UCL East


Navigating the System: exhibition highlights health and welfare issues when your home is a boat

27 March 2023

London's transient boat-dwelling community and the challenges people living on boats face in accessing healthcare and many other services is the focus of the latest public exhibition in the UCL Urban Room in One Pool Street on UCL's new campus on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Cartoon style graphic shows to the left a pregnant woman sitting chatting on a river bank opposite a couple of people sitting on their boat

Navigating the System has been curated with London’s boat-dwellers and takes audiences on a journey through photographs by boat-dweller and photojournalist Caitlin Vinicombe, interwoven with accounts from people living on the city's waterways as documented by UCL PhD researchers Joseph Cook and Nura Ali.

The powerful imagery and displays evoke life on the water and river bank, while illustrating how having no fixed address impacts accessing everyday services including education and urgent healthcare. 

Graphic with silver background and red, blue and yellow detail with a comment on how it is pointless signing up with a GP if you will be moving on again in a few weeks.

London's canals and rivers host an estimated 4,000 boats. In the past, most boat-dwellers had permanent moorings where they could tie their boats to land. An increase in boat numbers, combined with housing pressures, means that the majority of London's boat community now hold licences requiring them to move every 14 days. They are known as 'continuous cruisers'.



Design anthropologist Joseph Cook, who lives on a boat himself, has produced the exhibition in collaboration with Nura Ali, whose research includes access to amenities and healthcare to create the Navigating the System Boater Healthcare Access Project.

The exhibition is open to the public 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday until 29 April in the UCL Urban Room space on the ground floor of One Pool Street on UCL's new campus on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  

Dialogue Event

Anyone interested in healthcare access issues and members of the boat-dwelling community are invited to register for a panel and open discussion event in the UCL Urban Room on Thurs 13 April from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. The debate will cover topics highlighted in the exhibition and wider research.

Follow @BoaterHealth or visit the Navigating the System website for updates. 

About the UCL Urban Room

Located in Stratford on the UCL East campus on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the UCL Urban Room is an experimental exhibition space for students, researchers, artists, and community members. Based on the idea of an ‘urban room’ as a forum for community driven debate and dialogue, the UCL Urban Room brings together academic research and lived experiences of city residents to inspire meaningful education for students and visitors. Users of the Urban Room are invited to join a dynamic network of practice focused on issues of global urbanism, heritage, arts, and social history.

The space is equipped with oral history recording and archiving capabilities through its initiative of a Memory Workshop. Together, UCL Urban Room and Memory Workshop are supported by UCL's School for Creative and Cultural Industries and The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at UCL.