Railworld – The Volunteers’ Story

Today – 11th September 2018 – we launched our latest film as part of the 900 Voices Project, ‘Railworld – The Volunteers Story’ and what an occasion it was!

Railworld Wildlife Haven is an urban treasure trove run by volunteers situated between the railway lines and the River Nene. This fantastic project celebrates Peterborough’s railway heritage and offers a wonderful tranquil wildlife haven in the City Centre. For over three decades the project has evolved and grown from waste land to a thriving, beautiful and interesting destination.

I first visited Railworld in June this year and was determined to make a film about it to help Railworld tell their story and as a tool help promote and raise interest in their future plans. Our short film celebrates the role of volunteers in creating and supporting this fantastic community asset. PECT (Peterborough Environment City Trust) funded us to make the film as part of an Artists Commission we delivered for this years Green Festival and to contribute to the 900 Voices Project with Nenescape – celebrating the River Nene between Peterborough and Northampton.

   

The film was launched today in the Globe Hall at Railworld, to a packed audience of Railworld Volunteers and supporters, local dignitaries and the Queens Representative Cambridgeshire Lord Lieutenant Julie Spence. The Queens Award for Volunteering is a lifetime award, and Railworld are a deserving candidate for the honour.

   

In my introduction to the film I said that Peterborough needs to wave its Railworld flag high and proud. This project is not only an exemplar within the Cambridgeshire region but deserves national and international attention. Railworld has supporters from all over the world and that can only grow. In turn, this can help Peterborough become a notable City for its environmental activism, an exciting tourist destination and a great model for volunteering and private/business support.

If we are serious about tackling environmental issues and providing quality volunteering opportunities, then we really need to be looking at Railworld as an example of what can be achieved, against all odds, with good leadership and strong vision.

   

It was a real privilege to launch our film today at this very special event, and we take our hat off to all the people that have worked so hard to make this amazing place what it is.

To contribute your own story to the 900 Voices archive please visit http://900voicesofthenene.co.uk/

Digital Nene

For the launch of the 900 Voices online archive in December commissioned by Nenescape, One to One Development Trust are creating a unique interactive digital art installation for projection as part of the celebrations for Peterborough 900.

Based on an imaginary cross-section of the River Nene (inspired mainly by the landscape around Thrapston where folklore has it that the pronunciation of Nene becomes ‘Nen’) the installation will use advanced 3D graphics to artistically interpret the Nene’s riverbank and surrounding countryside whilst incorporating a curated selection of ‘voices’ from the online archive.

The screenshots you can see here are from our work in progress. It’s already becoming quite a striking piece that will offer the chance for anyone who interacts with the installation to roam freely around the digital landscape – via digital projection and a game pad controller – uncovering fascinating (and often previously unheard) stories gathered from communities between Peterborough and Northampton throughout the duration of the 900 Voices project.

As anyone who attended our ‘Dreamcatcher‘ digital installation event (commissioned by Jumped Up Theatre as part of Platform8) at the Undercroft in Hampton last year will no doubt testify, we don’t hold back when it comes to ambitiously mixing art, community voices and cultural heritage with digital tech. 🙂

Using 3D models captured from real-life natural objects such as trees, rocks, grasses and plants – a technique known as ‘photogrammetry’ – we are hand-crafting a lush painterly environment with high levels of attention to detail, from tiny stones, twigs and dandelions to willow trees and local wildlife.

The ‘voices’ (audio recordings, films, photographs, poems) collected throughout the project will be represented as a series of digital origami ‘paper boats’ floating down the river. The resulting experience will be captivating, beautiful and surreal. It will also be available to download from the 900 Voices website after the launch event.

Watch this space for more news about how the installation is developing.

Please contribute your story about the River Nene here through our online form with a big chance that your submission will be incorporated into this exciting digital art installation. Come and visit us at Peterborough Heritage Festival on Saturday at the Nenescape stand.

Nene Magic

The flow of a river, and the fact that its water perpetually returns, mirrors the nature of time and the cycle of life. A river is home to a kaleidoscope of living things, always moving and changing. This is what makes the River Nene such a perfect focus for an arts and heritage project.

Is it pronounced Nene or is it Nen? The debate goes on, depending on where you live along this fine river, the tenth longest in the UK. The Nene Valley is home to some of England’s best kept secret destinations, beautiful countryside and interesting heritage. The River Nene wanders its way through towns and cities of the valley finally leading to The Wash.

Nenescape Landscape Partnership Scheme, a partnership of organisations working together to raise the profile of the Nene Valley, has received Heritage Lottery funding for a five-year project.

900 Voices is one of the Nenescape projects and came about as part of Peterborough Celebrates 900, a significant anniversary for the Cathedral. 900 Voices is capturing the voices of people along the River Nene from Northampton to Peterborough and is being delivered by Nenescape Partner, arts organisation One to One Development Trust.

   

One to One Development Trust are building an online archive that brings together information and resources about the River which will be ‘made live’ in December 2018 and will be launched with a digital art installation as a response to the project.

900 Voices is bringing together different stories, images, music, poems and film that relates to the River Nene. This content will be gathered in many ways including via social media, contributions from Nenescape partners, through arts workshops in community settings and specific interviews on audio and film. The aim is to create a ‘snapshot’ of what the river means to people who live and work around it at this time in history.

“I fell in love by the river, it was where we went on our first date – a picnic under the willow trees.” “We sprinkled our dogs ashes into the river as he always dived in whatever the weather – happy memories…” The stories that are coming forward are as diverse as the Nene itself. Some participants share a photograph, artwork or a poem, all evoking a special sense of place.

In April we ran two workshops around storytelling with the support of venues from Vivacity. The first was a workshop at Peterborough Museum with Cambridge bard Marion Leeper who worked with 15 participants on how to deliver well-crafted oral stories. It was a lively and fun workshop.

Then later in the month we invited historian and writer Dr Francis Young to come to the Key Theatre to share his stories of folklore relating to the Nene to a very receptive and interested audience.

Dr Francis Young at the 900 Voices talk and story share, Key Theatre

At both events we took the opportunity to capture audio recordings of people’s stories of the river, from raging swans through to memories of famed Peterborough strongman and daredevil Walter Cornelius.

One to One’s Andy Campbell records a story from Rebecca Jackson at the Oral Storytelling Workshop in Peterborough

Participants have been very generous adding their photographs, paintings and illustrations to this fast-growing archive which is a rich celebration of the River Nene.

In this audio story, Charron Pugsley-Hill talks about a sculpture at Nene Park.

The Nenescape tent will be at Peterborough Heritage Festival (16th and 17th June) where 900 Voices will be gathering more stories. Watch out for future blogs on other events happening in Northampton to Peterborough and in-between over the summer.

Judi Alston – May 2018