Strong Island Presents
Creative Cargo
What is Creative Cargo?

The Creative Cargo Project

Ten steamer trunks containing art, craft & products from Portsmouth, UK's creative sector...
the cases to be shared, the contents to be celebrated.

Portsmouth has a thriving cultural and arts scene with many individuals and businesses creating high quality, successful products and designs to an international audience. The creative sector both nationally and locally is dynamic, growing rapidly, bringing in investment and creating jobs. Local cultural resource Strong Island, with the support of Portsmouth City Council, The University of Portsmouth, Anglepoise® and Penny Mordaunt MP, want to shout about what the creative sector of the city of Portsmouth can do. We wish to celebrate, promote and introduce these great creative businesses that call Portsmouth home to people and businesses nationally & internationally, through the Creative Cargo project. Drawing together collections of Portsmouth created art and products, all contained within specially customised vintage steamer trunks, this Creative Cargo will signify the very best of what the creative community of Portsmouth can offer.

Creative Cargo was revealed at a very special London event before travelling onwards to Portsmouth ahead of travelling across the World.

For the launch of the project in London a limited edition, 96 page book was produced detailing the project and profiling the contributors of cargo. You can read the book here.

A Strong Island project made possible with the support of Portsmouth City Council, The University of Portsmouth and Anglepoise®.


The United Kingdom's only island city
& the most densely populated area, even more than Greater London.

Portsmouth is located on the south coast of England and is the United Kingdom’s only island city. With over thirty different districts located on Portsea Island and on the mainland, the city is the most densely populated urban area in the UK, even more than Greater London. The city is flanked by the busy Portsmouth Harbour to the west, the quiet tidal bay of Langstone Harbour to the east and miles of pebble beach reaching of Eastney and Southsea in the south. In many ways due to this particular geography the city has developed its own unique identity which in part is linked to a nautical heritage going back for hundreds of years.

The natural protection offered by the ancient Camber in Portsmouth Harbour has sheltered ships and sailors through the centuries before the city become the home of the Royal Navy. The presence of the navy has shaped the architecture of the city (such as forts, barracks and defenses), inspired the city’s name ‘Pompey’ and also helping create the city’s very own dialect.

Portsmouth also has a long history of supporting the Royal Navy through shipbuilding, a craft dating back over 500 years and leading to its importance in the development of the Industrial Revolution. Marc Isambard Brunel, the father of famed Portsmouth engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, established in 1802 the world's first mass production line at the Portsmouth Block Mills, to mass-produce pulley blocks for rigging on the Royal Navy's ships. At its height the Dockyard was the largest industrial site in the world and the city a major hub for sea transport with ships travelling to all the corners of the globe with sailors, travellers and cargo.

Culturally, Portsmouth has been home to many famous writers and artists and continues to inspire both people born and bred and also the visitors who end up calling the place home.


The Creative Cargo project began with an initial concept in late 2013
and has grown in to a long term, multi-stranded project extending in to 2015.

  • 2011-2013

    Strong Island Projects

    Every year Strong Island defines, creates & develops a year-long project that aims to share and promote the creativity of the people that call Portsmouth home. Previous projects include the Strong Island Exhibition at the Round Tower, The Primary Exhibition & last year's Creating Balance Project. These projects have worked with many local artists, designers & photographers, engaged directly with thousands of local people and worked in partnership with organisations such as Portsmouth City Council, the University of Portsmouth and Anglepoise.

  • November 2013

    The end of shipbuilding in Portsmouth

    Portsmouth made the national news in November 2013 with the announcement of the ending of commercial shipbuilding in the city after over 500 years. Soon after the Government announced the new Minister of Portsmouth. At this time the national focus on the city was on the loss of a large part of the manufacturing sector within the city and around this time the city was also (incorrectly) labelled a city of museums...perceptions of the city were negative and in some respects outdated and incorrect.

  • December 2013

    Time to change perceptions...

    Strong Island has for 6 years strived to promote the ever growing arts and culture of Portsmouth & Southsea and in those years it has been clear that the creative sector of the city has bloomed with artists, designers, businesses & organisations working in innovative & creative ways with work on a national and international stage. The Creative Portsmouth book in 2010 was the first effort to collect these stories from the creative sector, with Creative Cargo we wanted to collect not just stories from these individuals and businesses to share inside and outside the city but also create a physical collection of the work produced...packaged and shared in a way that reflects the heritage of a busy port city.

  • Spring 2014

    Engaging with the creative sector

    In the early months of 2014 Strong Island contacted 30 different artists, makers, designers and creative businesses to see if they would like to be a part of the Creative Cargo project. Each contributor provided items of their work to build up the 'cargo' to be shared.

  • Summer 2014

    The 10 Vintage Wardrobe Steamer Cases...

