Crowds line the streets for river festival finale

Sunday 19th June 2022 6:00 am

Dance group Qwerin in action. Pics: Gemma Wood

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Popular free arts and environmental event the Wye Valley River Festival has finished with a bang with thousands of local people enjoying its mix of memorable live shows and interactive art experiences.

The 2022 festival, which concluded last Sunday (June 5), saw musicians, dancers, performers and even giant bouncing kangaroos delight crowds lining the streets of Ross-on-Wye as part of a thrilling weekend of entertainment, which also included audience participation live theatre shows at Symonds Yat Rock and community groups displaying the work they created for the free access festival.

Organisers Wye Valley River Festival CIC have been delighted to see crowds return in large numbers as the biennial event completed its live return following a four-year absence. On Saturday (June 4) Ross-on-Wye hosted the Streets of Ross, which saw lively circus acts, entertaining street theatre performers, musicians and parades take over the streets as part of the Jubilee celebrations.

Among those taking part were performers Roo’d, who bounced around Ross in their springy giant kangaroo stilts costumes to the delight of audience members young and old. Also wowing the crowds were aerial circus performers, funky street band The Wod Wos trio, mysterious grass-covered duo the Grassmen and Qwerin, a stunning mix of Welsh folk and contemporary dance.

Local community groups took part in the parade with their specially made costumes, which ranged from hand crafted masks and outfits to a giant kingfisher costume.

Other weekend highlights included interactive performances by Red Herring theatre company and the Whistler Conservation Society at Symonds Yat Rock. The performances, which ran from Friday until Sunday, gave audiences the chance to glimpse at “the elusive Whistlers”, a remote whistling community, who communicate through their “extraordinary whistling language”.

At Symonds Yat there was Flaxland, an afternoon of demonstrations of “the wondrous world of natural materials” as well as a performance by Algy Behrens, a musician who took the audience on a nature walk which doubled as a tree and branch percussion workshop.

WVRF artistic director Phillippa Haynes said the Wye Valley River Festival CIC team were overwhelmed by the response by the crowds after a four-year gap. She said: “People have turned out in large numbers for the 2022 Wye Valley River Festival and we have been delighted to be supported by the local community, with a real sense of people getting back into the swing of things.

“After the enforced gap due to the pandemic, it has been fantastic to see audiences partying together. The feedback has been great, particularly around our efforts to reduce the environmental impact which seem to have struck a chord.

“The turnout for Ross was remarkable given the colder weather and it was superb to see the Bikesplorers triumph by completing their 65-mile performance route. We are already hatching amazing plans about mass participation events for 2023 and even looking ahead to the return of the River Festival in 2024.”

The Wye Valley River Festival was launched in 2014 as a partnership between Arts professionals The Desperate Men, Phillippa Haynes and the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It is funded this year by the UK Community Renewal Fund, Arts Council England, the Sustainable Development Fund, the Welsh Government and Forestry England.

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