What does the River Nene mean to you? Art project 900 Voices hope to find out, and it’s capturing people’s thoughts and experiences in the most imaginative ways…
The River Nene, which flows through the heart of Peterborough, means so much to so many. Now a yearlong digital arts/archive project delivered by One to One Development Trust on behalf of Nenescape is capturing a snapshot of how important the Nene is to the people who live and work around it at. The Peterborough Environment Trust (PECT) has also supported the project for the Peterborough Green Festival.
Part of the Peterborough Celebrates campaign, the 900 Voices project is gathering stories, images, music, poems and film relating to the river. It’s being collated in many ways, through arts workshops and installations in a number of community settings.
The latest and perhaps most unusual method will involve the giant 2.2 metre tall book that stands outside the west from of Peterborough Cathedral. One to One Development Trust’s Judi Alston explains: ‘It seemed like a natural way to gather people’s experiences of the River Nene, so I met the book’s creator Neil Gavin to discuss the possibility of adding a sound recording function to the book for the week of the Nene Valley Festival (15-23 September).
‘It will be a fun way for people to interact with the book and contribute in a very accessible way. People will be guided by simple instructions on how to make their recording. The material that’s collected will then be curated and brought into the 900 Voices archive, becoming part of our long-term repository about the River Nene.’
Judi and her team are looking for your personal experiences of the river: ‘It’s a gorgeous asset for the city but so often it’s overlooked. Many people have stories or thoughts about the river, ranging from childhood memories through to leisure activities, environmental concerns, or observations on new development or the changing face of the river and its wildlife. The list is endless!
‘Once you’ve thought about what you’d like to share, simply go and visit the book then follow the instructions on how to talk into it – it couldn’t be easier.’
Recordings will be transferred to the project’s hub, the 900 Voices of the Nene website, where together with other collected material it will bring the River Nene to life. Social media, especially Twitter, is proving a particularly effective way to promote the project, using the hashtag #900VoicesNene. Other contributions include maps, photos, video clips, paintings and poetry. People are also welcome to contribute material directly at www.900voicesofthenene.co.uk
As a local girl 900 Voices represents a very special project for Judi: ‘The river and Ferry Meadows have always had a special place in my heart. From somewhere we’d hang out as teenagers through to family walks with the dog. One of my memories is the taxi boat which ran from the Embankment up to Ferry Meadows – I’d love to see it return.’
The project goes fully live in December when the online archive becomes fully searchable and interactive. ‘It will be a lasting legacy of artwork, films and audio material for the future, a snapshot in time of our beautiful river,’ says Judi.
Plans are also being made for next year to take the project on tour to different venues along the Nene.