NIRVCNottingham Institute for Research in Visual Culture

Rivers of Meaning

2 December 2006
Lakeside Arts Centre, University of Nottingham

This one-day event will bring together researchers from the humanities and social sciences as well as a range of arts practitioners in order to explore rivers as cultural spaces. The workshop will consider metaphorical and material aspects of cultural meaning, and the representation of rivers in various forms of media including literature, photography, maps, film and performance, as well as their design, management and engineering on the ground.

Sessions will include:

  • Peter Cusack, Rivers of Sound.
  • Richard Hamblyn, ‘The Proper Shape of a River’: three eighteenth century rivers and their meanings.
  • Andrew McRae, Fluvial Nation: rivers, mobility and poetry in early modern England.
  • George Revill, William Jessop and the River Trent: mobility, engineering and the landscape of eighteenth century ‘improvement’.
  • Jem Southam, ‘What a river is, or how an artist might imagine it so’.
  • Jennie Syson, Curating ‘Hinterland’.


Peter Cusack is a sound artist, musician and environmental recordist. His current project is Sounds from Dangerous Places, examining the soundscapes of sites of major environmental damage, such as Chernobyl, the Azerbaijan oil fields and controversial dams in south-east Turkey. His recordings include The horse was alive, the cow was dead, based on sounds and stories from along the River Lea in East London, and Baikal Ice.

Richard Hamblyn is the author of The Invention of Clouds, a study of the pioneer meteorologist Luke Howard, and the forthcoming Terra: Tales of the Earth, about the social and scientific consequences of natural disasters. He is currently Research Fellow in the University of Nottingham’s multidisciplinary project on Water, Culture and Society.

Andrew McRae is Professor in the Department of English at the University of Exeter. His research interests are in the field of early modern English literature and culture. His books include God speed the Plough: the Representation of Agrarian England, 1500-1660, Literature, Satire and the Early Stuart State, Renaissance Drama and, as editor, The Writing of Rural England, 1500-1800. He is currently working on a book on literature and domestic travel in early modern England.

George Revill is a cultural geographer with an interest in themes of landscape and mobility and in cultural geographies of music. He has published widely on environmentalism, the cultures of transport and the politics of sound, and contributed to the catalogue of the Trentside exhibition at Nottingham. He is currently chair of the Landscape Research Group, and acted as academic advisor on the BBC’s current series Coast.

Jem Southam is a photographer with a longstanding interest in the subject of flowing and standing waters. Working with a large format camera, his pictures are usually organized in extended sequences, documenting processes of change and human intervention in the natural order. Published collections include The Red River, The Shape of Time, Rockfalls, Rivermouths and Ponds, and Landscape Stories. His most recent collection is The Painter’s Pool.

Jennie Syson is a curator and writer, and is currently Programme Officer at Q Arts in Derby. She is curating Hinterland, a collection of transitory artists’ projects situated along the River Trent in Nottingham. The project was launched in September 2006: for further details see

Limited places are available for this event at a cost of £25.00: this includes coffee and lunch. The workshop will begin at 10.00 and finish at 17.15. The venue is the Lakeside Arts Centre, immediately adjacent to the south entrance of the University campus. For further information and to book please contact or

Rivers of Meaning is supported by the University of Nottingham’s Water Initiative and Priority Group, and has been organized by the Nottingham Institute for Research in Visual Culture.



Nottingham Institute for Research in Visual Culture

University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts Centre
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 3318
fax: +44 (0)115 846 7778