As artistic directors, Desperate Men worked with Shropshire County Council and other local authorities to develop this ground-breaking three-year project (2006 – 2009).
Inspired by the River Severn, its stories and settings, the Severn Project interpreted, celebrated and explored the heritage and culture of the river and the communities that live along its banks, visiting Upton-on-Severn, Bewdley, Bridgnorth, Ironbridge and Gloucester.
In 2009 we worked with Gloucestershire County Council to deliver ‘Severn Mud Larks’ in Tewkesbury, Lydney and Gloucestershire which was based around interpretations of Alice Oswald’s specially commissioned poem A Sleepwalk On the Severn.
Severn Project 2009 Mudlarks
Main Performers: Joe Hall, Chris Bianchi, Claire Thompson, Angus Barr, Jon Beedell
Severn Project: The Sturgeon Hunters
Severn Project:The River Inspectors
Severn Project – Sturgeon Moon (2007)
Main Performers: Ric Jerom, Agnieszka Blonska, Paschale Straiton, Joe Hall, Vic Llewellyn, Jo Kessell, Hilary Ramsden, Richard Headon, Jon Beedell
The Severn Project 2007
(filmed and edited by Chris Smart)
Praise for The Severn Project
“We were delighted to fund the River Severn Project. Villages and towns along the River Severn were able to experience great art in different spaces and places, which we believe is a wonderful example of how communities can come together to enjoy and participate in performances and events.”
Chris Humphrey, Executive Director, Arts Council England, South West
Extract from the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) evaluation report on the Severn Project.
‘Street performance (as in the work of the street theatre company Desperate Men –the Creative Producers and performers at the festivals) is an ideal art form for reaching new community audiences and expanding people’s exposure to accessible but high-quality art. Making the project’s creative producers a street theatre company working in partnership with local authority arts outreach teams and local artists who specialize in participatory outreach work means that Severn Project was highly effective in reaching new audiences and enabling audience participation in the festival host towns. The two main festivals were preceded by live rehearsals and walkabouts in order to promote the events and reach ‘non-arts audiences’. At both festivals the audience were very much part of the spectacle and unfolding dynamic of the event.
Audience feedback included:
- ‘The atmosphere created at Tewkesbury and Lydney by the dance, theatre and music made two truly magical events which were enjoyed by all. The outside “site specific” element made it particularly special. Please, please can we do something like this again?’ (Written feedback from participant and audience member who attended both festivals)
Triangulating communities, arts and landscape/environment: One respondent felt that the festivals ‘got people to new places and the poem made people look at the river in a whole new way’. In this way the wider Project can be seen as forging (new) relationships between community, landscape and art. The need for people to (re)connect with their local landscapes and nature within them is a strong theme of current environmental politics and policy discourses (Adams, 2003). The arts are increasingly being used to do this (Massey, 2005). The festivals were site specific in the way they used the geography of the locations within the staging of the various elements and thus ‘celebrated places’ in ways likely to engender community cohesion, collective self-esteem and environmental sensibilities (Lippard, 1997). One festival-goer commented that she valued “exposure to the Severn – beautiful River – [we] don’t appreciate it enough even though we live so close to it”.’