Being Human Festival 2017
Bristol Waters Lost and Found: an evening of music/film/art. Music by the Fantasy Orchestra, art and films by the Water City Bristol (Hydrocitizenship) Project
Date: Saturday 25 November 2017
Venue: All Hallows Hall, 13 All Hallows Rd, Bristol BS5 0HH
An evening of music, film, and art about Bristol rivers and waterways – including lost streams, holy wells, eel pies, Bristol’s amazing tides (second highest in the world), and their history ecology and culture, and much more. To include: a set of watery songs by the amazing and prizing winning Bristol based Fantasy Orchestra; and films, artworks and maps created by Bristol artists working with local communities and schools for the Water City Bristol element of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Connected Communities “Towards Hydrocitizenship” Project.
Tickets; free but please book to attend – booking link and more info link will be added here soon
On July 2nd 2017 we gathered at Centrespace - an artist-owned studio and event space located along the tiny Leonard Lane in Bristol, and home to the Letterpress Collective - for an evening of water-inspired poetry, music and film.
The event, which sought to bring together some of the creative expressions around water, as well as to remind ourselves and others of human-water connections further afield, brought together a wonderful collection of artists who performed to an appreciative crowd.
Helena Enright, a performer and drama lecturer at Bath Spa MC'ed the evening, and also shared material from her own work on the River Shannon, gathering stories of this river (more on that later).
The evening was opened by the wonderful Holly Corfield-Carr, a multi-talented poet and artist who presented poems alongside a film, taking us through a journey through Bristol's harbour, imagining rising tides and flows. The words and images together were amazingly atmospheric. Holly's work is also funny, with photography and words woven together to draw out the wonder and delight of both water and people. There are signs that have been worn away, (disembark safely now says 'bark safely'), and my favourite observation, of an illusion created at sea of Denny Island floating - and thereby becoming part of Wales, given some legal division of the island as that which is above see being Wales and that below being England! You can read and view some of Holly's wonderful work on her website and blog here: http://hollycorfieldcarr.co.uk/
Holly's wonderful opening poems were followed by a screening of the fantastic short animated film produced by Water City Bristol's Hidden Ecologies strand. The film, put together by animator Lucy Izzard, with the voices and drawings of the children of class 5 at Victoria Park primary school, was really well received, with the room filling with laughter at the charming moments in the journey of the eels.
Following this, Helena shared some great stories from the River Shannon, based on conversations she had had with people living close to the river, or with intimate connections with it. A group of sisters reminisced about their father packing their whole big family into a boat, with a couple of boys attached to a raft at the back, sharing the joys of the river, and some hairy moments as well!
On the topic of boats, Jack Adair Bevan, an apprentice boat builder at Underfall Yard gave a talk about the process of building the famous Bristol pilot cutters, including a short history of why these boats were so special, having been built to navigate the very particular tidal estuarine conditions coming into Bristol, and the particular ways in which their design and motion followed these conditions. The craft of building pilot cutters is being kept alive by a small number of enthusiasts, and the care and attention and love that goes into building these boats was very evident in Jack's talk.
We were then treated to the beautiful sounds of Agua de Beber, singing watery bossa nova, music from the shores of Brazil, a country with nearly 7500 kilometres of coastline! Bossa nova apparently emerged through the blending of different styles of music, and was given its name as something new, on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Listening to Agua de beber's vocalist Kat's soothing voice, it was easy to imagine relaxing on such a beach.
We were brought back to the local next, but in mind of connections further afield, when Nick Hand, one of the Letterpress Collective's printers presented a photo essay about the Pill Hobblers, skilled boatsmen who guided ships into the treacherous harbour to unload their goods. A profession that clearly was one of great prestige, we were shown images of hobblers in three-piece suits and bowler hats! Hardly the image you might expect of people out in the tidal waters of the Bristol Channel! The hobbler community at Pill is apparently very secretive, and so Nick had spoken only to the wife of a hobbler, as none of the hobblers themselves were willing to be recorded.
