Arts as a tool to understand our environment

Wed, July 3, 2019 by Sita

We all know family life is hectic. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a day out together? One that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Settle Stories and the Ribble Rivers Trust joined forces to give participants and attendees just that.

On Sat 4th May we ran a FREE day of family fun down by the riverside in Giggleswick. With storytellers, adventure writing workshops, puppets, craft, story walk, micro safaris and more as we produced Tales by the Ribble – a family fun day.

Ahead of the event we thought we’d catch up with Helen Thompson the Community Projects & Activities Officer over at the Ribble  Rivers Trust to find out more about the day.

Q: The Ribble Rivers Trust is actively raising awareness of the River environment with activities such as the fun day, why is this?

We are engaging with families through activities and events such as Tales by the Ribble, because interacting with families is a great way to spread the message of the importance of looking after our rivers. We have a number of hands-on activities such as our micro safari which are ideal for an interactive event such as this and help teach the public about rivers, whilst still being fun. Adults and children alike can all learn something new about our local rivers, what lives in them and how we can help protect them.

Q: Why is the River so important?

Rivers are so important as they are a source of habitat and food for so many species of wildlife. Some people may think that only fish benefit from improvements to our rivers, but in fact there are many species which benefit such as; river flies, eels, otters, kingfishers, bats, water voles, crayfish, dragonflies and damselflies to name but a few.

Rivers are also an important part of natural flood management. By working with famers and landowners, we are seeking to improve the natural flood management in the Ribble Catchment. Projects such as creating new sections of woodland and creating wetland areas help to slow the flow of water over land, reducing the risk of flooding in heavy rainfall events. Techniques used in the watercourse such as the installation of leaky dams and bank reinforcement with brash bundling can help slow the flow of water, further reducing the risk of flooding.

The Ribble Catchment covers an area of 571 square miles, making it an important part of the landscape in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Tales by the Ribble will celebrate the River Ribble and the benefits it brings to people, wildlife, the local environment and economy.

Q: Why did the trust primarily wish to reach a family audience?

Ribble Rivers Trust are keen to engage with a family audience as it is a great opportunity to reach a range of ages in a fun and interactive way. Whilst the activities are primarily targeted at children, their parents get involved too and learn about their local rivers. Helping to educate children about their nearby rivers is vital as they can then grow up with an appreciation of the importance of a healthy river system and the benefits this brings to our lives and to wildlife too. By educating their parents too we are spreading the message even further and hopefully even helping to change some habits around the home such as promoting saving water.

By engaging with the public through a family fun day, we can utilise our most interactive and fun activities, helping to teach people about our rivers without them even realising.

Q: The family fun day is in partnership with Settle Stories, what made you choose us to work with on this event?

Settle Stories have a great deal of experience delivering this kind of event. They have a well-established reputation and a good following. By partnering up with Settle Stories, we felt that our activities might reach new audiences who have not previously engaged with Ribble Rivers Trust. We engage a great deal with anglers, farmers and landowners, working on arts-based events and activities allows us to engage with people who may not be aware of our work.

As the Ribble runs through Settle and is such a prominent part of the landscape, we thought the Settle area would be an ideal location for a river-themed family event. Having the event based on the riverbank will hopefully help to embed the river into the activities of the day and inspire the participants.

Q: Why do you think the arts and in particular- storytelling – is a good way to reach people in your work raising awareness of the River?

Using the arts to engage with audiences is extremely useful, as it allows us to deliver information in an engaging and creative way. Our work can be fairly science-based, however, using the arts to deliver activities opens up exciting opportunities for engagement. Factual information can be delivered in a fun and accessible way, allowing families to appreciate the importance of our river system. The arts appeal to a variety of audiences and age groups and should also engage passers-by, helping to spread the word of the work of Ribble Rivers Trust.

Storytelling is a particularly valuable way to reach the public as it is highly immersive and engaging. Children especially can get lost in a magical setting and learn lots of interesting facts about their local rivers and the wildlife that use them without even realising that they are learning. Storytelling provides children with an opportunity to be creative and explore new ideas. Activities such as this are a great way for some children to learn rather than in a conventional setting.

Q: What do you hope families will learn from the fun day?

We hope that families will leave with an increased awareness and appreciation of the River Ribble. Our micro safari will allow the public to examine the creatures that live in our rivers such as mayfly larvae and freshwater shrimps. The storytelling workshops will explore the importance of the Ribble, encouraging us to think about those who depend on it for habitat and food. The craft activities will allow us to explore the heritage of the Ribble. We hope that families will learn a little more about the work that Ribble Rivers Trust does across the catchment and have a greater understanding of the influence of the Ribble on our landscape. We hope that families will look at the Ribble in a new light and possibly change some of their habits at home. Most of all, we hope that families will have had fun finding out more about the Ribble in enjoyable and interactive ways.

Written by volunteer writer Elizabeth Snell


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