Walk Out West 2020
Our Initial project with the Wye festival was to have a representation of diversity through a handful of artists from Bristol , making a podcast, camping out , joining in walks , engaging with the AONB and having a couple of fireside evenings , meeting people from the valley .
Diversity, or the lack of it in rural areas has many causes , some of which we were going to discuss.
However the covid induced cancellation meant that instead we turned our collective creative eyes on the Wye, we were not necessarily going to engage with diversity issues , but to see what being in the Wye valley brought out of us as individuals. The pieces you see on the website, were made by us, (although we are not film of video artists! ) they are reflections of the individuals. The Podcast delves into some of the issues for people of colour when they come into places like the Wye, steeped as they are in history. Is there anything to entice a person with a more complex relationship with British culture to come out of their comfort zone of the multi cultural city?
We found plenty to delight the senses and engage the mind. We discovered the legacy of industry and slavery, Piercefield house and Nathaniel Wells. We found ancient Welsh and English myths and legends and it is true to say that we were surprised!
We wondered how come we had never really known about the Wye, especially as it is so close and so beautiful. We pondered the difficulties of getting there both psychological and economic. We discussed the different emotions felt, when standing out as a person of colour in a white rural area.
We questioned ourselves and we wandered freely.
We all wanted to keep returning, to go deeper into the woods and history, we wanted to share our discoveries with friends and family. We considered how it would be if there could be a project to bring out more people, to camp and attend the Festival as it seemed one of the best opportunities for getting to know the valley and feel a sense of involvement and confidence to explore more widely.
As the white British member of the group, with a rural background and with some knowledge of the Wye, I became the host in many ways, introducing the others to special places and different aspects of the valleys leading into the Wye river.
I was reminded of how important hospitality is, how the role of the host is to encourage the guest to relax and feel at home. How understanding the needs of the guest is crucial to making them feel at home. How without hospitality going to different places can be daunting and uncomfortable. The invitation and the hospitality make all the difference.
The Wye Valley River Festival can offer both to people from other backgrounds, a way to get to know the Wye, the places and the locals, so that maybe after that people feel confident enough to plan a day trip on their own , knowing where they can go and what they might like to do , how it feels to be in the wilds of the Wye , to know that they belong in this environment , they have shared memories and interests and are a part of the culture of the countryside too.