Saturday, March 23, 2024


Theatreship at Millwall Cutting
Theatreship open for entertainment.

The Theatreship is a new, as of 2024, world-class performing arts space on a historic ship, moored on the Millwall Cutting on the Isle of Dogs. It is the Millwall Cutting that links the South Dock with the Millwall Inner Dock and, until the 1950s, continued to the River Thames via the Millwall Slipway.

I visited the ship just weeks after it opened to hear a talk by Niki Gorick, about her book 'Dock Life Renewed', for which the Theatreship was the perfect venue.

Lovingly restored and fitted with a new spacious interior bar area and an events space, with tiered seating, it is a remarkable piece of renovation and foresight.

Theatreship nameplate
A new name for a historic ship.

Brief History

The ship was built in 1913 and weighs 300-tonnes. She began life as a sailing cargo barge, that transported cargo like coal and grain from Europe to London. She would continue in service for over 100 years serving the ports of Northern Europe, before she was retired.

The team had to drive the ship from Drachten, Netherlands, to London's West India Docks, which was a 36-hour trip. Prior to this, two weeks were spent doing preparatory work, in the Netherlands, that included climbing inside the diesel engines, to clear out any sludge, so that it didn't clog any of the engine pipes should they hit rough seas. Then it was a case of waiting for a weather window to open. So they waited and waited and waited. Finally, a window opened.

The Theatreship bow
The bow of the Theatreship.

During the crossing, where waves buffeted the huge ship, every member of the team took a turn at helming the ship and slept in 3-hour shifts, to make sure that the crew could operate safely. 

Inigo Lapwood said that, "on a 300-tonne ship thrown around up-and-down, on the waves, you get a real sense of your place in nature and the brilliant ingenuity of the people who constructed these machines."

Top deck of the Theatreship
Looking along the top deck towards South Quay station.

The Theatreship is very representative of the types of small cargo ships that would have sailed in and out of London's Docks, throughout the 20th century.

The Theatreship now has a permanent theatre and performing arts space, within its cavernous hull, along with a bar. 

The Theatreship bar area
My mum relaxing in the bar area.

The vision of the team are that the Theatreship will celebrate all art forms, with local artists working alongside international artists, with an aim to engage the existing community while drawing in new people to the area.

Cinema, contemporary art, lectures, music, theatre and theatre workshops for kids are just some of the things that the Theatreship aims to support and promote.

The Theatreship at night
Night falls over the Theatreship.

The Theatreship is currently the largest dedicated floating arts centre in the UK.

The wider vision, for the team, is to open the Artship, which will arrive at West India Docks later in 2024. The vessel is currently in Germany and will take 7 days and nights to travel to London's Docklands.

When the Artship links with the Theatreship they will become the largest dedicated floating arts centre in the world.

The team behind the Theatreship include
  • Inigo Lapwood (vessel and evaluation) restoration and repair of historic steel ships and as a data scientist and AI developer
  • Nat Hill (film) multi-BAFTA winning TV director & producer
  • Karl Lutchmayer (music) a concert pianist and a lecturer
  • Dr Brian Lobel (theatre) Professor of Theatre and Performance at Rose Bruford college
  • Adam Termote (environment) environmental consultant and a researcher in Environmental Science at the University at Oxford
  • Max Hunter (technical) sound designer, engineer and acoustics/systems consultant 

For more information click the link below.


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