7. Rivers and Wagtails
Theme: Community engagement and participation
- Improve local knowledge and understanding of the river and the issues facing it
- Increase public access to and involvement in the river
- Promote the river as a community and educational resource
This photography and poetry project will explore changing communities and at the same time bring together a range of people to explore their common heritage: the River Lea, from its source in the newer neighbourhood of Marsh Farm to the historic landscape of Luton Hoo Lakes.
A team from the University of Bedfordshire will help people of all ages and from a range of backgrounds to explore and engage with the history of the river in terms of leisure, the environment and employment. We will be collecting stories about the river and opening up the archive at the Wardown Park Museum.
The project is undertaking a number of different community engagement activities. Two walks from the source of the River were taken in April 2016 with undergraduates from the university. The students produced images, wrote down ideas inspired by the river and then took part in a feedback session with discussions about environment, community, journey and creative responses in the future.
In addition, community workshops in summer and autumn 2016 with John Hegley saw local people engaged in a poetry and story writing session, again inspired by the River using he phrases 'I am the Lea' and 'Memories of the Lea'. A number of the poems and stories were put to music by John and the participants and recorded so as to be used as part of the augmented reality element of the project.
Work is also underway to engage eight schools in further workshops with John Hegley, taking place in Spring 2017.
The University is using the skills of a former student to develop an app and website to host the project. The free app will feature a virtual assistant inspired by the swan emblem of the walk leading from the source of the River Lea through Luton, Hertfordshire and on until it meets the Thames. This will encourage the families to engage with their environment and learn about the river.
The apps will also work with a book of the photographs and poems that will be published. The book will be donated to the schools to sell and the proceeds will be reinvested in the children's education.