wAteR-climaTe festival Review

Lighthouse, Poole, 3rd November – 4th December

Wed 3 Nov–Sat 4 Dec 2021
10am–9pm Tues–Sat, free entry
Lighthouse, Poole | Art Gallery

About the Festival

The centrepiece of the festival is a compelling new gallery exhibition that tells the devastating story of climate change on freshwater habitats in our own backyard. 

The programme involved live performances that creatively re-imagine the environmental crisis through poetry, music and comedy, a series of internationally acclaimed climate-focused film screenings (with Q&As with the directors), workshops for local writers, and a public arts/science debate with eminent climate scientists and commentators. 

RiverRun Exhibition

The RiverRun exhibition is the first fruits of a three-year long project. Working during the period of Covid, a group of four artists – David Buckland, founder/director of Cape Farewell; Anna Frijstein, a multidisciplinary artist; Helen Moore, an ecopoet and socially engaged artist; and James Murray-White, a filmmaker – have been in dialogue with Cape Farewell’s scientific partners and local farmers, engaging in a creative programme of research and development in and around Poole Bay and its watershed – the network of rivers that feed into this large natural harbour, and in particular the Frome, a chalk river, which flows through us all. 

The RiverRun project has interrogated the way that land is farmed, the links between farm practices and the Poole Bay watershed, and how this directly impacts our lives and contributes to climate change. The Frome, famous for its Salmon run and breeding ground, is sadly under threat. Keeping the river in good health reflects the behaviour of all of us – how we produce and distribute our food, how we treat waste, and how we use these precious resources for recreation.

For Earth’s Sake- Performance by Anna Frijstein and Helen Moore RiverRun Exhibition

Helen Moore

Ecopoet Helen Moore read her new landscape poem cycle Dorset Waterbodies, a Common / Weal, researched and written with Arts Council England funding as part of Cape Farewell’s RiverRun project, exploring impacts of pollution and climate on the watershed draining into Poole Harbour.

Listen to Helen’s evocative poem ‘Findhorn Bay, Waves of Flow & Flight’ among other ecopoems here:

Anna FrijsteinSo orange that it hurts (2021)
Performance, Painting, Sculpture

In the performance, artist Anna Frijstein lead us on an imaginative journey of suffering salmon mothers and their eggs. We joint the ritual where bright orange turns fluorescent in your healing hands.

Anna Frijstein’s performance was imaginative, engaging, funny and informative. Beneath the playful performance, there was a layer of unsettling facts of ecological issues within our rivers.

Burning Ice: A Matter of Fact

Dir. Peter Gilbert, 2009 (remastered 2021) 

Film screening and Q&A with David Buckland and Dr Simon Boxall

Originally screened on Sundance TV as Burning Ice, this film charts the Cape Farewell expedition to the high Arctic voyaging in West Greenland aboard a Russian icebreaker. The Cape Farewell crew of scientists, musicians and artists witnessed the disappearing ice, conducted ocean surveys, produced artworks among the glaciers as the musicians performed in the frozen villages.

The musicians included Jarvis Cocker, KT Tunstall, Feist, Laurie Anderson, Shlomo, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Martha Wainwright, Robyn Hitchcock all corralled with wit and insight by the comedian Marcus Brigstocke and the poet Lemn Sissay. 

This new edit included unseen material filmed on the artists’ return as they performed at Latitude, Southbank Centre and in a Yurt in the garden of KT Tunstall. The new edit concludes with Lemn Sissay performing What If? with a jazz quartet ending with the line “the World as We Know it has Changed its Matter of Fact”. The climate crisis is framed by Cape Farewell as a cultural challenge: we are all complicit and we are all the solution – that is a matter of fact.

After watching the documentary film, there was a chance for the audience to ask questions to David Buckland and Dr Simon Boxall, about the expedition.

