1. Connecting Communities through Action (CCA)

CCA06 Tales of the River Bank

Capturing memories of life in the Trent Valley.

Project Summary

This creative oral history project aims to reignite people’s enthusiasm for, and connection with rivers. Working with specialists in oral history and storytelling along with local young people, we are gathering people’s recollections and thoughts about the past, present and future of the Trent Valley.

In 2022-23 young people aged 11-19 from Willington, Rugeley, and Burton-upon-Trent worked with artists and sound recordists Rebecca Lee and Jo Wheeler from Youth Landscapers to creatively explore the river Trent where they live and gather recollections, thoughts and stories about the past, present and future of the Trent Valley. 

Brereton Volunteering Youth Group, Vysions Youth Service, Willington Scouts and Winshill Youth Club have all been involved in creating films, sound, oral history recordings and artworks that celebrate what is unique about the Trent Valley, from brewing to beavers; from cooling towers to kingfishers. We involved more than 40 people who live or work near the river or who are part of local community group and visited lots of places along the river too including Burton Washlands, Newton Park, the Wolseley Centre in Rugeley, the Trent and Mersey Canal and Willington Wetlands.

A big thank you to all the young people who got involved, the youth leaders who supported them and all our interviewees. This summer Tales from the Riverbank will also go online and tour to local libraries and other public spaces. You can watch the films and read about how they were created below.

Watch the Tales of the Riverbank

Each youth group has created a 15 minute film, showcasing the audio and visual footage collected over the year, and containing interviews of people who live in the landscape.

You can watch the films with or without captions below.

Creating the Tales of the Riverbank

July 2022

We kickstarted our Tales from the Riverbank project on a sunny Saturday at Willington Carnival. We met some lovely people who shared some great, watery stories with us –  with mentions of raft racing, baby beavers, roman remains and memories of surfing the floods! We plotted them all on our big map that we’ll share with local young people in September when we’ll do more story gathering together.

A man and a woman look at a big map on an easel, under a gazebo on a sunny day

August 2022

We had a great time in Rugeley with Vysions Youth Service, gathering audio and video recordings from the canalside at Brereton and from the Trent at The Wolseley Centre –  including experiments with endoscopes and hydrophones to record the hidden world going on under the surface. We met with Nicola (wildlife expert) and Siobhan (who’s family worked in the local mines) and David – ex-engineer at Rugeley Power Station to collect their stories about this area’s natural and industrial heritage.

Young people looking at archive photos of Rugeley power station, with a man talking about the photos

September 2022

Over the past couple of months we’ve been visiting the fantastic Winshill Resource Centre in Burton-Upon-Trent. With members of the youth club we’ve taken our audio and camera kits down to the water’s edge by Newton Park to collect some twilight recordings of the river. We also chatted with older community members through the Autumn Days group about their connections to the Trent and added their knowledge and stories to our big map. In October we brought members from both groups together and had an evening recording stories including tales of raft racing, bridge building, swimming and swans. In half-term we also met with angler and river enthusiast John Anderson who shared his passion for the Trent and the work he does in Burton to care for it.

Young people and adults in a room with audio equipment, and a person holding a photo of a swan

October 2022

When we took our big map to Willington Carnival, we were delighted to make contact with Willington Scouts who were really keen on getting out and about with us to record and explore the stories about the river Trent in their village. After an evening taster session along the Canal where we did some mapping and tested out the equipment we planned a full day together along the river and at the Willington Wetlands. 

Joined by Transforming the Trent valley’s Nicola Lynes, our day began with a walk over the historic Willington Bridge and right down to water’s edge where we dipped our microphones and filmed the swirling water. We then headed to Willington Wetlands where the group interviewed local walker and volunteer Tony Bates and Nicola about the river’s impact on the village, the wildlife of the wetlands, and most importantly the Beavers that were introduced into the wetlands in 2021! We had the chance to bird watch and record the unique environment of the wetlands before heading back to the village to hear about and record the fascinating geology and archaeology of the gravel pits next to the river from Cemex quarry manager Bill Newton and archaeologist Hugh from York Archaeology.

Young people on a viewing platform

March 2023

After months of hard work by the three youth groups, led by Jo and Rebecca, the Tales of the Riverbank exhibition was launched at the Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton upon Trent on Saturday 4th March. The young people, volunteers and interviewees were all invited for a private screening of the three films to celebrate each others work and share their Tales of the Riverbank.

The exhibition will at the Brewhouse Arts Centre until Thursday 13th April. From May, the bench will go on tour around Staffordshire libraries, you will be able to see the collage posters and scan the QR code in order to watch the films on our website.

You are also able to share your own stories of the Riverbank using the postcards at the exhibition.

Tales of the Riverbank exhibition, showing posters on the walls, a display cabinet with a TV inside and a bench to sit on A group of young people in front of a collage poster A group of people looking at exhibition poster

  • There will be a lasting legacy through the collection of memories which will be shared on the internet through partners’ websites, Youtube and other online sites.

Project Lead

Nicola Lynes
Community Engagement Officer Transforming the Trent Valley / Support Staffordshire

Remembering My Childhood Memories

Do you or have you lived within the Transforming the Trent Valley Scheme area? Perhaps you spent your childhood living in Rugeley, Alrewas, Fradley, Barton-under-Needwood, Hopwas, Burton-upon-Trent, Uttoxeter or Rocester?

What games did you play? Where did you explore?

We would love to hear and share your stories as part of our Tales from the Riverbank project, share them through our interactive page.


Tales from the River Bank Blog

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Postcards from the Riverbank

To connect our communities during this strange socially distanced time, the Tales from the Riverbank project wants to bring everyone together to share their childhood stories of play and fun along the riverbank.

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Tales of the Riverbank

We want to collect memories and stories of the River Trent and River Dove, the landscape and its people, but we need your help.

We want to hear your stories, experiences and reminiscences! This is your chance to have a go at some creative writing, and let us know about your lived experiences of the landscape. This could take any form – poetry, a short story, an interview, written or filmed pieces, spoken word, pictures, “stream of consciousness”, haikus, photos… the more creative the better!