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Wye Valley River Festival finishes 10th anniversary celebration in style

OPEN ACCESS arts event the Wye Valley River Festival bowed out in style as its 10th anniversary programme closed with thought provoking creative celebrations of the environment.

Live music, feasts and theatre were among the highlights as people of all ages enjoyed a variety of performances along the Wye Valley, encouraging the community to celebrate the landscape and raise their awareness of local ecosystems.

Festival goers of all ages were treated to unique offerings including an interactive art installation and a walking tour on regenerative farming as the 10-day festival, held largely for free every two years, reached its conclusion.

Staged at sites from Hereford to Chepstow, this year’s ecological theme was “the earth beneath our feet” to emphasise the importance of soil to the environment.

On Bank Holiday Monday (6 May), Llandogo Village Hall hosted a 10th Birthday Bash, marking the festival’s impact since its launch in 2014 with theatrical performances, music from Welsh singer Nia Wyn, dancing and a community feast. 

Two of the regular performers throughout this year’s festival, music band the Wodwose and theatre troupe the Rumblers, were on hand to entertain the audience.

On Wednesday, Regen Ben’s Farm at Brampton Abbots, Ross-on-Wye, held Farm Walk and Fodder, an evening meal and tour by regenerative farmer Ben Taylor-Davies, who showed the audience how good food can be produced whilst sequestrating carbon from the atmosphere.

Another feast took place the following day at Together Works, Caldicot, with further entertainment from the Rumblers.

From Friday to Sunday, We Weave the Woods at The Glade, Beechenhurst, saw feasts, shows, workshops and activities inspired by woodland and our connection with the earth, centred on a commissioned installation entitled Connect/Cysylltu by festival veterans AndNow/ANawr.

The site-specific piece inspired visitors to explore and imagine alongside international artist Mark Anderson’s Warning Notes, an interactive sound piece consisting of mechanical ‘instruments’ including gongs, bells, whistles and explosive events.

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On Friday evening theatre show Three Acres and a Cow was staged at Larrapurz Centre, Ross-on-Wye, exploring land rights and protest in folk song and story taking in life in Britain from the Norman Conquest and Peasants’ Revolt through to modern climate breakdown.

The Wonders of the Wye photo competition was held in Chepstow over the weekend for photographers to show their talents, with work now on display at Chepstow Art Space, at Chepstow Old Library in Upper Nelson Street. An evening guided tour took place at RSPB Nagshead on Saturday to sample the sounds of dusk.

The final event will be a photo exhibition and show of films on nature artist Esther May Campbell and young people from the Bristol-based Kitchen Table Photo club in the spectacular setting of Clearwell Caves in Coleford, Gloucestershire, which runs from May 25 to June 2.

The 2024 programme was organised by Wye Valley River Festival CIC, an arts organisation led by artists and communities. Artistic director Phillippa Haynes said: “The 10th Wye Valley River Festival was a celebration to remember, which allowed a cross section of the community to enjoy a varied and creative programme celebrating the stunning landscape.

“The response from the audience members and the creatives has been fantastic, so we are grateful to them all for playing their part in another popular festival which raised consciousness about the environment and the challenges we face. The Wye Valley has always been very supportive of the festival so we thank all our partners for their support in 2024.”

Throughout the festival work produced through community project work was shared with audiences. Music created in songwriting scheme The Cosmos Within Us was performed along with shows by the Mothers In All Weathers Choir, consisting of mums who sing as they walk.

Banners created at Queering The Wye LGBTQ+ youth sessions were on display at several events and a Queering the Wye Craftspace workshop was held in Hereford on Sunday. Artspace Cinderford delivered workshops linked with food, with mobile artworks created by the public.

The Festival, developed in partnership with Wye Valley National Landscape, is funded by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, the Sustainable Development Fund, the Welsh Government, Cadw and Ashley Foundation.