Open Swim promises lush music, wild stories and wise words but no swimming, please, on The Arts Barge on Friday

Adderstone’s Cath Heinemeyer and Gemma McDermott: Wild swimmers, alt-folk duo and organisers of Open Swim on The Arts Barge

YORK’S floating venue, The Arts Barge, will be flowing with music and words at a special river-theme themed gig on Friday night at Foss Basin.

“The barge, alias Selby Tony, has woken up from its winter sleep and is ready for action,” says Arts Barge coordinator Hannah West. “It’s all aboard for Open Swim – but with no swimming allowed!”

In a joyous “aquatic feast of lush music, wild stories, wise words and all-round exquisite vibes”, the 7pm to 11pm bill comprises alt-folk duo Adderstone; multi-instrumentalists White Sail; storyteller and hypnotherapist Lara McClure’s strange tale of aquatic beasts, York slam champ Hannah Davies’s riverside poems; Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen’s poem invoking York’s rivers and Amy-Jane Beer’s stories of paddling along Britain’s rivers.

Poet Hannah Davies by the riverside in York

Ticket sale proceeds from Open Swim will go to Right to Roam, a charity that campaigns for better access to wild spaces. On the night, there will be the chance to buy a signed copy of Right to Roam’s hot-off-the-press new book, Wild Service, featuring a contribution by nature writer Beer.

“Rivers should be safe and accessible for swimmers, paddlers and other water users, both human and wild,” says the Right to Roam campaigner. “But only three per cent of the UK’s rivers have an uncontested right of access, and as we know, sewage and agricultural pollution mean that most of those are in poor health.

“Our own wellbeing is dependent on theirs. We need to reconnect with our rivers, to be able to care for them and fight for them. That’s why the book is called Wild Service, and this gig is an act of wild service.”

Kai West’s poster artwork for Friday’s Open Swim on The Arts Barge

Sewage…agricultural pollution…rivers in poor health: no wonder Open Swim is not a swimming invitation! Catherine Heinemeyer, one half of gig organisers Adderstone, comments:  “It’s wonderful to imagine a time when water companies have cleaned up their act and York’s rivers are beautiful clean places to swim – but alas, that’s not the case right now!

“As wild swimmers ourselves, we wanted to host an event to highlight the wild watery spaces we all love. And what better place to host a water-themed gig than the river itself?

“The Arts Barge is a wonderful local project that York is very proud of and we’re so excited to see it move closer to its full potential. Please come along and be enchanted by the wonderful line-up of musicians and artists we have put together, but please don’t bring your cossie!”

Richard Kitchen: Poet, artist and Navigators Art & Performance’s co-founder

All artists have agreed not to take a fee, thereby maximising the gig proceeds, with donations and bar takings going to The Arts Barge. “We’re totally reliant on volunteers and donations, and this summer we’re aiming to build the long-awaited deckhouse to create a covered area on the deck to finally stop the rain getting in,” says Hannah

“This will be a big step forwards towards becoming the fully accessible community arts space York has imagined and come to love. See the story and look out for future events this summer at”

Running /swimming order

Part 1: 7.30pm, Amy-Jane Beer and Adderstone , intertwined . 8.15pm, short break.

Part 2, Spoken word. 8.35pm, Richard Kitchen; 8.45pm, Lara McClure; 9.05pm, Hannah Davies. 9.25pm, short break.

Part 3: 9.45pm, White Sail; 10.25pm, The Parting Glass (all performers). 11pm, goodnight.

Tickets cost £8.50 from Eventbrite, via, or £10 on the door.

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