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Wye Valley River Festival 10th anniversary festival celebrations kicks off Friday

he Puddle Ducks will entertain the crowds at Merry Monmouth Day

Popular open access festival the Wye Valley River Festival begins on Friday as a programme of music, theatre and arts celebrations gets under way to mark 10 years of community and arts events with a strong environmental message.

Kicking off in Monmouth on Friday 3 May, the 10-day programme will enable people across the Wye Valley to take part in and enjoy street parades, innovative live performances, guided walks, workshops and exhibitions in the largely free festival. Held every two years since 2014, the 2024 Wye Valley River Festival runs until Sunday 12th May in locations from Hereford to Chepstow.

Every festival has an ecological theme, with the 2024 programme inspired by “the earth beneath our feet” to emphasise the importance of soil and the ground in maintaining our environment amid multiple threats.

The progamme is organised by Wye Valley River Festival CIC, an arts organisation led by artists and communities. Artistic director Phillippa Haynes said: “We are excited to begin celebrating the 10th birthday of the Wye Valley River Festival as our varied programme delights audiences young and old, all inspired by the surrounding landscape.

Swan In Love will appear at Wye Valley River Festival

“Our relationship with the earth has never been more important, so we are delighted to present a wide range of performers and creative minds all inspired by the ground, its wildlife and its importance. Our programme builds upon the triumphs of previous festivals, with a focus on the vital message of preserving our landscape for the future.

“We cannot wait to see festival goers enjoying and getting inspired by a varied programme of performances and interactions by some of the UK’s most talented creative artists, while we raise consciousness about the environmental threats facing us all.”

The festival kicks off with Birthday on the Bridge on Friday evening (May 3) at Monnow Bridge in Monmouth, with people invited to bring food to share or buy from local vendors to begin the commemoration of the Festival 10 year anniversary with a playful evening of music and dance.

On Saturday, Merry Monmouth Day will begin with a morning of activities in Agincourt Square, followed by a colourful parade in Monnow Street and then an afternoon of performances and activities in Drybridge Park.

Circus show Bamboo will entertain crowds at Wye Valley River Festival

A day of music, workshops, theatre and playful exploration will include Bamboo by No Fit State Circus, an outdoor circus production incorporating just bamboo and human bodies. Songs of Earth and Sky will include musical workshops and open sessions to play with sound and nature alongside the Singing Space, where festivalgoers can learn songs and explore their voices with outstanding choir leaders.

The event includes expert presentations from herbalists and foragers, shows by Festival theatre troupe the Rumblers and the Composter, the new creation from the Desperate Men, who co-founded the festival, along with the giant Puddle Ducks by Cirq Delight who will mingle with the crowds alongside a 7ft-high swan pedalo led by Gary and Pel, who perform as Swan In Love. Audiences can also participate in clay workshops, fabric sessions and performances by 2Faced Dance all rounded off with a Ceilidh led by the amazing folk dance remixed.

Festival music band the Wodwose will be appearing throughout the festival, led by street band veteran Tim Hill. To find them, just follow the music!

On Sunday 5 May, the public can join a Dawn Chorus gathering from 5am in a paid ticket event organised by the RSPB, with Redbrook Roust later the same day at Redbrook Millennium Park and Hub featuring more songs, workshops and performances.

On the Bank Holiday Monday (6 May), Llandogo Village Hall will host a further 10th Birthday Bash, featuring performances, music from Nia Wyn, dancing and a community feast. On Wednesday 8 May, Regen Ben’s Farm at Brampton Abbots, Ross-on-Wye, will feature an evening regenerative meal and walk called Farm Walk and Fodder. Another feast takes place the following day at Together Works, Caldicot.

Three Acres And A Cow at The Larruperz Centre retells the history of land rights and protest

Tickets are on sale for Three Acres and a Cow, a theatre show on Friday 10 May at Larrapurz Centre, Ross-on-Wye, which explores land rights and protest in folk song and story covering the Norman Conquest and Peasants’ Revolt through to modern climate breakdown.

Every day from Friday 10 May to Sunday 12 May, We Weave the Woods at The Glade, Beechenhurst, will mix feasts, shows, workshops and activities inspired by the woods and our connection to the earth. Centred around a commissioned interactive installation in the woods. The Wonders of the Wye photo competition will be held in Chepstow over the final weekend of the festival to allow photographers to show off their talents.

In the build-up to the 2024 festival, more than 500 pupils at seven schools created an installation inspired by “the earth beneath our feet”, based around fungi and trees. Songwriting scheme The Cosmos Within Us explores grief through connection with nature and the night sky. The Mothers In All Weathers Choir is made up of mums who sing as they walk.

Artspace Cinderford is delivering events and workshops linked with food, while outdoor mobile art works have been created by residents, fellow artists and environmentalists. Queering The Wye LGBTQ+ youth sessions has resulted in 12 hand dyed festival banners. A Queering the Wye Craftspace workshop will be held in Hereford on May 12.

The Festival, developed in partnership by the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), is funded by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, the Sustainable Development Fund, the Welsh Government, Cadw and Ashley Foundation.