    When deciding on how to share the physical cargo of the project we wanted something that linked to the heritage of a city that has been a port for people and cargo for 100s of years. It was also important that these containers could accomodate clothing as well as objects & art and that they could be used to display the cargo too. Finally we also wanted containers that had a sense of prestige in line with the many high quality items they would contain. We settled on a collection of 10 vintage 'wardrobe' steamer trunks, all with 1000s of miles of journeys in their past...shown in their worn exterior and the beautiful, old travel stickers from all over Europe.
    The cases themselves needed work to restore them so we took the opportunity to restore them in a way that made them distinctly from Portsmouth with new materials from local businesses and designs and lining papers showing the landmarks and heritage of Portsmouth. Over the summer months volunteers stripped the cases back to bare wood and then brought them back to life as the means of displaying and sharing the Creative Cargo.

  • September 2014

    London Project Launch

    With the help of Penny Mordaunt MP the Creative Cargo project was launched in London with a VIP reception at Lord Byron's Chamber at Albany, London. At the launch the one of the completed cases was displayed with over 30 different cargo items. The London launch also saw the release of the Creative Cargo book that details the project to this point and also profiles all of the project contributors.

  • Autumn 2014

    Partnership Cases

    In the autumn 3 of the 10 vintage steamer trunks will be given to project partners who will each put their own take on the design and contents of their trunks. Company of Makers is a Portsmouth based organisation that will deck their trunk out with a naval theme, with the work done by veterans or the family of veterans. aspex Gallery in Portsmouth will work with a fine artist in refitting out their trunk and they will work with local artists in collecting together a special set of cargo. The third partnership case will be worked on by students of the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of Portsmouth, who will design and fit out new textiles to line the case and also put together their own creative cargo contents too.

  • Winter 2014/2015

    Portsmouth Project Exhibition

    At the end of 2014/start of 2015 we will be putting together an exhibition in Portsmouth of all 10 Creative Cargo cases, all loaded up with their special cargo objects. More details on this soon.

  • Spring 2015

    Creative Exchanges

    From spring 2015 cases from the Creative Cargo project will begin to leave Portsmouth, bound for other port cities in the UK and around the world carrying their special cargo to new shores. Specially selected recipients of the cases in each city will discover the cargo contents, share locally and then in a Creative Exchange load the case up with their own city's creative cargo before returning the trunk come to Portsmouth. We will be documenting these Creative Exchanges as they progress throughout 2015. Some of the cases will also be shared with project ambassadors who we hope will spread the word through their organisations and audiences on the great work being produced in Portsmouth. At the end of 2015 we aim to have a final exhibition exhibiting not just the Portsmouth Creative Cargo but also the Creative Exchange cargo sent to Portsmouth from all over the world. There will be an opportunity to directly help in this phase of the Creative Cargo project...

  • Your


    What is Your Creative Cargo?

    Throughout 2015 we will also be asking everyone what they would defined as their hometown/city's Creative Cargo might be and collecting together the best submissions from all over the globe!

The Trunks

Ten steamer trunks containing art, craft & products from Portsmouth, UK's creative sector...
the cases to be shared, the contents to be celebrated.

Case History

In the 1800s as travel distances increased with transport such as steam powered ships travellers were looking for something bigger and more useful for their luggage of choice. Steamer trunks, named after their often location of storage in the cabin of a steam ship, or "steamer", were constructed out of a wooden frame and covered in leather or canvas and were designed with a flat top for easy storage with them stack-able, primarily for the cargo holds of steamships. It is widely believed that Louis Vuitton came out with the first design, but it didn’t take long before other manufacturers followed suit. They took off in the 1870s and lasted in popularity until the 1920s and beyond. Louis Vuitton designed the Wardrobe Case in 1876, a development of the steamer case which when stood on one end could be used as a wardrobe when travelling within a cabin. The design consists of two sides: one with space for hangers to hang shirts, suits & dresses plus storage for shoes and the other side containing drawers, drop down shelves and even an ironing board. Some cases also open up from the top to allow better access to the hangers with two chrome rods that telescope out to give the hangers more room when the trunk is open. With the development of travel by air these heavy and large cases slowly fell out of favour in the late 1950s and 1960s and now can only be found as vintage items or antiques, often just used for basic storage and display in the home.

Reasoning for Cases

For Creative Cargo we wanted a means of storing, transporting and displaying the many products and pieces of art designed and created by individuals and businesses from Portsmouth’s creative sector and steamer wardrobe cases were perfect for our needs. We also wanted the creative cargo containers to also tie in directly with the city’s heritage as a port for people and goods for hundreds of years, to locations all around the World. Still to this day Portsmouth is a transport hub for people travelling by ship to and from Europe and is also a busy international cargo port for all sorts of items including motor vehicles, ballast, fuel oil, building materials and timber as well as fresh vegetables and fruit, with Portsmouth receiving 70 per cent of the bananas eaten in Britain.

