Island in a River — York Mediale
Island in a River
Major new exhibition

Island in a River is a new, permanent exhibition by artist Matthew Rosier and Mediale for the newly refurbished Grade II listed 18th Century Yarm Town Hall Heritage Centre in Stockton on Tees, inspired by the history of one of the most outstanding scenic towns in the region and its community.

Celebrating Yarm’s ancient connection to the River Tees and location on the horseshoe bend of the river, the exhibition features a collection of significant historic local artefacts interpreted by ten films, created by the artist in close collaboration with around 100 local residents, including a number of community groups. The objects will be displayed inside the exhibition centrepiece – a replica iron age canoe, carved by local volunteers throughout summer 2023 from a washed up tree, inspired by a prehistoric canoe found (and subsequently lost) 150 years ago, thought to be the earliest sign of life in the town.

Objects and Screens within an Iron Age Canoe

At night the exhibition will transform into a public art installation, visible through the windows of the building, with the canoe seeming to float on a projected looping holographic film of the River Tees and its many users, alluding to the numerous floods which have submerged Yarm high street over the centuries.

Matthew Rosier has worked closely with the local community over the last 2 years, to create the series of short films that will accompany each of the exhibits, honouring the town’s historic relationship with the river and the objects, the people and the memories that have flowed from it.  

The collaborations include a Yarm veteran having his nose cast in silver by silversmith Pete Musson in recognition of local hero Tom Brown who lost part of his nose in battle. King George II was so impressed with his bravery that he knighted Brown on the battlefield, and personally gave him a silver nose and a pension for his deeds.

Island in a River — York Mediale
Island in a River at Yarm Town Hall Heritage Centre. Image © Luke O’Donovan
Island in a River — York Mediale
Navvy Ken Parkinson showing where he found the viking helmet in the 1950s
Island in a River — York Mediale
Iron Age canoe replica, ‘The Navigator’, being carved by Friends of True Lovers Walk
Island in a River — York Mediale
Tom Brown’s silver nose replica, made by Peter Musson. Image © Luke O’Donovan

A replica of a tenth century Viking Helmet, the first ever Viking helmet found in Britain, will be accompanied by a film including an interview with former navvy Ken Parkinson, now in his 80s, who rescued the rare artefact from being discarded as rubbish when digging a new drain off Yarm High Street in the 1950s.

A contemporary reenactment of a historic moment in railway history is marked by a ceremonial sword owned by former Lord of the Manor Thomas Meynell. In 1821 Meynell chaired a meeting of railway pioneers in local pub The George and Dragon which led to the founding of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the world’s first ever public railway. Here an all-female cast of local community leaders and activists take the place of the original local all-male dignitaries.

A lion statue from legendary nightclub Tall Trees, a mecca for clubbers across the UK in the 1980s/90s attracting DJs from around the world until it’s closure in 2010, will be accompanied by a film interviewing former owner Javed Majid and residents who now live in the housing estate which sits on the site of the former nightclub; drawn to live upon the dancefloors they once lived for.

Matthew Rosier Artist

”Island in a River is a project made by and for the community of Yarm. It’s been a privilege to see my ideas, which sought to connect stories past and present, brought to life by the efforts of Yarm residents and the trust they’ve shown in me. Everything in Yarm connects back to the river; the earliest crossing point on the Tees. To have this exhibition – its objects and community, contained within an iron age canoe, floating along a river – felt both absurd, and entirely fitting.”

Island in a River — York Mediale

Island in a River is open at Yarm Town Hall Heritage Centre on Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday afternoons 1-5pm.

Friends of Yarm Town Hall Heritage Centre is a volunteer-led organisation – visitors should check opening times at Yarm Town Council website ( prior to visiting.

Commissioned by: Yarm Town Council
Artist: Matthew Rosier
Videography: Carl Joyce
Produced by: Mediale
AV Partner: ArtAV
Fabrication Partner: Kunstruct
Canoe construction:Anthony Lloyd Wallace, Friends of True Lovers Walk Volunteers
Visual Identity: Supanaught
Access consultation: Liz Leck

Featured Artist

Matthew Rosier

Matthew Rosier (1990) is an artist based in London. His work mixes technology with film and sound in the form of interactive and immersive installations in the public realm. His practice is collaborative and includes the surrounding community both in the creation process and the finished work.