Residents & schools invited to engage with the River Great Ouse in a new Kempston art project

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Bedford Creative Arts (BCA) is launching a new creative project in Kempston called River/ Flow/ Connect that invites local people to spend more time by the river on their doorstep.

The project, delivered in partnership with local councillors and environmental agencies, seeks to investigate the area of the River Great Ouse between the Slipe (Queen’s Bridge) and Kempston Mill, with a view to seeing if spaces along the riverbank could be transformed through art and creativity.

Beginning with an open picnic at the Slipe on Saturday, June 29, free to all residents, BCA will invite people to join workshops with artists to consider what the riverbank means to them and how they might transform it, whilst conserving river wildlife at the same time.

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Elaine Midgley, Director of BCA, said, “The aim is to make the riverbank a space that residents want to use more to walk along, picnic at, and conserve. We have started working with several agencies passionate about the river such as the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterways Trust, Beds Great Ouse Valley Environment Trust and Natural England to begin to explore what makes this part of the river so special.

Artist Shree Desai at a consultation workshopArtist Shree Desai at a consultation workshop
Artist Shree Desai at a consultation workshop

“We consulted with some Kempston residents in 2023 to see what might encourage them to use the river more and they agreed that lots could be done to make the riverbank feel more welcoming whilst raising the profile of important issues around conservation at the same time. Artists and art have a unique way of helping people to debate, challenge, express and explore and so we are inviting artists to take the lead in exploring what transformation might look like for the riverbank in Kempston. Who knows what that might mean for the future, but we hope it could mean creating permanent artistic structures along the riverbank one day”.

The project will take artists into 10 local schools to begin discussions around art and the river as well as holding a series of open community workshops for residents and families to enjoy. BCA have also established a Steering Group to guide the project and advise the artists as it progresses which is open to local agencies and residents.

Mayor of Kempston, Terri Conway, said, “It’s great that BCA has chosen Kempston to be the focus of this exciting new project. The river is a jewel in our crown and this project will invite everyone to consider how they might use the riverbank more whilst learning about wildlife protection and environmental sustainability at the same time. I encourage local residents and teachers to get in touch with BCA to find out how to get involved over the coming months”.

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If you are a local resident or teacher in Kempston and would like to attend a workshop, have an artist visit your school, or you want to find out more about the project, then you can contact BCA by emailing [email protected] or calling 01234 818670.

Child on a swan sculptureChild on a swan sculpture
Child on a swan sculpture

The launch picnic on 29th June will run from 1pm to 6pm and is a great opportunity to meet the BCA team and find out more about how to get involved. More information is available at BCA’s website.

We also have opportunities for artists, evaluators and creative practitioners to work on the project. More detail can be found at our website.

River/ Flow/ Connect is made possible by the support of lottery players through the National Lottery Community Fund, Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterways Trust, John Bunyan Community Boat and Bedford Borough Ward and Kempston Town Councillors.