Case Condition

With steamer wardrobe trunks chosen for the Creative Cargo project we sourced ten vintage cases from Parmiters Antiques located in Southsea. The cases were different sizes, designs, ages and condition and each had clues to their history and their previous journeys. One case is covered in travel stickers from many different cities all over France, Italy and Germany. Another case has two Cunard Line travel stickers for a ship that travelled to Quebec and back to Birmingham in 1957. We wanted to keep the exteriors of the cases exactly as they were, to let them continue to show the marks and scars of their past journeys, but we also wanted to bring the worn interiors back to life with a new look that unites them and also reflects the culture and heritage of Portsmouth.


Working with a team of local volunteers seven of the ten steamer wardrobe trunks were first stripped back to their bare plywood base, with the original lining materials carefully removed. The plywood interior lining, drop down shelves, drawers and case dividers were sanded back before being painted with a single base colour which unites every case in the project. To refurbish the now painted steamer wardrobe trunk storage drawers and shelves carefully selected striped deckchair material was sourced from Southsea Deckchairs, the Portsmouth based manufacturer of deckchairs with their own, specific material designs. For some of the cases Portsmouth inspired hand-printed wallpaper and textiles were provided by artist Suzie Darcel, with the print showing local landmarks such as South Parade Pier. Three of the creative cargo cases are to be worked on in partnership with local community art & craft groups and organisations, each with a unique perspective on how to restore the trunks back to life ready to be filled with the creative cargo from Portsmouth.

The Cargo

Portsmouth is home to many different artists, designers, makers, crafters, agencies, creative businesses and organisations and we worked with the following to include them as part of the creative cargo.

The steamer wardrobe trunks redesigned and restored for the Creative Cargo project are to be home to art and products produced by a small selection of individuals, companies and organisations that call Portsmouth home. Over 30 items have been collected for the trunks and represent a small selection of work produced by creatives and businesses working in creative, new ways, with many of these working and collaborating on a national and international level.

Climax Studios

A leading European independent video game developer with a staff of over 100 and a library of award winning games.


Iconic Lamp Designers & Manufacturers

My Dog Sighs

Internationally exhibited street artist and a founder of Free Art Friday.

Emma Nicol

Portsmouth inspired freelance Illustrator with many commissions for large brands including Tesco.

Bored of Southsea

Independently Owned Skateboarding Shop & Brand

All About Tea

The Portsmouth tea factory producing unique and special blends.

University of Portsmouth

Creative and Cultural Industries.

Sadie Tierney

Painter and printmaker.

Pie & Vinyl

Independent record shop and cafe.

Neil Layton

Award winning illustrator and children's author.

Sweetie Pie

Gluten-free vegan bakery.

Southsea Coffee Co

Independent coffee shop int he heart of Southsea.

Alison Gardiner

Well loved and much collected illustrator.

Pete Codling

Fine artist.

Southsea Deckchairs

The only UK manufacturer of deckchairs.


Award winning multi-disciplinary studio.

Roo Abrook

Designer and artist.

Rachel Lowe MBE

Brand innovator.

Jodie Silsby

Teaching Fellow in Graphic Arts and graphic designer specialising in print and typography.

Sam Cox

Portsmouth Poet Laureate.

aspex Gallery

Contemporary fine art gallery and cafe.

Strong Island

Independent clothing and creative brand.

Ooh La Lapin

Artist and toymaker.


Laser cutting and design studio.

Bread Addiction

Artisan bakery.


Design lead suppliers of seed boxes and gardening items.

Company of Makers

Community enterprise working with ex-service personnel and families in creative ways.

Old Salt Theatre

Independent theatre company.

Barbara Tipple

Multi-award winning fine jeweller.

Creative Exchanges

Sharing and exchanging the creative cargo across the UK and the world.

Creative Cargo was launched in September 2014 at a special VIP event in Byron Chambers, Albany in Mayfair in London by Penny Mordaunt MP to an array of high profile dignitaries from fashion, film, politics and business, many of whom have links to Portsmouth.

Seven of the ten steamer trunks will be completely refurbished by the end of autumn 2014 with three trunks to be worked on in partnership with different groups based in Portsmouth, including Company of Makers, students from the University of Portsmouth and artists working with aspex Gallery.

In 2015 many of the trunks will be distributed to selected ambassadors who are influencers, leaders in their field and catalysts to help promote awareness of Portsmouth's offering and to increase investment in the city's creative sector.

Some Creative Cargo trunks are destined to travel across the UK and internationally to port cities, connecting with other creative communities resulting in 'creative exchanges' of art and products. We wish to also discover what people everywhere might describe their own home town/city's Creative Cargo.

Contact Us

Want to find out more about the Creative Cargo project or volunteer?