- Date: 7 September 2009
- Artform: Dance, Music
- Region: South West
A commissioned poem by Alice Oswald celebrating the watery delights of the river Severn in Gloucestershire was the catalyst for a summer of performances and events across the county.
The Severn Project, supported by a grant of £72,000 from Arts Council England, South West, featured free outdoor events and a comprehensive community and education programme, all inspired by the poem. Additional funding, raised by the Severn Project partnership came from Awards for All, Gloucestershire County Council, South Gloucestershire Council, the Gloucestershire District Councils, Ernest Cook Trust and Summerfield Trust. 10,000 people saw and took part in the programme through the summer.
Central to the project was the adaptation of Alice Oswald's poem, A Sleepwalk on the Severn by Taurus Voice Theatre Company. The performance was premiered at the Tewkesbury Festival in June - one of two day-long festivals held as part of the project -and then toured to 16 venues over the summer. The poem was set to music by Pete Rosser and performed as River Songs by six community choirs and interpreted through dance by choreographer Marie-Louise Flexen who worked with 20 young dancers to create a new piece, Tide Lands.
Helen Owen, Arts Development Officer at Gloucestershire County Council who spearheaded the project says 'we had many arts agency partners including Gloucestershire Dance and Gloucestershire Music, but we also managed to involve many other parts of the Council - to join up our services.'
Willow sculptures and lantern installations created in Adult Opportunity and Family Centre workshops led by Artshape featured at the festivals along with music created in five schools' workshops with jazz composer Eddie Parker. Gloucestershire Archives promoted nine Heritage Roadshows for families.
Helen Owen continues 'there is a legacy of skills passed on to the 1,200 people who took part in the Education Project, and to the artists, who relished the opportunity to work on such a challenging commission. The Severn Project boosted tourism and encouraged us all to see places differently - to open our eyes to what is around us.'