(Text of draft vision document as supplied by the organisers)
The aim of the Wandle Valley Festival is to reconnect local people with the river Wandle – to make them aware of its existence, and highlight the contribution it can make to quality of life. This will be achieved through a co-ordinated programme of events over the weekend of 12-13 June 2004. Activities will take place along the whole length of the river. To ensure we reach all sections of the community, there will be a wide variety of activities, mostly run by, or in partnership with, existing organisations. The overall programme will be given wide publicity across South London.
The Wandle flows from Croydon through the boroughs of Sutton and Merton to join the Thames in Wandsworth. It is a tangible link to South London's long lost rural past. As a natural transport route, it saw the construction of the world's first public railway. The water power it provided spawned a whole range of industries. As population rocketed, it was used to carry away waste water. The original railway and the traditional industries have now all but disappeared. The quality of the water in the Wandle is now much better than it was for most of the 20th century. Fish, mammals, other forms of wildlife are gradually returning. But urban development has shunned the river, consigning it to follow a fugitive and fragmentary course, remote from most people's lives
There have already been some initiatives to make the Wandle better known and enhance its natural and cultural heritage. A nature park and an industrial museum have been established, a craft centre has been created around Merton Abbey Mills, a Wandle Trail leaflet has just been produced for walkers and cyclists. However, key stretches of the river remain in a sad state.
Previous initiatives have tended to focus either on one short stretch, or on just one aspect of the river (for example its history). The Wandle Valley Festival will celebrate the totality of the river. It will help people get to know their local stretch of the Wandle, and what it has to offer. But it will also help them to see, not just a patch of muddy water, but part of a living river in all its richness and complexity. Crucially, it may help them to a new understanding of the importance of natural forces and processes even in surroundings that may appear almost completely man-made.
The Festival will provide enjoyment for young people, older people and families. If we get it right, many of them will want to become involved in future plans for the Wandle Valley. Engaging and empowering the community is an essential ingredient if the tremendous potential of the Wandle is eventually to be realised.
A wide range of organisations have come together to organise the Wandle Valley Festival. An original initiative by Wandsworth Environment Forum in July 2003 met an enthusiastic response. The other core partners are the Environment Agency, Friends of the Earth, Groundwork Merton, JET SET, Merton Abbey Mills, the Museum of London, the National Trust, Thames 21, Wandsworth LEAP (Local Exercise Action Partnership) and the Wandsworth Society. We intend to work closely with the four borough councils and the Mayor of London.
The events being planned include
The Festival programme will list all these events. A number of them will be designed to attract people who have not previously been particularly interested in the river or even perhaps known of its existence. But all events will display the Festival logo, and some of them will incorporate (or consist of) informative displays about the river in its different aspects.
Crucially, people will be encouraged, not only to take part in individual events, but to travel along some or all of the Wandle's course during the weekend, using individual events as staging posts. At the end of the weekend, anyone who hands in a programme with endorsements from a specified number of the individual events will be entered in a prize draw.
There will also be some linear events: a group cycle ride along the Wandle Trail, a guided walk along the Wandle Trail, and possibly a Treasure Hunt with clues leading to locations along the length of the Wandle and a pub crawl taking in designated real ale pubs.
In general, the organisations running individual events will meet their own costs, either from existing sources or from charges. But the Festival needs some resources of its own to cover: publicity, primarily through posters and through brochures listing all the events branding of staging posts and individual events with the festival logo informative displays about the river incidental expenses for the linear events, including prizes for a prize draw.
Some of these costs, for example prizes for a prize draw, might be met by commercial sponsorship.
The Mayor's London Plan identifies the Wandle Valley (along with the Thames Gateway, the M4 Corridor and the London-Stansated-Cambridge Corridor) as one of London's major corridors for economic development and regeneration,. It is vital that future development respects, and enhances, the environment of the Wandle Valley. In fact, a high quality environment is now a major factor determining the success of development. Past plans for the area completely ignored the environment. We can, and must, do better in future.
Up-to-date information about the Festival will be on www.WandleValleyFestival.org.uk