Public art for Riverside Park to prompt biodiversity and social isolation conversation

Bridge over River Itchen by Damian CookFunding’s been secured by a local visual art producer for two projects which promise to prompt local conversation about biodiversity and social isolation.
Photo: Damian Cook



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Bitterne Parker and independent visual art producer Katie Daley-Yates has secured funding to work with local artists sarah filmer and Deborah Gearing to produce the two community-focused public projects.

Cormorants with eel by John Scammel 600px Cormorant with eel. Photo: John Scammel

The Eel Run, by local playwright, printmaker and poet Deborah Gearing, aims to raise awareness of the European eel, which used to be found in abundance in the River Itchen and other local chalk streams, and is now critically endangered.

And Drawing on the Outside, by visual artist sarah filmer, will be a nine-month programme of fortnightly creative workshops in Mansbridge for men experiencing isolation, to “come together, make and reconnect with their local community and spaces”.

Funding comes from Arts Council England, Abri, The Southampton Collective and Three Rivers Rail Partnership.

“I am thrilled to have secured funding to develop my first independent public art projects in Southampton,” said Katie Daley-Yates. “I was drawn to working on my own doorstep because the neighbourhood is vibrant, supportive and home to many brilliant local artists.”

deborah gearing with eel all aboard 2022The Eel Run will celebrate what’s described as an “iconic and threatened species” over the next year, through story and memory collection, new poetry and printmaking workshops, culminating in summer 2023 with a celebratory event.

“I first became fascinated with eels when I wrote a play set on the chalk stream rivers,” said Deborah Gearing, pictured left dressed to perform eel and river poetry at All Aboard 2022.

“I met a river keeper and he told me about these marvellous creatures, which used to be so common in the Itchen years ago. When I investigated further, I was shocked to realise they are a red list species, and highly endangered.

“When I was asked to develop a project for Riverside Park, I knew straight away that I wanted to make work about the eel. I hope that lots of people will be part of my process. The first step is to collect stories and memories of eels to preserve them for future generations, to make sure local people know about this wonderful fish. I want to celebrate the eels in the Itchen with words, printmaking and performance. There are still some eels out there, hiding in the murky water – but they won’t thrive if we don’t do our best to keep the water clean.”

If you’ve got an eel story, memory or sighting from the River Itchen to share, you can get in touch with the project at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Speaking about her Drawing on the Outside project, sarah filmer said: “i spend a great deal of time in riverside park and the surrounds. i see men sitting on benches alone. one man, one bench. covid has reduced all of our social skills, but those who were already isolated have suffered more than most. this project will aim to gently entice people out of their own space and back into shared spaces to experience the power of creativity in a collective and supportive environment, which i hope will make a real difference to the men who decide to come along to the workshops.”

For more information about the project and workshops – coming up on October 13 at St Mary’s Church Hall, October 27 outdoors for Apple Day (details TBC) and November 17 at St Mary’s Church Hall – you can get in touch using This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Further information on both projects is on Katie’s site at

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