Marce's Barge Blog #1


There are many contradictions inherent in Selby Tony.
A barge which now lives in York but which was christened with a name redolent of its previous life carrying grain between Hull, Goole, Selby and York too. How many of those names (three for most Yorkshire people) conjure up images of neglect and decline?
And yet here is Tony, vividly recovered, well-loved and fully inhabited.
A dumb barge, noisy with the bustle of creative life.
A male who, by tradition, is all woman.
A static thing which feels so dynamic. A hulk of metal which feels so...personal.

I first encountered Tony on the ‘critical list’ - one of a number of barges aimed for the scrap heap - destined to be carved up into sections of lucrative steel, its timber-deck ragged with rot and decay, its paintwork still faintly visible but fading into the muted tones of a forgotten pride.

It was Hannah West, who, with that unerring eye for potential, first saw Tony and decided he was The One. The rest is, so to speak, history.

Don’t ask me why but I was desperate to sleep in the barge. At first sight it’s not an appealing prospect. But, honestly, we should sell tickets for the experience. You’re at once in something massive but encompassing. Grand but simple. Powerful but peaceful. I had the best night’s sleep of years.

And then, in the daytime, Tony welcomes.
All kinds come to find the barge. It’s a magnet for the unusual.
People I’ve seen for years in York and never actually spoken to who have been to see things I’d never have imagined they’d even register.
Long-term supporters who didn’t lose faith in the idea of what the space could offer.
And travellers who find some sense of connection with a thing which was built to move but which revels in the calm of belonging.
Tony is the most benign of retirees. A Grandparent loving the energy of its grandkids.

The Fates were at play in this barge. Surely Christian Topman's name can’t be coincidence? Alastair Hamilton's love for craft and authenticity will be written all over the final build. And in the all-doing, all-seeing Hannah Hutchinson Tony has found the perfect maitre-de.

I have dreamed about this barge. And, strangely enough, it’s all come true.

Marcia Mackey

Hannah West