Magazine article Geographical

I'm a Geographer

Magazine article Geographical

I'm a Geographer

Article excerpt

James Bowthorpe is a film-maker, designer, adventurer and former round-the-world-by-bicycle record holder. His latest endeavour the Hudson River Project--will see him scouring the streets of Manhattan and hiking up the Hudson river in order to explore our relationship with nature

I'm going to build a boat--from rubbish I find on the streets of Manhattan--that I can take to the source of the Hudson, and make a descent of the river, 315 miles back to New York. I want to make a connection between the environment we live in and the environments around us that support us--cities, basically. And to encourage people to see those supposedly different things not as opposites, but as being interconnected.

The river is quite a handy connecting metaphor between the 'wilderness' at the source of the river, and the city at the mouth of the river. I've done this in London already, about five years ago, but I wanted to find a river that had wilderness at the source and a great city at the end. I realised New York was probably the best, because it's the archetypal wilderness and archetypal city. There's white water and hundreds of miles of really interesting river and mountains--but it's also an international shipping lane. The more I looked into the Hudson, and New York, the more it felt right.

The Hudson river gorge is 20 miles of white water, so traversing that in a boat made out of rubbish will be interesting. I'm sure I'll be doing running repairs.

Whether you're on a bike or on foot--or, I suppose, in a small boat--you are quite vulnerable. But I've found that people are genuinely interested in what you're doing if it's something different. I imagine the police will stop me once or twice.

We'll be shooting a film the whole time, building the boat in the city over a period of two weeks--hopefully finding a bike to tow the boat behind. Then making that road journey from Manhattan to as close as you can get to the headwaters, a 12-mile hike with the boat to the source of the river, and then a five-week descent of the river back to New York.

It's not a campaign film, because I think people tend to respond better to interesting stories. It's more finding these little narratives and connecting them to the larger one, which is determined by that quite simple, if challenging, journey.

When I cycled around the world in 2009, we had a website on which you were able to see exactly where I was, get an idea of what I was seeing from photographs, and what I was thinking from Twitter. The idea is to expand that and integrate data from river sampling I can do once or twice a day from the boat--so you have this parallel story with the health of the Hudson at the same time. …

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