The boats and arrivals into the harbours of Bristol come with a reminder of other boat journeys too, some with darker stories of challenges both at sea, and on land where situations like war have, particularly in recent times, led to mass movements of people, often in treacherous conditions over waters that have claimed the lives of many. In recognition of this, we were lucky to be treated to a performance by Oud duo Nabra, comprised of Knud Stuwe and Ali Elmubarak. The pair had met through a scheme to introduce refugees to musicians, and the collaboration that has formed is pure joy to watch. Ali's face beams with smiles, and the pair's musical interweavings speak volumes. You can read a write-up about the pair and see some of their music here: www.bristol247.com/news-and-features/features/music-and-friendship/
After a short interval and beverages from the bar, the second half of the evening commenced with poems by Libby Houston. Libby is a botanist and rock climber who has spent many a day hanging off ropes in the Avon Gorge, where she famously discovered a new species of whitebeam. Her poems were wonderfully evocative of relationships with these natural landscapes. This rare performance was a real treat, as Libby has not performed her poetry for many years, and was truly a delight.
Another performance that was a rare treat was that of Legacy, a group of guitarists led by Alex Hogg performing rhythmic and fluid music, in accompaniment to the 1929 film poem on water by Ralph Steiner.
Mesmerised by the music of Legacy, we then plunged below the city of Bristol through a film by Antony Lyons exploring the underground spaces of water in Bristol through the eyes of the people who maintain the sewers and culverts, descending into these tunnels and caves to keep the circulation of water in the city in flow. The film gave the sense of the city as a body, accompanied by human heart-beats (including that of Antony's child when she had been in the womb). An evocative connection between the human and the city, truly a Water City Bristol expression.
As the evening drew to a close, Helena shared more stories from the Shannon, the personal woven into the natural, and we were played out into the night once more by the lovely Agua de beber, with our minds and hearts full of all the amazing ways in which we are connected to places, peoples and our selves through water...
Thanks to Antony Lyons, Nick Hand, Helena Enright and Owain Jones for organising and hosting Down by the River.
Blog post and photos by Katherine Jones
UNDERCURRENTS - A Bricolage
Bristol Harbourside July 13, 2017
An imaginarium or exploration of water based on the lens of the ‘non-human’ - as represented by the Kittiwake and Eel
Maggie Roe & Antony Lyons
& the Water City Bristol team
This project aims to expand, critique and reflect on our relationships with water and forms part of the AHRC Hydrocitizenship Project.
The plan was to produce a ‘mini-exhibition’ expressive of the study and creative research.
The project developed as an intensive and creative exploration of the often uncharted connections between mind, body and water. The focus is on non-human/water/human relationships; on a sensory and associative, conscious and unconscious exploration of species and water; particularly the subconscious, emotional and sensory and a ‘dark ecology’ of these relationships based on a geopoetic approach.
Kittiwakes & Eels
The anchor species are the Kittiwakes of the River Tyne and the Eels of the River Severn/Avon. Both of these species travel long distances by, with, from and in water. They rely on water and water is their habitus. They exist in liminality. The associations and stories surrounding each are very different. The Eels of the Severn remain mysterious and elusive; travelling over 4,000 miles from the Sargasso Sea to travel up the river, arriving around March every year. A rich culinary and history is reasonably well-known locally about the Severn eels, and they are seen primarily as a commercial commodity by some local communities.
The Kittiwakes that nest on the Tyne Bridge and some nearby buildings at Newcastle, are the furthest inland colony in the world and are probably the only such bird assemblage to inhabit a large city. They nest from March until August, travelling long distances to feed in the North Sea. There is excellent scientific data about this colony, collected since the 1950s, and an active community of naturalists and locals who watch and record Kittiwake information.
Both species connect fresh and salt water through Tyne+North Sea coast (Kittiwakes) and the Avon+Severn Estuary coast (Eels). Both have Atlantic journeys as part of their life-cycles. Both have strong periods in their life-cycles where being part of a vibrant community is important. Both are on the Red List of species which means not only the survival of the species but also their cultural associations and meanings are under threat. The Eels and Kittiwakes’ stories are considered in terms of complex interwoven strands where body, mind, myth, memory, waste, food, soul, politics and history are entangled and their interactions between humans and water become muddied and unclear.
Why Tea-Towels and T-shirts?
An ordinary, everyday item that has developed from a domestic necessity to an essential designer kitchen furnishing, the common tea-towel is often of standard size, form and material. While familiar and often ignored, it is also the provider of concise messages in both visual and textual form. These are often pithy observations, recipes and souvenir images of attractions and tourist sites. The objective of using this form in our exhibition is to encourage a ‘double-take’ by the observer. What you think you see, is perhaps not what you get. By extension, we have used the T-shirt format because it is commonly recognised as providing opportunities for self-expression, advertising, souvenir messages, and protest. T-shirts provide low-value ‘wearable art’ and while often exhibiting immediate messages, our design provocations aim to elicit a second glance and at least a second thought.
