In summer 2015, Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT), as part of WaterLIFE, hit the road on a summer tour to explore current feeling about what communities (schools, businesses and individuals) living in the Tamar catchment thought about their water environment. The tour aimed to unite people living and working in the Tamar catchment and to raise awareness about the resources the river provides. The public were invited to share their photos and stories about what the river meant to them and to create their own artwork inspired by the river and local environment.
The tour culminated in the My Tamar Festival which was held on the banks of the river at Cotehele Quay on 10th October 2015. The Festival was organised along four key Tamar themes: the environment, arts and heritage, food and produce, and recreation. Members of the Tamar Catchment Partnership were invited to showcase projects and activities to protect and restore the river: throughout the day, attendees enjoyed live music, craft workshops, water quality testing demonstrations, and a series of talks.
The key objectives of the Festival were to showcase activities undertaken to protect and improve the river and raise the general public’s awareness of the Tamar and its role in their lives. It also aimed to build relationships with businesses in the catchment and attract new community members and organisations to take action.
The Tamar Festival was considered a big success with 300-400 people attending, including people living in the local area and families and representatives of organisations involved in the Tamar Catchment Partnership. At the Festival, 40 new contacts were made and added to the Tamar database to receive newsletters and generate future correspondence. The Festival also recruited the first citizen scientists to help monitor water quality in the Tamar.
There was widespread publicity in the local media, including newspapers and magazines, as well as local radio – interviews with BBC Radio Devon, BBC Radio Cornwall and Radio Plymouth. Adding a public-facing dimension to the Partnership has built support amongst the community and this will allow further engagement with additional businesses and organisations in the future. Since the Tamar Festival, WRT has taken the lessons learnt and the inspiration from the event and undertaken similar initiatives in South Devon and Somerset.
“Thank you for the invite to the Tamar Festival and for allowing me to set up site in the marquee. The location was fabulous and the weather was perfect. I spoke to a lot of people that day and they all went away some water saving device – whether it be for the home or garden” - Festival attendee