Bristol's hidden river to be celebrated with weekend of community events

Issue date: 20 September 2012

Capturing stories about the flood history of the River Frome, learning about its wildlife including the European eel and a special dance-circus finale are just some of the events that will take place on 29 and 30 September to celebrate Bristol's hidden River Frome.

There will be storytelling workshops and a river walk led by local storyteller Martin Maudsley, a River Frome Fete, and the premiere screening of a compilation of new and historic films, produced by the people of Eastville, using the space under the M32 as an open-air cinema.

The River Frome rises near Chipping Sodbury and flows through Frenchay and Eastville to join the Avon at the Floating Harbour but is hidden under the concrete of the M32 for much of its last section. The weekend of free events is part of a year-long project to explore the advantages and challenges of living by the River Frome, using water stories and performance theatre to engage with local communities.

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by Lindsey McEwen, Professor of Environmental Management at UWE Bristol, and Steve Bottoms, Professor of Contemporary Theatre and Performance at the University of Manchester.

Lindsey said, “This performance weekend provides a whole range of exciting activities that bring community, scientists and artists together, who have been working in Eastville to explore the River Frome in all its dimensions.

“These embrace the changing character of the river over time, its geography and flood history, and its wildlife. The weekend programme has been developed working with people in Eastville and beyond.

“We look forward to meeting those who live along the Frome during the weekend. There is something for everyone - including the opportunity to participate in a 'Stories and Science' discussion with science experts, a river walk, a storytelling workshop, a big screen showing of films by the river bank, and a spectacular performance-circus-dance event under the M32. Anyone interested in new approaches to exploring rivers and waterways that interweave science, history, arts and community is also very welcome.”

During the River Frome fete on Saturday afternoon, there will be a whole range of activities and information focusing on the River Frome. Things to do include:

· Finding out about the flood sluices and interception channel, the life of the European eel, flood histories on the Frome, and a sequence of maps showing the development of Eastville

· Contributing river stories to this project and Bristol City Council's wider 'River Stories' project

· Contributing to a Bristol City Council consultation on pillar painting under the M32

· River drawing for children

The project will have a lasting legacy - the stories and resources produced by the project will be lodged for posterity at a local archive, and the pillars under the M32 where the film and performance will take place have been painted with river designs by the local community working with Bristol City Council and local street artists.

Other organisations coming together to celebrate the part the river plays in the life of the community include the Real Ideas Organisation, the Glenfrome Primary School, Bristol organisation Streets Alive, which aims to build community at street level, scientists from the Environment Agency, Bristol City Council, and arts facilitator Jess Allen.

Jess said, “This will be a big celebration of local community memories of the Frome underneath one of Bristol's iconic concrete structures. Site-specific performance can completely change the way you feel about a place. Making, performing or witnessing art in everyday spaces can subtly change how we perceive them - you will never see the river or M32 in the same way again!

“Sunday's finale will bring together local children, singers and performers with professional dance and circus artists in a river of performance that animates the M32 flyover space with community memories of the Frome.

“The performers will flood up under the motorway towards the audience from the river, bringing to life the stories of the river through song and performance.

“It's a river dance, but not as you know it…”

All events are free. Spaces are limited for some activities, and people are encouraged to come early. For details of where to meet see


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