Short Report on the Toward Hydrocitizenship & Water City Bristol ‘eel and elvers’ exhibition at the Bristol Festival of Nature (BFON) Keynsham Family Fun Day
18 June 2017
The Bristol Festival of Nature is a major annual event held at Bristol's harbour area. It attracts many 1000s of visitors. For the last few years it has expanded to hold events beyond Bristol - in Keynsham and Bath - on consecutive weekends in June. As all three of these sites are located by the River Avon it has adopted river themes in recent years. This was an obvious attraction to the large AHRC ‘Towards Hydrocitizenship’ project with its focus on reconnecting communities through, and to, water in various forms. Professor Owain Jones and others in the team has previous experience of running public-engagement stalls at The Festival of Nature in 2012, 2013, and 2014 on various aspects of Bristol’s rivers and tides.
Water City Bristol, the Bristol case-study within the wider project, has developed 4 themes of focus in its ongoing work with various communities, schools and creative partners. Under the overarching theme of ‘Hidden Waters’, and developed by the lead creative partner NOVA Creative Lab in conjunction with the team from Bath Spa University, UWE and Bristol University and other freelance artists and community enablers, events, films, walks and other creative output have been generated under the headings: Hidden Rivers, Hidden Tides, Hidden Ecologies, and Hidden Infrastructure.
In our work upon Hidden Ecologies, eels and elvers have emerged as an important focus. It also became apparent that the town of Keynsham had a very interesting and distinctive history of eel and elver culture. This is mostly culinary in nature with ancient and more recent records of, and recipes for, Keynsham Eel-pie and Keynsham Elver-cake. This seemed an ideal opportunity to not only display information about this history - in Keynsham, by the river – but also to discuss the all-important theme of river ecologies and biodiversity. Eel numbers in the UK and the South West of England/Severn Estuary area, where they were extraordinarily prolific and key elements of local ecology and culture, have declined drastically over the last 40 years.
Working with our project partner – the very active and influential Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) – we assembled a suite of materials to show on the day. This included a short animated film made especially for the project by the animator Lucy Izzard; display boards, banners and printed material by SEG; displays of local books about eel history in the region; copies of the famous Keynsham eel/elver recipes; posters of key messages; and posters made for the premiere of the eel animation film which took place at Aardman Studios Bristol a few days previously. We are grateful to Bath Spa Live for printing some lovely display boards and for providing the gazebo and table and chairs for the day. The stall was staffed through a very hot day by Andrew Kerr (SEG), Owain Jones (BSU), Katherine Jones (UWE), and Antony Lyons of NOVA Creative Lab.
The stall had a steady throughput of people with approximately 25 small groups watching the film which was playing on a loop (approx. 75 viewers in total – many children), with many more stopping to read the information and chat with the crew. Good contacts were made with Avon Wildlife Trust, and a few local ‘eel stories’ gathered for future use. A series of pictures of the day are on the project Flickr site here.
Details of the SEG can be found here http://www.sustainableeelgroup.org/
For the Towards Hydrocitizenship project here Hydrocitizenship Project
For the Water City Bristol Case Study here http://www.watercitybristol.org/
Free Event: "Viewpoints; How Water Shaped Bath." Part of a River Avon Project; Mon 13 March 2017,18:30 – 20:30, Bath
By Bristol Natural History Consortium
The second in a series of 'Viewpoints' events - bringing water research to life along the River Avon.
Our 'Viewpoints' free events are a series of short discussions showcasing amazing water research and local projects.
Join us at the Guildhall as we discuss emerging reserach about the health of the River Avon and waterways around Bath. We’ve convened a panel of researchers and water-related stakeholders to talk us through problems and solutions our waterways face. Speakers include Jun Zang from the University of Bath, Luis Felipe Velasquez from EarthWatch and Harriet Alvis from Bristol Avon Rivers Trust, with a range of organistions and residents joining the discussion in the audience.
After the discussion, there will be the chance to share your thoughts with our speakers and guests over a free glass of wine or soft drink.
Mon 13 March 2017
18:30 – 20:30 GMT
Book free ticket here
See other Viewpoint River Avon events and info here
Water City Bristol - Hidden Tides strand co-curates a series of films about water with Bath film Festival 2016
A series of short films about tides, estuaries and the coastline.
"Estuaries and shorelines hold a deep fascination for us – washed by the tides, they are constantly changing places of climate and light extremes, working to overlapping sets of rhythms and tempos, often alluring and sometimes dangerous".
