About us

What is the Off The Rails project all about?

In 2012, Off the Rails won a special National award for its community project around the station

‘Off the Rails’ is about local people contributing to the appearance and community feel of their station. So we came up with the idea of showcasing local creative talent in Wivenhoe station.

We believe in encouraging budding artists, writers, craft makers, book lovers and gardeners to share their work with visitors to the station. We also invite more established writers and artists to contribute to a rolling programme of exhibitions.

Wivenhoe attracts many visitors and residents because of its vibrant arts and literary scenes, and a large number of rail travelers use the station every week. Whether you are queuing at the ticket office, waiting for a train, or just feeling a bit blue, we hope the exhibits will delight, challenge or inspire you on your journey.

Platform 2 before the project started
Volunteers from Transition Town Wivenhoe looking after the garden
Preparing Platform 2 for the Crab & Winkle Gallery
First Exhibition - July 2010

What are the different parts of the project?

In the Ticket Office Hall:

Words Down the Line
As the seasons change, we publish a free leaflet for you to enjoy reading or contributing to. Sue Dawes selects poetry, prose and illustrations by local writers and artists. The leaflets disappear very quickly and we are always fascinated to hear the journeys they have taken.

Books Down the Line
A bookshelf containing free books for you to borrow on your journey. Bring us some new ones in exchange next time you visit the station.

Display Cabinets
Here we display 3D arts & crafts - we aim to change these every 2 months. 

Platform 1: The Poetry Cabinet

We display a poster featuring an illustrated poem to entertain travellers before their morning commute, or inspire thoughts for the day. We aim to feature a new poem every 2 months.

Platform 2: the Crab and Winkle Gallery

We have 3 large poster-size display cabinets, which are viewable at a distance by passengers waiting on Platform 1 or travellers alighting on Platform 2. These contain prints or original works that are usually linked by some common theme.


Station Masters Garden

Originally a scrappy piece of unloved land next to the station, this charming fertile little garden was taken over by Off the Rails. Transition Town Wivenhoe volunteers originally planted out seasonal fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers, using permaculture techniques and nature-friendly approaches. You will find outdoor artwork and a mascot ‘scarecrow’ designed in memory of Wendy, the wonderful station cat. 


Who runs the project?

George Mckissock is the official ‘adopter’ of Wivenhoe station. Wivenhoe became an adopted station in 2008. This adoption scheme, run by the Community Rail Partnership, enables local communities to influence the appearance and the community feel of "their" station. He was born in Scotland, but has been wholly adopted by Wivenhoe: he loves nature, music, reading, writing, talking, art, and film. He is retired from teaching and social work, and takes part in many local events and projects. 

Charmaine Mckissock has special responsibility for the project's visual arts and communications,as Artist in Residence. Charmaine has spent most of her working life as a consultant specialist in literacy and learning difficulties, with a particular interest in dyslexia and dyspraxia. She also trained as a community worker and is a published writer and an artist. She produces a weekly local radio programme, producing intimate portraits of local people's lives.

Sue Dawes, a local writer, edits and produces Words-Down-The-Line.  Originally a Station Adopter, involved in setting up and running the arts side of the project, she knows the station well.

Together with some help from community members and railway staff, George, Sue and Charmaine look after the practical aspects of the project:
· commissioning writing and art work
· supporting the editor of the Words Down the Line leaflets
· putting up exhibitions of artwork
· keeping the book exchange and leaflets stocked up
· writing the blog and showcasing the project to the community
· overseeing the Station Master's garden and flower displays
· liaising with community groups, volunteers, station and railway staff
· maintaining finance and admin
· and organising special events

Other people who give their time and support to the project:

  • The wonderful station staff (Aaron needs a mention here), are very supportive of the project, and help with many practical aspects. Brita, who left the station in 2015, will be sorely missed.
  • We would like to extend our thanks to Petrina  and Rebecca at Greater Anglia Railways and Jayne from the Community Rail Partnership for their support. We are grateful to FirstSite for printing Words Down the Line.
  • Sue Dawes resigned as station adopter In March 2013. She became editor for Words Down the Line in 2014.
  • Elelia Ferro generously gave her time and skills to help redesign this blog. 
  •  Jane Ostler was our guest curator in 2014 for art exhibitions on the platforms & booking hall. 
  • Melody Brookes took over looking after the Station Master's garden in November 2015.