Purfleet.”   Amanda Bray    Pupil Premium & EAL Lead,      Belmont Castle Academy

Purfleet Primary have also taken part and visited the local RSPB nature reserve with an RSPB specialist and local historian.

The scroll for Dartford contains references and images of the area’s connection to the river.  For residents here, the river is not an adornment or an ornament, but a working thoroughfare that has provided jobs and prosperity for hundreds of years.

Dartford Council are keen to engage as many people as possible through this project. Not just the usual suspects like the artists and community groups, but every resident right across the borough, to give them more reasons to be proud of Dartford and connect with the heritage of the area.

For Silk River, Dartford is twinned with Howrah in West Bengal, which is a big transport hub with an iconic bridge that looks exceptionally similar to the QEII bridge.

Gravesend has a long standing and strong connection with India, with a significant history of migration stemming from the 1950’s when the Indian community settled in this riverside borough.

The scroll for this area contains references to the beautiful Sikh Gurdwara Temple which is one of the largest in the UK.  In the Silk River project, Gravesend is twinned with Murshidabad which is also known for its iconic buildings such as the Hazarduari Palace, the palace with 1000 doors.

The Tilbury scroll highlights the connections this area has with the ports of Kidderpore.  Containers of all kinds, and ships of various sizes, can be seen in and around the docks area of both places and is a rich source of history.

During the design workshops, 60 children from Thurrock schools enjoyed the stories of ex-docker Les at the Tilbury Cruise Terminal.

The children really enjoyed both the cruise terminal visit and the in-school workshop so I’m looking forward to seeing the final outcomes!!”  Tilbury Pioneer School

The East Tilbury scroll includes images connected to the Bata shoe factory that operated 1932 – 2005.  There is a Bata connection to Kolkata as the company also built a workers factory and settlement there in Batanagar. With Batanagar under threat, there is interest in preserving any connections with India so that this memory is not lost.

Through the Silk River project the Bata Heritage Centre hope to raise the international connections and profile of East Tilbury as a surviving and thriving modernist village built by Bata – one of many across the world.


The Southend scroll has references to the well-known ceramicist Richard Baxter because Southend is partnered with Krishnanagar, which is renowned for its clay sculptors, such as Gautam Pal.   The Southend scroll has also included reference to Mr Osbourne – the infamous fishing family of Leigh, because there is also a community of fishermen on the Jalangi – the tributary river in Krishnanagar.

During the design workshops, children from Southend tested Krishnanagar’s 6 meter scroll on the Pier, and shared stories and drawings with members of the Hindu Society after walking 13,000 steps proudly to their drawing and design workshop. (Then walking back to school!). All good practice for the walks in September.  


Artists and participants that created the UK scrolls:

Kinetika Artists
Ali Pretty
Jacci Todd
Jane Ford
Margaret Hall
Jo Beal
Donna Plakhtienko
Leslie Robinson
Mike Johnston
Gordon Parker
Sarah Moorcroft

Aysha Khan
Saif Omani
Lucy Thurley
Halima Khanom
Marie Nassir

Tower Hamlets
Geraldine Bone
Sarbjit Natt
Canan Salih
Piero d’Angelo
Lucrezia Levanti
Nowshin Prenon
Berni Yates
Maria Cuji
Bushra Hussain
Sindy Nguyen
Emily Juteau

Greenwich and Woolwich
Fabiola Retamozo
Jessica Poon
Sonia Thapa
Mr Thapa
Ms Thapa (daughter)

Barking and Dagenham
Susanna Wallis
Saira Awan
Kerry Griffith
Johnny Paterson
Jim Albert
Sophie Merriman
Wumi Oyewole
Jimmy Lee
Khushnood Ahmed
Shanzay Ahmed
Aariz Ahmed
Stuart Hitchcock
Lexie Hitchcock

Lisa Meehan
Doreen Scarlett
Gary Scarlett
Jamie Scarlett
1 x child Scarlett
Uzezi Odjohu
7 x Brownies
Christine Rowles

Purfleet RoH Bridge
Molly Boughtwood
Victoria Gooding
Rachel Nash
Susanna Wildon

Ruth Howard
Kate Withstanley
Tanya Outen
Kemi Adeyemi-Wilson
Nicola Vaughan
Anne Graves
Christine Collins
Yvonne Clarkson

Kirsty Gaunt
Catherine Mayors
Liz Howe
Sonnia Margarita
Pam Childs
Bouchira Photay
Wafa Obeid
Paivi Seppala
Carol Gosal
Sukhbir Bassan
Parmjit Rossan
Kidir Sand
j M
Chris Mack
Amerdeep Hunjan
Elizabeth Straupmanis
Emil Straupmanis

Sara Hayes
Steven Lawes
Anne White
Rebecca White
Rebekah Wallace

Tilbury Pioneer
Allison Axten
8 x Tilbury Pioneer Pupils

East Tilbury
Jackie Creasey
Emily Moon
Lizzie Challis
11 pupils from Harris Academy Chafford Hundred

Damien Robinson
Lee Moon
Sidney Patrick
Walter Reid
Tina Holmes
Jilly Reid
Nina Chavda
Manji Solanki
Anju Lund
Violette Dooley