Guest presenter Professor Owain Jones of the Environmental Humanities Research Centre at Bath Spa University, and prime mover behind the Towards Hydrocitizenship project, has long been enthralled by tides and tidal cultures.
Tonight he introduces and discusses a collection of fascinating short films that explore our relationship with the ebb and flow of arguably the most powerful and transforming natural force on the planet.
Times: 18.30 DOORS, (Pre drinks in the downstairs bar, Chris Baker of Bath Film Festival will be there from 6pm)
Films (In the upstairs bar)
• 19.00 Intro by Dr. Owain Jones (5m)
• PROXI AND PERI 1 10m.19s (Rough Glory Films)
• PILLARS OF LIGHT 16m.28s
• 5 UNDERCURRENTS 3m.57s
20.10 INTERVAL 15m - Possible additional guest speaker.
• TRANSGRESSION 15m.20s (Nova Creative Lab)
• TSUNAMI 7m.14s
• PROXI AND PERI 4 - HAY DESCANSO PARA LOS ESTUPIDOS (Rough Glory Films)
21.05 Q+A / Informal networking and conversation.
The films in blue text were made by Bristol based film-makers /artists and who have links and partnerships with Water City Bristol / Hydrocitizenship Project
The Hidden Tides Team co-created a tidal festival on Lamplighters Marsh, Shirehampton, working with the local community group, the Lamplighters pub and My Future My Choice. The event was staged between a high and low tide and involved poetry, music, guided walk, the shutting of the Tide Gate by the Environment Agency, print making (Small Works Press)
An event co-produced with Friends of Avon New Cut (FrANC).
See a slide show of pictures here
See Flickr Slide Show below
Water City Bristol Loves Tides!
In conjunction with community groups Friends of the Avon New Cut, and Friends of Lamplighters Marsh, we are involved in two events coming up in October, on the 2nd and the 15th.
The October 2nd event will take place from 1-5pm at and around Temple School (click here for travel directions)
This event is in celebration of 10 years of the community group Friends of the Avon New Cut, and will be a great celebration of the tidal river Avon as it flows through the new cut.
Activities on the day will include live music, tea and cake, short talks by FrANC and Water City Bristol, screening of a fun short film about "Proxi and Peri", the tides made flesh (otherwise known as the mudmen), a walk along the New Cut and craft activities for adults and children, including the amazing print bike run by Nick Hand of the Letterpress Collective.
There may also be an opportunity to view a boat sculpture made by the local community from Redcliffe flats, which will be on display in the Redcliffe Children's Centre.
All welcome! Show up for the whole event or drop in on the day. A full programme of details will be released shortly.
On October 15th we'll be having a second event, this time at the Lamplighter's Pub in Shirehampton (directions here). This event, being held in conjunction with the Friends of Lamplighters Marsh will also involve live music by a great local band, the print bike and more!
Activities will start at 3pm and go until after the high tide at 7:30pm.
All welcome! Come join us in celebrating the people and places, tides and rivers, and this watery city...
To some, the Water City Bristol project with its four apparently disparate projects around ‘daylighting’ culverted, hidden or forgotten rivers; hidden ecologies; tidal reaches; and care for infrastructure, may seem oddly random, even given the overall sense of an ecological orientation. In my view this is not the case, particularly if we start to think about it in the expanded context I want to suggest here.
In her recent blog on this site, Lindsey McEwen writes about our “working with local people in South Bristol to explore creative engagements with culverted and ‘hidden or forgotten rivers’ in Bristol”. This process of ‘daylighting’ is highly resonant for somebody like myself with an interest in the joined-up thinking/doing that academics call ‘connectivity’ and Felix Guattari called ‘ecosophy’; and in social psychology. Resonant because it is suggestive of the psychoanalytical processes by which repressed unconscious material is once again brought to the surface, to the attention of the collective mind or culture.
This analogy fits well with Lindsey’s equating the exposure of “long-buried” rivers with a process akin to their ‘being exposed to fresh air after decades of burial’. So my sense of context for what WCB is trying to do can be understood in this sense; as a lifting of repression. What needs to be brought into the light of day, in our case, is the long discarded or repressed animist mode of thinking that once allowed humans to see ourselves as simply one kind of living organism within the mesh of vibrant matter that has been called Gaia, an ecosophical understanding that side-steps the usual sharp distinctions between human and non-human modes of being in the world. Instead it thinks in terms of the all-togetherness of three interwoven yet distinct fields - the constellation of identities that makes up a self, the social, and the environment.
