INTRODUCTION (Download page as Word .doc, 2 pages)
Tales from the River will involve young people and adults in gathering and celebrating past and present stories and folklore about recreation in, on or by the Breckland rivers and other waters, including oral history and gathering a variety of media (especially about swimming and other watery activities). This will all be compiled and presented in a variety of ways, including an exhibition, a film and storytelling, and will be archived. It will also inform and be informed by other projects including Healing Waters, which will engage people – especially young people – in outdoor watery activities with training to enjoy the waters safely and with care for the environment.
These two projects are part of a wider set of projects, Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Project, which has now succeeded in the bid for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
This brief concentrates on the Youth Groups strand of the Tales from the River project, but we hope that participants, volunteers and partner groups will get involved with both projects.
Tales from the River aims to involve young people in gathering stories about swimming, discussing and presenting them, including making films and devising educational materials. The Healing Waters project will allow them to take part in training on water safety, life-saving and life guarding, so that they can enjoy healthy and fun swimming and other watery activities safely and with respect for the environment. Together these projects will help them to teach their peers and celebrate these healthy but sometimes misunderstood activities.
The project will provide free training sessions, delivered by professionals, on archive research, oral history interviewing, exhibition curation, storytelling and filmmaking.
The project hopes to work with partner groups that work with young people, with different groups taking part at different stages, to enable the involvement of the maximum range and numbers of young people.
Youth groups will carry out research, oral history interviewing, and gather photographs and other materials. Some will prepare, compile and launch an exhibition, and produce educational material and activities. Some youth groups will work with a storyteller to learn how to prepare and perform, and will perform their stories at an event, and some will work with a filmmaker to make and launch a film.
People have always enjoyed being in, on and by the rivers and other waters in Breckland. Young people in particular have carried on the tradition of flocking to local swimming spots in the rivers in the summer, and families take their children to picnic and splash in the water. Paddle sports such as kayaking and outdoor swimming are rising in popularity, but swimming in the rivers has for decades been outlawed and discouraged, and generations of people have lost the knowledge and confidence to do so, and myths and fears – some exaggerated – have taken their place.
There is a rich tradition of swimming and other water-based recreation across the generations, and we can uncover many memories, old photos, stories and folklore about these activities.
Young people and families are key to the heritage and to the future of these watery activities. Many young people have a good understanding of safety issues, but many don’t have this knowledge, so the Healing Waters project will help by training them. And the stories gathered and presented by the young people in the Tales from the River project will help them pass on advice to their families and to other young people, at the same time celebrating the heritage of this fun, affordable and healthy activity.
Participants – young people, of various ages, from a variety of groups and backgrounds, boys, girls, black and ethnic minority young people, disabled young people, LBQT young people, recent migrants
Partner groups which organise young people from a variety of backgrounds, conduct activities including outdoors, sports, educational, heritage, or organise young volunteers
Volunteers, from partner groups and others, to help in organising and supervising activities, in this project and the Healing Waters project
The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers project takes in the Breckland rivers and surrounding areas. Tales from the River will look for stories relating to any Breckland waters that have been used for recreation.
The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers project runs from January 2020 to December 2024. Most of the activities in this project will take place in the first three years, with archive research and oral history training and putting together the exhibition in 2020, storytelling autumn 2021, and filmmaking in spring and summer 2022. A partner group could get involved in one of the stages – for example archives, oral history, photos and exhibition, or storytelling, or film making – as they are held at different times, or potentially in more than one, depending on interest.
We are talking to possible partner groups to work with us on different strands of the project. If you would be interested, please get in touch with Imogen Radford, email@example.com.
Other ways you could get involved:
• Help research the history of outdoor swimming and other recreational use of our rivers in the Breckland area (training provided)
• Volunteer to help with the youth group activities
• Have you got any stories, memories, folklore, or old photos or films about outdoor swimming and other river fun in Breckland? Would you be willing to be interviewed about your memories, or can you suggest anyone else who would?
• If you are interested in hearing about more as the project develops, please give us your contact information (your information will not be passed on to anyone else or used for anything else).
• Contact me with any questions, suggestions, or to get involved imogen36 [at] googlemail.com
WHAT ELSE: additional information
• Brecks Fen and Rivers landscape scheme project
• My article on how we can make outdoor swimming safe (and why we should)
• Swimming safety advice from the Outdoor Swimming Society
• A couple of potted histories of outdoor swimming: on wild swimming website and on the Hung out to Dry website
• East Anglian author whose 1999 book, Waterlog, is credited with reviving outdoor swimming, Roger Deakin: on Goodreads and on the Caught by the River website