Tom Hackett – Lying low to keep Afloat

Tom Hackett wearing a bright jacket, paddling a canoe down the Trent Tom Hackett stands with his canoe on Keadby Bridge Tom Hackett and his canoe at Julian's Bower


Until 5 June

During 2020 Tom Hackett walked and paddled a wooden canoe around riverside parts of Stoke, Burton, Nottingham, Newark and Scunthorpe. Five key towns situated on the Trent from source to mouth. Initially planned to take place in spring, the walks were delayed and took place over the summer due to Covid 19.

Wearing his signature text conversation suits he gathered incidental conversations from those he met along the way. Following lockdown one, Tom found he had emerged into a changed and shifting sense of reality. Originally the idea was to focus very much on the Trent and the towns it journeyed through. But not suprisingly Covid 19 and lockdown also became a key part of the incidental narrative.

The harvested dialogue has evolved into the ‘Lying low to keep Afloat’ art installation, with printed conversation fragments wrapped around snaking swimming float forms. Audio speakers play a fusion of voice fragments recorded and mixed by Julian Woodcock with a specially composed piano piece, written and performed by Freddie Hackett. Together they form a sound collage suggestive of a dislocated group conversation. The spoken content ranges from the playful to the poignant and reflective. The age, gender and ethnicity of the voices have been deliberately disassociated from the identity of the original authors.

Overall, Lying low to keep Afloat celebrates aspects of the experiences and lives of those encountered along the Trent from source to mouth, during an extraordinary year.

About Tom Hackett

Tom Hackett is a sculptor based in the UK, he was born in Cambridge and studied fine art at Middlesex and Nottingham Trent Universities. In addition to making art he lectures and also writes on the subject.



‘Lying low to keep Afloat’ has been  developed working with 20-21 Visual Art Centre and Brewhouse Arts Centre. It is supported by public funding by Grants for the Arts, Arts Council England and 20-21 Visual Arts Centre.