In her blog Lindsey also points out that:
The activities of collective walking - to trace a particular route or honour a place - and storytelling (understood as the sharing of significant narratives) come close to being our culture’s best equivalents to ritual participation in the active social maintenance of place found in most cultures other than our own. Traditionally, walking as pilgrimage and storytelling grounded in the local landscape were two ways in which a sense of the numinous quality of place, its physical and cultural sense of depth (even of spirituality in a pagan sense), were maintained.
Consequently I would argue that, under the growing pressure of socio-ecological upheaval, we are now increasingly seeing a re-emergence of an ‘open’ or ‘non-aligned form of spirituality in that animist or pagan sense. Also that, at least in certain respects, this brings us closer to a fuller sense of place found in animist cultures.
I’m by no means the only person to notice this shift or re-emergence. While in my view it’s necessary to set aside the all-too-often often rather puerile reductivism of ‘New Age’ thinking, there is plenty of more nuanced evidence even within the academic sphere.
The art commentator and anarchist thinker Rebecca Solnit writes in As Eve Said To The Serpent: On Landscape, Gender and Art (2001) about alternatives to the still dominant assumptions about the relationship between linear temporality, creation and place that flows from the traditions of the three monotheistic Religions of the Book (Christianity, Islam and Judaism). Solnit notes that certain artists adopt an alternative approach to time that echoes that in “Native American creation stories”, evoking ”a worldview in which creation of the world is often continual and sometimes comic improvisation, without initial perfection or a subsequent fall” (Solnit 2001:12). That, it seems to me, is close enough to what is going on – psycho-socially speaking - with the walks and the storytelling that Lindsey refers to.
Mainstream academic thinking, which is still conditioned by assumptions that Enlightenment thinking inherited from the monotheism of the three great Religions of the Book is not comfortable with any talk of either non-aligned spirituality or of neo-animism, both of which it regards as relics of a pre-modern era. None-the-less, the perspectives on the world that these invite are now being taken seriously at the creative edges of academic work, for example by respected thinkers such as Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers. Furthermore, the consequences of taking those perspectives seriously are being put into practice in everyday contexts by a variety of creative individuals and groups.
A good example of this practical work is a recent doctoral project undertaken by Ciara Healy, a PhD student at UWE, Bristol who teaches at Reading University. Earlier this year Ciara organized a multi-faceted project to draw attention to these perspectives as part of a doctoral project. This led to the Thin Place exhibition, together with an accompanying symposium and a series of education events, involving the Oriel Myrddin in Carmarthen. Without going into great detail about Ciara's project here (a description can be found at: http://orielmyrddingallery.co.uk/event/thin-place/) - it seems to me that in drawing attention to these perspectives and in various other respects the aims, range and scope of her project model the kind of inclusive, ‘ecosophical’ approach that, personally speaking, I hope Water City Bristol is aiming to demonstrate in practice.
There is always a concern that re-introducing such perspectives is somehow a sign of a ‘mystical’ or ‘anti-scientific’ bias. Yet the Thin Place exhibition catalogue included commissioned texts by astrophysicist Haley Gomez, as well as the astrologer Mark Jones, Franciscan Brother Joseph MacMahon, and the poet Cherry Smyth; while the symposium speakers included a transformational therapist, a cultural ethnographer, artists, a lecturer in art and philosophy, an archaeologist specialized in prehistoric ritual sites in Wales, and myself as an artist/researcher/teacher interested in matters of place. It’s also indicative that the educational aspect of the project included, among other events, a critical writing competition and story-telling event for primary school children.
There may be no very easily discerned links between daylighting culverted, hidden or forgotten rivers, exploring hidden ecologies and tidal reaches, and care for the urban infrastructure, at least if these topics are seen from the usual instrumental and disciplinary perspectives. However, once we choose to see them in an expanded, ecosophical light, as resonant with open metaphorical as well as literal meanings and concerns, they each start to resonate with each other via tropes that relate to our psycho-social need to address issues of loss, change, flux, and care. Issues that are ultimately bound up with that sense of meaning and purpose that has traditionally been thought of as the domain of religion, of spirituality. To address, that is, the concerns traditionally referred to as those that preoccupy the ‘thought of the heart’, concerns that form bridges between our constellated selves, society and the environment.
Iain Biggs is part of NOVA, the creative collective advising and co-creating Water City Bristol. He can also be found blogging on his personal website at: