Paul Richardson-Chute
Ark Recovery

I don't want to make too literal an interpretation of what every element of the sculpture represents. I also do not wish to categorically state what it is.

It is perhaps better to tell the story of the sculpture and leave the interpretation to the imagination.

I was working as an artist and volunteer with the people who attend Changing Lives' Northumberland Recovery Partnership in Blyth.

At that time, August 2016, the arrival of the Tall Ships Race in Blyth was imminent and there was a lot of art and cultural projects already underway connected to the Tall Ships visit.

We were eager to make an artwork that was relevant to the experience of recovery from substance misuse, to the Port of Blyth and it's history of shipbuilding.

I suggested that we could recover driftwood from the beaches local to Blyth and make a boat based sculpture.

A sculpture made from recovered driftwood was a perfect metaphor for the process of recovery from substance misuse. All these separate pieces of wood had been lost at sea at some point and had washed up on dry land, we were going to work as a group and create something new and purposeful with them, just as recovery is achieved with help, interaction and peer support.

We discovered that the first aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, was built in Blyth in 1915, in recognition of this we decided on the name of the project Ark Recovery.

Most of the participants were not artists, almost all had never participated in making an artwork before. It was slow progress at first, there was a lot of scepticism and it took some persistence to get people to have a go, assembling the sea from the twigs of driftwood raised more questions than it enthused new participants.

The sculpture took from September 2016 to May 2017 to complete and despite several moments of doubt, even from myself, it suddenly seemed to become the artwork we'd been aiming for, it had of course evolved, some of the things picked up from the beach although not driftwood were too good not to be used, pieces of rusted metal, parts of a lobster pot and a piece of sea worn plastic.

Many of the participants wrote personal testimonies about their recovery journey. We took the Ark to other Changing Lives recovery centres in the North East of England, during these visits other testimonies were collected from other people in recovery. We nmade small boxes and placed the testimonies underneath the deck where they were sealed in. The Ark became spiritually significant.

It is currently on display in the foyer of Changing Lives Northumberland Recovery Partnership Recovery Centre in Blyth Northumberland

I'd like to give particular credit to Sarah Gregory, she was involved from the start and never flagged and contributed a great deal.

I'd also like to thank all of the participants involved in the Shipbuilding and the support of the staff at Changing Lives Recovery Centre, Blyth.

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