Making a splash all along the Wye Valley, with a programme of fabulous, free, family entertainment, The Wye Valley River Festival runs from April 29 to May 15.
The full programme has just been launched and it features an amazingly creative partnership of actors, singers, musicians and dancers, bringing to life the central narrative and sweeping downstream creating magic, mayhem and laughter. Under the artistic directorship of Desperate Men, one of the UK’s most versatile and inventive outdoor arts companies, the festival brings together And Now, working with people, fire structures, sound and light; Mr & Mrs Clarke, whose creative, interactive performance pieces for festivals and touring productions have taken them all over the world; Tim Hill, a musician, performer and creator of outdoor shows drawing on the traditions of circus, village and street bands; the Lydbrook Band; the George Choir from Newnham and many more besides. There will be performances by the specially-formed Wye Valley Festival Choir which has been meeting in Ross-on-Wye, Llandogo and Monmouth, led by Helen Vincent from Singplicity, to rehearse songs about water and rivers from a variety of genres.
Celebrating the River Wye and its connections to rivers and people around the world, the biennial Wye Valley River Festival is led by the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) unit collaborating with local communities. The first festival in 2014 attracted audiences of around 20,000, making a significant contribution to the local economy. This year organisers have their sights set on topping that, setting things on the way to developing 2018’s third festival into an even larger and more nationally and internationally-recognised event. The crowd-pleasing programme includes fire and flame, music, choirs, shows and performances, starting with a “wow” in Hereford on April 29 (7.30pm-9.45pm) and culminating at Chepstow Racecourse on May 15 with a fabulous finale.
A travelling performance and activity space, the Wye Serai, is created around three intriguing caravans: The Caravan of Myths and Legends; The Caravan of Fact and Wonder and The Caravan of Curiosities and Hydrosities. There’s also a comic River Health Check Laboratory and river characters, the Water Ones, wrangling in a comic chaos of pouring and spilling, singing and dancing. At the heart of the Wye Serai is the Giant Samovar, dispensing tea in a time-honoured symbol of hospitality. Traditionally used to heat and boil water for tea, a Samovar (loosely translated from the Russian as self-boiler) would take pride of place at the table at times of festivity and celebration. Designed by And Now especially for The Wye Valley River Festival, the pure copper, celebratory Samavor has been built by one of the leading moonshine still makers in Arkansas, USA, using traditional copper working skills.
The Wye Valley River Festival 2016 is a Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership initiative with funding from the Sustainable Development Fund, a Welsh Government Initiative in the Wye Valley AONB, The Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, supported by the Welsh Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery, Environment Agency, Ernest Cook Trust, Forestry Commission England, New Grove Trust, Hereford River Carnival, Ross Town Council and in-kind support from The Shire Hall, Monmouth, numerous volunteers & local communities. It is sponsored by Eat Sleep Live Herefordshire, who also sponsored the Festival’s promotion at The British Travel and Tourism Show; media sponsors Sunshine Radio and Live 24-Seven; Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Tourism Association and Old Station, Tintern. The Caravan of Myths and Legends is sponsored by Puzzlewood and the Caravan of Curiosities and Hydrosities is sponsored by Monnow Voice.
Full details of all the events are below, Visit www.wyevalleyaonb.org.uk for more information.
Friday April 29, 7:30pm- 9:45pm – Launch of Wye Valley River Festival
Inspired by the landscape of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), this year’s Wye Valley River Festival is an artistic outpouring of song, story and spectacle celebrating the River Wye and its connections to rivers and people around the world. At the launch event, water, fire, music and performance and a procession of illuminated water monsters will herald the arrival of a Giant Samovar, capturing the joys of abundant fresh water and celebrating that Water is Life! A specially assembled Festival Choir will sing songs about water and rivers accompanied by the Lydbrook Band and other musicians.
Saturday, April 30, 10am-6pm – Hereford River Carnival and Wye Serai
Hereford: Castle Green, Bishop’s Meadow, Left Bank and along the city’s historic streets.
