by Deborah Gearing

Independent Public Art for Riverside Park
2022 – 2023

A public art project for Riverside Park in Southampton raising awareness and prompting discussion about biodiversity.

Local playwright, printmaker and poet Deborah Gearing will investigate how a public art project can raise awareness of endangered species, specifically here the European eel – ‘Anguilla Anguilla’, which was formerly abundant in the River Itchen.

Over the next year the project will celebrate this iconic and threatened species through story and memory collection, new poetry and printmaking workshops with the project culminating in summer 2023 with a celebratory event.

Deborah will be working with Southampton Archives and Local Studies, local primary schools, community groups and associations connected to the River Itchen.

If you have an eel story, memory or sighting from the River Itchen we would love to hear from you. Please email

Final Press Release

About the artist

Deborah Gearing is a writer, theatre maker, poet, performer and printmaker. As a playwright her play ‘Burn’ has been widely performed internationally and she has been a mentor on Graeae’s playwriting development programme and worked on the National Theatre’s New Views scheme since its inception.

Deborah’s interests are social and female histories, young people’s lives and the environment. A sense of place runs through much of her work: ‘Burn’ was inspired by young people and events along the River Itchen; the Chalk Stream Rivers are an essential part of ‘Upbeat’, and ‘Between Wind and Water’ explores the maritime labour and connections with Southampton residents. A residency with Forest Forge in the Observatory at Bucklers Hard for the 800 years of the Charter of the Forest celebrations culminated in an audio installation for the exhibition with a cycle of poems on trees, song and interviews with charcoal burners.

In 2021 she worked with Lepe Country Park to create a project for the Sensory Garden. The resulting outdoor play, ‘Welcome to My Garden’, introduced audiences to the poet Ethel Clifford and her progressive passion for her garden, and explored the changing face of domestic service in the 1920s.

Since working with visual artists on the God’s House Tower residency in 2016/7, Deborah has been on a journey with printmaking, moving into investigating how to bring text and image together.

For further information about Deborah’s work visit

Eel lino print, October 2022, by Deborah Gearing
Cormorant with eel on the River Itchen. Photo courtesy of John Scammel
Deborah Gearing ready to perform eel and river related poetry on the River Itchen at the All Aboard Festival September 2022

The EEL RUN is part of a wider programme called Public Art for Riverside Park. Principally funded by Arts Council England, Abri, The Southampton Collective and Three Rivers Rail Partnership.

The programme emerged from a year of research and development in 2021 funded by Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creative Practice grant, made possible thanks to National Lottery players.