23 Submarines

In December 2013 following a heavy storm, a World War I German submarine emerged out of the mudflats of the river Medway.

Further investigation revealed there were a further 23 submarines originally abandoned, the rest having submerged entirely into the mud.

Performed on the Chatham Riverside, this promenade event lead audiences from the submarine hulks of the Medway River to modern day post-industrial communities across modern Europe – through a century of submarine building and wrecking.

With 80 community performers, a choir of 20 local residents, 15 youth theatre performers and 5 professional actors, ’23 Submarines’ brought alive the stories behind these submarines to explore how we connect with our immediate past.

'The acting was superb, the stories riveting, the singing atmospheric and wasn't it a beautiful calm and warm night...'

Audience member


Audience reviews via facebook

‘Definitely one of the best family highlights of 2016…’

‘We will now look out for anything else that you do, thanks…’

‘The whole thing was amazing…’

Audience reviews via facebook

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Audience member

‘Well done, a great evening…’

‘I just want to say, how much we enjoyed the performance last night of 23 Submarines at the Riverside Chatham last night. The acting was superb, the stories riveting, the singing atmospheric and wasn’t it a beautiful calm and warm night….’

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Supported by Arts Council England, this production was developed and devised by the cast and creative team over a 9 month programme of cultural and creative activities working in partnership with Medway Council Arts Team and Medway Libraries. Three strands of creative activities including visual arts, performance poetry and theatre, offered opportunities throughout the year for professional artists and local residents to create new work (please see Community Projects for more details).


2016 - a rusting hulk allows Dave to reconnect with the memory of his father, a submarine corker at the Chatham Dockyard.
1954 - a local Chatham factory owner explains the business and personal opportunities behind the submarine hulks.
1918 - the German UB22 is surrendered, and the Captain's wife and mother-in-law await his return.
1916 - A crew of submariners are lost on the seabed, awaiting their end of days.

'23 Submarines' explored five stories that lead us from the submarine wrecks of the Medway across modern Europe, through a century of submarine building, exploring how we connect with our immediate past.

Nia Davies / Performer
Lori Hopkins / Performer
Philip Oakland / Performer
Elinor Machen-Fortune / Performer
Richard Mansfield / Performer
Sarah Booth / Designer
Tania Holland Williams / Musical Director
Darren Clark / Composer
Nancy Hirst / Director
Sarah May / Producer
With the participation of the 23 Submarines Community Cast & Choir, Icon Youth Theatre & Byron School /