The arts have been spectacularly effective in communicating the key messages of the AONB.
Wye Valley River Festival evaluation report
It has demonstrated to us how the arts can be used to help deliver our messages to a wider audience.
AONB Development Officer
We came for an hour and stayed all day
Audience member at Ross on Wye event
The first ever Wye Valley River Festival encompassed two weeks of spectacular events from May 3 – 18th celebrating nature, culture, landscape and life along the River Wye in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
With a total audience of 18,500 and a boost of at least £400,000 to the local economy, the festival was an unqualified success, spearheaded by the Wye Valley AONB Partnership with support from Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales and the AONB Sustainable Development Fund.
As artistic directors, we co-ordinated the overarching outdoor arts programme, with considerable input from local partners. We also looked at themes of invasive and indigenous wildlife species by creating the story of ‘Ratty on the Run’. Audiences from Hereford to Chepstow followed the story of a Water Vole and his exploits along the river as he tried to evade capture and execution. The tale was told on a grand scale, with events unfolding over 3 weekends and at multiple sites along 50 miles of river.
The evaluation report for the first Wye Valley River Festival concluded that ‘The arts have been spectacularly effective in communicating the key messages of the AONB’, with audience surveys revealing that 65% of respondents had learned something more about the area because of the events and 99% said they would attend another, similar event.
With night time torch processions, a wire walk over the river, a show trial in Monmouth’s Shire Hall and a grand finale with massed choir, flame and illuminations on Chepstow Bridge, Ratty’s journey lit up the Wye Valley and gave scope for important discussions about the future of the countryside. The programme also included the Articulture Exploring Partnerships to Create Outdoor Arts meeting.
We aim to build on the success of 2014 with a second Festival in 2016, this time with a global theme. Our starting point is a bottle of water collected from the source of the Ganges.
We want to thank everyone who contributed and the whole festival team and will be posting up a full report in due course. In the meantime here are just a small selection of images from the WVRF programme and comments from those who enjoyed the events:
Photos by Jim Ozanne
Thank you for what was the best piece of environmental interpretation I have ever seen.
Wye Valley AONB
Just to say that the work you did surpassed anything we even dreamed of right at the beginning … It got a message out to thousands that we would never have been able to do and bonkers it may have been but brilliant bonkers nevertheless.
Wye Valley AONB
Hello Richard and Jon,
Just writing to say a huge thank you for everything you contributed to the Articulture day in Monmouth ,you have been the most fantastic partners. Thank you for making space for yourselves and your team to be able to participate on your busy day. Your entrance was great and you really set the scene for us on the day … The courtroom scenes were excellent.. a great combination of the engaging animal characters and story and the ‘expert’ witnesses who all spoke so sincerely … it was quite emotional as a watcher.
All in all we love you guys … good job – well done.
Julie Ann Heskin
Founder / Director
Puts the river back into the heart of the community, unique focal point, great space for lots of activities on and off the water.
It has been enormously encouraging to tap into a rich seam of enthusiasm and excitement about the river, its history and its amazing potential as a socially cohesive influence.
The Music Pool
One moment in particular that stood out was hearing several families discussing the challenging topics of the changing environments and invasive species as they were walking along the riverside. To have engaged locals of all ages in discussing these topics as well as entertaining them is an absolute credit to the work of Desperate Men.
Principally, it has raised our profile with a much broader sector of the local population and made us more relevant to communities within and adjoining the AONB. It has also raised our profile with existing partner organisations, especially those with within the nature conservation sector (it has also given them ideas on how to communicate their work).
AONB Development Officer
I think that it has had a positive effect in binding together a society that was fragmenting. It has also helped to bring together different generations within the community through the sharing of a common experience.
Hereford River Carnival
If I go back to 2009 and the Severn (Project) where I first saw the Desperate Men and wanted to do something similar on the Wye, I think we/you surpassed that.
Wye Valley AONB
I haven’t done anything like this since school. It’s fantastic to immerse myself in something creative when I sit at a desk most of the time
aged 35-49 (face-mask workshop participant)
The Festival has had a very positive impact on the local economy. Not just with the spend of audiences at event, but the majority of the expenditure was on local or regional contractors, artists and suppliers. The potential of economic impact to increase at future festivals is very good.
Quote from evaluation report
A boost to the local economy. Ross had a great day and the tills were ringing.