A full day of carnival fun with street processions, amazing puppet creations, water rituals and aqua play, music, dance, food and drink, ending with a colourful flotilla of craft on the Wye. In attendance will be The Wye Valley River Festival’s travelling Wye Serai, a performance and activity space created around three intriguing caravans: The Caravan of Myths and Legends; The Caravan of Curiosities and Hydrosities and The Caravan of Fact and Wonder. There’s also The Arts & Environment (A&E) River Health Check Laboratory, conducting a comic river health check with serious intentions and the river characters, the Water Ones, wrangling in a comic chaos of pouring and spilling, singing and dancing.
Sunday, May 1, 11am to 5pm – Wye Valley River Festival
The Water Ones continue their stories – celebrating water, life, rivers, seas, washing up, teas and tears – with evocative dances, spillages, songs and silliness.
Bank Holiday Monday, May 2 – Wye Valley River Festival
Bishopswood 10am to 1pm and Lydbrook Tump noon to 5pm
There’s a ceremonial canoe launch at Bishopswood as part of a local fete with stalls and a barbeque. Canoes will carry festival flags down to Lydbrook Tump, where The Wye Valley River Festival’s A&E River Health Check Laboratory tests the river’s health; the Caravan of Fact and Wonder explores the mysteries and subtleties of H20, streams, ponds and drains; the Giant Samovar brews potions distilled from the waters of the Wye and the Water Ones provide water antics and liquid ceremonies.
Bank Holiday Monday, May 2 to Sunday May 8, 12noon to 10pm – Sound installation by Dan Fox
A sound installation by audio-visual artist Dan Fox features sounds, voices and surprising noises in live interaction with people as they cross the bridge over the Wye at Redbrook.
Friday May 6, 11am-10pm, full Wye Serai from 6.30pm – Wye Serai
Old Station, Tintern
The Wye Serai visits Old Station for the ceremonial launch of the outdoor arts installation Luminous Birds at 7pm, followed by a performance by the George Choir.
Friday May 6 to Sunday May 15 – Luminous Birds
Old Station, Tintern
The spectacular outdoor art installation Luminous Birds by internationally renowned artist Kathy Hinde will be shown alongside another astounding avian art installation, One Thousand Birds. In the run-up to the festival, riverside communities were invited to make hundreds of Origami birds to help this installation take flight.
Friday May 6, 12noon to 4pm – Wye Valley River Festival
River characters visit Monmouth town centre to perform whilst Articulture’s Arts and Landscape Conference takes place in Shire Hall (invite only).The A&E River Health Check Laboratory will be in Blestium Street and the Caravan of Fact and Wonder will be outside Shire Hall.
Saturday May 7, 12 noon-10.15pm – Wye Valley River Festival
See three outdoor arts commissions by Articulture on the streets of the town, plus buskers and river characters. The Wye Serai will be encamped on Vauxhall Fields and there will be a spectacular show there in the evening including a performance by the Festival Choir.
Sunday May 8, 11am-5pm – Mini Wye Serai and walk
The Slaughters, below Symonds Yat Rock, across the river from the Biblins campsite, There’s a special mini Serai and a magical woodland walk: Listen to the Sap Rising and Hear the Earth Move.
Friday May 13, 6pm to 8pm – The Art of Sustainability: Rivers, Local meets Global
Wye Valley Sculpture Garden, The Nurtons, Tintern
At this conference there will be a live link to Brazil and Professor Henrique Chaves in conversation with Simon Evans from the Wye and Usk Foundation (booking required via www.eventbrite.co.uk)
Saturday May 14, 12.30pm-10.30pm – The Wye Serai
There will be theatre, music and food and towards evening, torch bearers and musicians will converge at the river’s edge and fantastic illuminations will light the riverside as choirs join with The Water Ones to bless the waters of the Wye.
Sunday May 15, 2pm to 10.30pm – Grand finale
Finale includes interactive games; a Beast Feast; an evening performance of the Wye Serai; a performance by the Festival Choir, a river shaped fire sculpture, lanterns in the woods; water stories and the final servings from the Samovar.