Open Swim promises rich music, wild stories and wise words on the Art Barge Friday, but please don’t swim

Adderstone’s Cath Heinemeyer and Gemma McDermott: wild swimmers, alt-folk duo and organizers of the Art Barge Open Swim

On Friday night, York’s floating venue Art Barge will stage a special river-themed show in the Forth Basin, where music and words will flow.

“This barge, alias Serbitoni, has woken up from hibernation and is ready for action,” said Arts Barge coordinator Hannah West. “Everything is set for an open swim – but no swimming allowed!”

In a joyous “aquatic feast of rich music, wild stories, wise words and all-round sophistication”, the bill from 7pm to 11pm features alternative folk duo Adderstone; more instrumentalist White Sails; storyteller and hypnotherapist Lara McClure’s strange tales of aquatic animals, York Grand Slam winner Hannah Davies’s riverside poetry; Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen quotes York river poetry and Amy-Jane Beer’s story of rowing along a British river.

Poet Hannah Davis on the banks of the River York

Proceeds from Open Swim ticket sales will be donated to Right to Roam, a charity dedicated to better access to wild spaces. That night, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase a signed copy of Right to Roam’s popular new book, Wild Service, featuring the work of nature writer Bill.

“Rivers should be safe and accessible for swimmers, paddlers and other water users, whether human or wildlife,” right-to-roam campaigners said. “But only three per cent of Britain’s rivers have undisputed rights to use them, and it’s no secret that sewage and agricultural pollution mean most of them are in poor health.

“Our own well-being depends on their well-being. We need to reconnect with the rivers to be able to care for them and fight for them. That’s why the book is called Wild Service and this show is one A wild act of service.

Poster artwork created by Kai West for the Art Barge Friday Open Swim

Sewage…agricultural pollution…poor river health: No wonder it’s open for swimming no Swim invitation! Catherine Heinemeyer, one of the show organizers Adderstone, commented: “It would be great to imagine a day when the water companies have cleaned up their act and York’s rivers become beautiful, clean places to swim. ——But unfortunately, this is not the case now!

“As wild swimmers, we wanted to create an event that highlighted the wild waters we all love. What better place to host a water-themed show than the river itself?

“Art Barge is a wonderful local project that York is very proud of and we are delighted to see it move closer to its full potential. Please come along and enjoy the fantastic line-up of musicians and artists we have brought together, but please don’t take your cossie!

Richard Kitchen: Poet, artist and co-founder of Navigators Art & Performance

All artists agree to charge no fees to maximize performance revenue, with donations and bar proceeds going to Art Barge. “We rely entirely on volunteers and donations, and our goal this summer is to build the long-awaited deckhouse, creating a covered area on the deck that will ultimately keep the rain out,” Hannah said

“This will be a huge step toward becoming the fully accessible community arts space that York imagines and loves. Visit to view the story and stay tuned for future events this summer.

Tickets cost £8.50 and are available from Eventbrite via or on the door for £10.

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