Message in a Bottle

Photo Credit: Caroline Gervay

It is estimated that by 2025 more than half of the world’s population will be facing water-based vulnerability.

The presence of water is essential to the creation of life and beauty; its lack leads to destruction and socio-political unrest. These realities inform Message in a Bottle.

This project started in November 2011 and has enabled young people from six European countries to investigate, creatively and practically, how water (or the lack of it)

has an impact on their lives. Water was used as a metaphor for cultural exchange, creative dialogues and environmental learning.

The project facilitated collaboration between young people from the UK, The Basque Country, Poland, Portugal, Turkey and Ireland through virtual dialogue, exchange visits and local small-scale performances. In June 2012 Phakama UK hosted 64 young people from all the six countries over two-weeks to create a site-specific performance inspired by all the learning that took place.

After two international exchanges in London, Phakama embarked on a third phase of the project entitled Tributaries. In the Spring 2013 we worked with Archaeologist Mike Webber and a team of young artists investigating artefacts, stories and histories of the river Thames and its tributaries.

The young artists then turned the findings into music, poems, drama, painting etc. This format was implemented through science and arts workshops at Guardian Angels primary school leading to a shared public outcome.We aim to roll this project out across London involving larger number of primary schools actively engaging with the river Thames and its’ tributaries.

For more information on Message in a Bottle initiatives around Europe visit:

In 2013, Message in  Bottle- Tributaries worked with nine young people from the UK over the course of four months training them as Young Archeaologists.

Undergoing sessions with Archaeologist Mike Webber and Archivist Jenni Monroe-Collins at the Newham Library Archives, the young people learned about their local area in more depth and the influence that the Thames and its Tributaries had on the development of its industries over the years.

All activities were conducted in preparation to facilitate workshops at a local primary school, Guardian Angels. Over four sessions and a final sharing at the primary school the Young Archaeologists delivered the project (with mentoring from Phakama’s then Artistic Director, Fabio Santos and archaeologist Mike Webber) with years three and four.

In classroom focused sessions the school children explored maps, census records and barge art, developing a basis of knowledge and understanding of the Regents’ canal and its role as a tributary to the Thames, producing poetry inspired by artifacts found on the rivers shore.