High Tide Don’t Hide (2021)

Film screening of High Tide Don’t Hide: by Directors Niva Kay, Emily McDowell, Nia Phipps, Phil Stebbing

Screening of New Zealand documentary following Kiwi showed teenage activists in 2019 as they coordinate strikes, protests, and rallies in the hopes of challenging everyone to avert the incoming climate crisis. In the small, coastal town Thames, 15-year-olds Helena and Lillian battle with climate deniers and their mayor to acknowledge that rising sea levels will sink their streets. Near the country’s capital, 18-year-old Sophie strives to bring the School Strike 4 Climate (SS4C) national movement together, while running for council. In the biggest city, Auckland, SS4C local leader 17-year-old Luke is increasingly pushing towards nonviolent direct action, willing to be arrested if it’ll make headlines. In South Auckland, 16-year-old prize-winning performance poet Aigagaleifili forms a breakaway group to ensure that the devastation of climate change on Pacific nations is acknowledged, including within the student strike movement. Ignoring it is genocide.

The film was engaging, thought provoking and candid.

Ricercide (2021)

Film Screening and Q&A live with director Franny Armstrong

The documentary, presented by environmentalist George Monbiot, investigated the impacts of pollution on British rivers. In 60 action-packed minutes, the world’s first live investigative documentary attempts to find out who is polluting our rivers and why we’re not stopping them.

“Our rivers should be beautiful, complex ecosystems,” says Monbiot. “But on our watch, they’ve become open sewers, poisoned by sewage and farm slurry. They’re dying before our eyes.”

Broadcast live from the banks of the River Wye, which runs between England and Wales, Rivercide features interviews with conservation scientists, wild swimmers, anglers, politicians, local residents and citizen scientists to document the ecological impacts of rising agricultural and urban pollution in the river catchment.

The film gained a huge response from the audience, with many explaining they didn’t know how polluted the river had got. The film was a huge hit with audience members.

Director Franny Armstrong

After the film screening, there was a live stream with Director Franny Armstrong, reporting live from COP26 where audience members had there chance to raise points, ask questions and discuss the river crisis with Franny.

The Biggest Little Farm, Director John Chester (2018)

Film Screening and Q&A with Dorset Organic Farmers Will and Pam Best

The film is a testament to the immense complexity of nature, The Biggest Little Farm follows two dreamers and a dog on an odyssey to bring harmony to both their lives and the land. When the barking of their beloved dog Todd leads to an eviction notice from their tiny LA apartment, John and Molly Chester make a choice that takes them out of the city and onto 200 acres in the foothills of Ventura County, naively endeavouring to build one of the most diverse farms of its kind in complete coexistence with nature.

The land they’ve chosen, however, is utterly depleted of nutrients and suffering from a brutal drought. The film chronicles eight years of daunting work and outsize idealism as they attempt to create the utopia they seek. When the farm’s ecosystem finally begins to reawaken, so does the Chesters’ hope – but as their plan to create perfect harmony takes a series of wild turns, they realise that to survive they will have to reach a far greater understanding of the intricacies and wisdom of nature, and of life itself.

After the film screening, there was an intimate, informative Q&A session with organic farmers Will and Pam Best.

Performance: Siren Poets

Siren Poets gave us a brilliant, unique take on COVID-19 and the climate emergency – through poetry, humour, music and storytelling six exceptional artists explore their own creative perspectives on a global challenge.

See the poet’s profiles and previous works using the links in the names below:

SIRENS brings together a group of award-winning performers to creatively re-imagine the climate and environmental crisis. Spoken word artists Chris WhiteLiv TorcPeter Bearder and Shagufta K Iqbal are joined by musicians Hal Kelly and Pete Yelding, for this extraordinary show which inspires a cultural revival on climate activism. Weaving together work commissioned during the 2020 lockdown, the show is a poetic and musical exploration on themes of climate change in the time of Covid19. 

The evening show was filled with humour, music, story telling and poetry.

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