Thames To Tama

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Thames to Tama: exhibition 3 – 24 March 2011.
Venue: Unit 6, Star Lane Industrial Estate, Great Wakering, SS3 0PJ.

For the Thames to Tama project, artist Lee Baker created five huge murals depicting the true life journey of William Adams, following him from his humble beginnings in the Thames Gateway, to work in the navy with Sir Francis Drake, becoming an honoured Samurai in Japan and the first Briton ever to set foot in that country. The artwork was made with 4664 self-portraits by students from 25 Southend schools.

The titleThames to Tama refers to the two rivers – the Thames here in Southend and the River Tama which feeds Japan’s capital city, Tokyo.

Will Adam grew up and learned his trade as a navigator on the Thames – starting at the age of 12. The Southend landscape would have been very familiar to him.  He trained with Sir Francis Drake, played a role in the Battle of the Spanish Armada and eventually put together his own fleet of five Dutch ships and set off on a journey of discovery and epic adventure that eventually saw him washed up in the River Tama in Japan. Beset by bad luck and problems, four of his five ships were lost at sea.  He entered Japan on the fifth with only 24 surviving men. Using his knowledge of weaponry (and his reputed charm) he became an honoured Samurai, the right hand man for the Shogun of the day and remained in Japan for the rest of his life. He is an important historical figure for Japan to this day.

The project was funded by Southend Education Trust and Arts Council England, East. The exhibition was part of a Festival of Learning that was celebrating a number of innovative learning initiatives managed by SET over the previous two years. For more information on the Festival of Learning please visit


Thames to Tama SET from Sean Groth on Vimeo.

Thames to Tama from Sean Groth on Vimeo.

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