take me to the river
west silverton trail
Asta trail
north woolwich
precious places
ports of call

What is Ports of Call?

trail research - local historians and multi-media practitioners work with local volunteers to develop new trails for the area, covering the industrial and cultural history of the docks and their hinterland in the past and the unfolding realities of living and working in the area now and in the and future. A related series of free workshops offers training in historical research, recording oral history and media production.

mapping and interpretation - maps and audio guides are produced, featuring testimony from local people that can be accessed on-line, via mobile phones or downloaded on to portable media players. Trails can be experienced online to reach a worldwide audience; intensive workshops targeted at local unemployed people offers training in the skills of tour guiding and practical experience of leading walking groups.

artist led heritage exploration - a series of commissions for artists to work with local people and their immediate landscape. The commissions create material for the trails, installations to visit and become a focus of heritage learning activities and events. In 'Take me to the river' primary school children spent several days digging with a professional archaeologist on the Thames foreshore before working with an artist and designers at the University of East London to create artwork based on their finds for public exhibition. In the 'Asta Trail' composer Jo Thomas worked with teenagers at the Asta Centre youth club to compose music and sound artwork for their own trail of their neighbourhood. Along the way participants developed skills in interviewing, recording, sound editing and music composition, as well as having the chance to question local experts including a museum curator, a shop keeper and social entrepreneur and local property developer Lord Mawson. In 'Precious Places' artist Loraine Leeson created plaques to commemorate places of personal significance to local residents.


about Ports of Call



Toby Butler (project director)

Toby Butler is a lecturer in London History and Heritage at the Raphael Samuel History Centre, University of East London and Birkbeck, University of London. He teaches on the undergraduate history programme and the MA Heritage Studies programme concerned with place, memory and history. He also teaches a course in digital storytelling at Birkbeck. The Ports of Call trail programme is a community-based development of his earlier work on ‘memoryscapes’ which integrate sound and oral history recordings. Toby has published several other trails including Dockers and Drifting in a collaborative project with the Museum of London and Royal Holloway, University of London and Liquid History, an audio trail featuring a series of marker posts commissioned by Elmbridge Borough Council. Currently he is working with the Hackney Society on an oral history project exploring healthcare in Hackney and creating a trail of Victoria Park in East London for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. He has worked as a tour guide, journalist and editor before entering academia, where he has published work in the fields of cultural geography, oral history and museum studies. He is also an editor of the History Workshop Journal. Contact or visit memoryscape.org.uk

Jo Thomas (composer)

Jo Thomas lives and works as a composer in East and North London. She lectures in electronic composition and sound design at the University of East London. Her composition research work concentrates on the development of micro-sound, glitch, technological artefacts and their relationship to human utterance and the human body. Her music is released by NMC Recordings and is distributed by the British Music information Centre. The music for these trails was composed and produced at Glitchwork Studios, London.   myspace.com/jothomaselectrosound

Mark Hunter (artist)

Mark Hunter is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader of the BA (Hons) Community Arts Practice programme at the University of East London. He has worked in public and community settings over the past ten years, often utilising walking as a means of investigating the history, memories and archaeology of different locales. Mark has led projects and walks for Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Lickey Hills Country Park, the Live Art Development Agency, and Minefield amongst others.  or visit uel.ac.uk/ipad/

Helen Marshall (artist)

Helen Marshall lives and works in East London. Helen Marshall’s art practice is rooted in photography and socially  engaged practice. She has a track record in making works in  participation with others. Her interventions challenge and provoke  the inadequacies of conventional social documentary approaches, often empowering the subject in the construction of meaning. She has worked with a number of organisations including The Photographers’ Gallery,  BBC2, MUF Art Architecture, LIFT, Rosetta Life and Space Studios. http://www.helenmarshall.co.uk/

Loraine Leeson (artist)

Loraine Leeson is a visual artist and director of cSPACE www.cspace.org.uk, an organisation based at the University of East London, where she is also a Visiting Research Fellow. Since the late 1970’s Loraine’s work has engaged with communities around issues of regeneration, using the arts and media to bring individual and collective ideas into the public domain. Recent projects include VOLCO www.volco.org, an evolving planet in cyberspace created by children linking up across the world and The Young Person’s Guide to the Royal Docks, www.ypg2rd.org which culminated in a web based resource launched at the Museum in Docklands in 2007. A major retrospective exhibition documenting thirty years of her practice is currently touring in Europe and North America.

Andy Brockman (community archaeologist)

Andy Brockman is currently doing PhD Research at the University of Southampton into shipping in the Roman Period in South East Britain. Describing his practice, he says: "I don't see archaeology simply as a matter of objects, time lines and sometimes abstruse arguments about theory. I am interested in story telling and how the story can be researched, illustrated and changed according to the audience, or be changed by the audience. Above all I am interested in breaking down boundaries seeing archaeology as occupying a unique space between arts and sciences capable of informing both and inspiring audiences at many levels to see, hear, touch and participate.”




The Ports of Call project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the University of East London, the Royal Docks Trust and Tate and Lyle.

royal docks truts tate and lyle heritage lottery fund university east london


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