On Sunday 9th June, Frome Families for the Future and the Friends of River Frome put on the most extraordinarily good River Festival, curated to celebrate, protect and connect our community to the River Frome, there was music, river dipping, nature storytelling, river exploration, creature spotting, environmental learning, stalls, kids activities and so much more. Read on to learn more about the day

River Dipping and live music

Following the path to the river at Rodden Meadow we turned the corner to be greeted with the sounds of singing, splashing and laughter. Immediately, I caught sight of children in oversized waders with large nets helping Bristol Avon River Trust capture a sample of Frome’s many river creatures whilst The Ripple Effect band warmed up getting ready to sing their moving song ‘I Am River’. Their multigenerational band formed by Frome Families for the Future, collaboratively versed and harmonized the entire song whilst being riverside, the lyrics represent their feelings of how the river joins us all – animals, humans and nature alike, highlighting the connection between the planet’s health and our own wellbeing.

Jeremy Wade Talk

After the soulful rendition of ‘I Am River’, we listened to the charismatic Jeremy Wade talk ‘Rivers’, telling us a fascinating tale of when he rescued a castaway in South Australia to demonstrate the integral role that rivers play in our lives, how they have shaped our towns and industry, how the river runs out of our taps and through our bodies and impacts our health, how it protects us from floods and droughts as well as nurturing the delicate ecosystem and wildlife that surround it. 

“The chorus of the song, ‘I am the river, and the river is me’… it’s totally true. We don’t really think about rivers enough… it can make you ask questions, (like) what is the river, where does it come from, where does the river end? All of us, when we turn on a tap and take a drink of water, that is the river, that (water) comes ultimately from the river, (it makes us think about) the importance of water.” described Jeremy Wade

Stalls and learning

Next, we took in the circle of stalls, all of which had pitched at their own cost, all willing to share their knowledge and experience driven by a collective vision of river custodianship. From them, we learnt many ways we can help protect the river’s health, by switching to plastic-free period products (Green and Healthy Frome: Plastic Free.Period), decreasing single-use plastic by refilling (Denude), what not to put down the loo and sink (Frome Families for the Future), and how to dispose of unused medications properly (Frome Medical Practice). We learnt about what people really want from the river following the results of FFFF’s River Vision Survey, with easy inclusive access to the river being high on the agenda, and people wanting to be closer to nature and enjoy the healing benefits that these natural beauty spots provide. 

Children’s Activities

The kids revelled in the fun arts and crafts, games and music. They loved looking at the treasures that Dean and Hecter from Magging Adventures bought, they danced to Martin Sheill’s superb nature-inspired rap, explored the river and spotted creatures with Bristol Avon River Trust, and listened with fascination to Terrestrial UK’s river storytelling. But crucially, witnessing the sheer joy that the children derived from the simple pleasure of basking in their riverside playground validated the purpose of the project. The aim of this festival was, yes, to raise awareness of how the river affects our health as well as the ecosystems around it and to learn more about how to keep the river healthy, but also, to bring people together, for all and everyone to connect with nature and to revel in all that being riverside gives us; this was achieved in spades. Bucket and spades full… and maybe the odd wader!

“This is the best event that I have been to in Frome”, Frome Resident’

Feeling of Optimism 

In a world that is often dominated by stories of doom around climate health, I left the River Festival with a feeling of unity and optimism, it was not just the sense of community that filled me with joy, but knowing that all these brilliant, hardworking organisations have a shared vision of making the river a thriving, healthy place for this welcoming community and the surrounding nature to cherish. The sheer number of happy, laughing faces, people connecting, eager learning, dogs darting and children playing is a testament to the natural magic that being riverside creates. 

Thank you to all of those extraordinary volunteers that made this all possible: Frome Familes for the Future, Friends of River Frome, Nurdle Nerd, Stop Frome BESS, Anglers Association, Frome Town Council’s Wild Bunch, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Everyday Eco Parenting, Luna Plant-Based Kitchen, Weaving With Clio, Denude, Sustainable Frome, Frome Seed Library, Green & Healthy Frome’s Plastic Free. Period, Dean and Hectors Magging Adventures, Bristol Avon River Trust, Jeremy Wade, Terrestrial UK, Martin Sheills.

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