Empire and Arcadia

Following a residential Culture LAB at Metal in Southend, which included visits to a number of hidden sites along the Thames Estuary, Dan Thompson created three new works exploring themes of empire and arcadia, immigration and emigration.

The MV Empire Windrush and the SS Arcadia both docked at one of the sites, the Tilbury Terminal. The Empire Windrush famously brought West Indians to Great Britain in 1948; but she was a German troopship, used before the Second World War as a ‘Strength Through Joy’ cruiseship. She sank in 1954, the same year that P&O’s Arcadia first sailed along Britain’s Empire Lines, taking £10 Poms to a new life in Australia.


Two works – signal flags flown from a towerblock in Margate and at the Tilbury Terminal- acted as memorials to the two ships.

Onboard LV21 in Gravesend, across the river from the terminal, Dan created a reading room exploring themes of empire and arcadia, immigration and emigration. Between conceiving the work and installing it, the United Kingdom chose to leave the EU, adding a new layer to any discussion of immigration and emigration.

‘Captivating’ Caught By The River


The works were exhibited during the first Estuary Festival, as part of the Points of Departure exhibition which also included works by Jeremy Deller, John Akomfrah, Adam Chodzkho, French & Mottershead and Mark Donne.

The ‘Arcadia’ flags subsequently toured as backdrop to The Libertines stadium shows in South America.