Crossings is a new installation artwork by Luke Jerram in collaboration with BBC Radio4 producer Julian May, which was commissioned by Compton Verney for presentation during summer 2022.

The installation consisted of 9 rowing boats on the lake at Compton Verney. Each of the boats played audio of stories from around the world. In choosing a story and rowing out into the lake for 30 minutes participants were taken on an audio journey, transported to another life and circumstance. The action of rowing and the live sounds this action creates, blends with the recorded audio, to help create a truly engaging and immersive experience.

The boats are decorated with imagery relating to the stories.

The artwork will now tour to other venues to be presented in lakes, canals and docklands across the UK. Contact us if your organisation is interested in presenting this artwork.

Recorded Stories include:

  • Mana Azarish tells the story of how, aged thirteen, she guided, navigating by the stars, a rickety boat full of refugees across the British Channel. Listen to the excerpt.
  • Marine Biologist Professor Steve Simpson tells the story of how by replaying underwater recordings of marine life, his team help to revive life in the coral reefs. Listen to excerpt.
  • A crew of three women tell their story of making a currach in memory of a friend and sister, and rowing it in Ireland’s long distance Ocean to City race.
  • Broadcaster Andy Kershaw took a steamer along the Niger to find his friend, the late, great Malian bluesman Ali Farka Touré, and went with him to Timbuktu. Andy recounts his adventures on the way – a singing boatman, Ali’s gift of a sheep (to eat), and trip in a dangerously leaky pirogue with ‘the Grand Griot’. Listen to excerpt.
  • Fishing with cormorants. Richard King on Ukai, a traditional Japanese fishing technique in which fishermen use trained cormorants to catch fish in rivers. With haiku in Japanese and English read by Togo Igawa. Listen to excerpt
  • Jo Royle who to draw attention to the plastic rubbish floating in the oceans co-designed s the Plastiki, a boat constructed from 12,500 recycled 2 litre plastic bottles, and skippered her on a voyage from San Francisco to Sydney.
  • Mr Fan, a barber in Greenwich, who was one of the Boat People, refugees from Vietnam. He left for Hong Kong with his young family on a sailing boat that no one aboard knew how to sail. A voyage that should have taken a week or so lasted three months. Within sight of the skyscrapers of Hong Kong, storms blew them back to where they came from.
  • When Captain Cook arrived in Tahiti people were eating sweet potatoes. But these come from South America. Professor Steven Hooper tells the story of Polynesian navigators who sailed in fast canoes, held together by rope, across the Pacific to South America – and back again, bringing sweet potatoes, now a staple food in the Pacific islands, with them.
  • When Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the Antarctic ice and sank, he lead his crew to Elephant Island, where they lived for months under two upturned longboats. Shackleton, with five men, went to get help, sailing the 23’ James Caird 800 miles across the roughest seas in the world, to South Georgia. Seb Coulthard has made the same journey in a boat the same size…and survived to tell the story.
  • Neil Trevithick has sailed the Atlantic solo. But he nearly drowned not alone, miles from land, but in London, a city of nine and a half million people, when his dinghy capsized near the Thames Barrier.

Press Coverage
The Observer review by Kate Kellaway read
The Times read
The Telegraph mention


Symbolism of boats
Boats can be a form of transport, a vehicle to enable work, a method of escape, a tool of employment. They are a way of connecting people and places.  They can simply be an object of leisure. Boats are symbolic of journeying into the unknown and of the journey of life.

With Thanks
Funding for this artwork has come from the Arts Council of England and Compton Verney.


Being on a boat that’s moving through the water, it’s so clear. Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important and what’s not.

James Taylor

We are imprisoned in the realm of life, like a sailor on his tiny boat, on an infinite ocean.

Anna Freud

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