World Oceans Week Celebration Events 2012

Sea Poetry - Solway Firth
Category: Live Literature

World Oceans Week in Dumfries and Galloway saw 2 weekend-long events in June with an aim to promote the beautiful marine environment of the region. Activities included rock-pooling, guided walks, treasure hunts, sea kayaking, wildlife watching, sea shell identification and beach art and poetry! Clair MacFarlan received funding through Live Literature and wrote to tell us more... The World Oceans Week (WOW) Celebration Events are held each year in Dumfries and Galloway. They are organised by Solway Firth Partnership and 2012 was my first year of being involved.  So where to start.  Meetings, funding applications, organising stallholders and activities – there seemed a lot to do in the 6 month lead in time. Luckily WOW is very much a partnership event and so help came from the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB, Dumfries and Galloway Council Rangers and local organisations Machars Action and Port William Community Council. In fact, I couldn’t have managed it without them.  It helps having local contacts for borrowing generators and contributing “Larry the Lobster” and his crab friends for the display tanks. Of course, we didn’t tell anyone that Larry would probably end up on someone’s plate!

2012 is the Year of Creative Scotland so it seemed a good opportunity to add some artistic activities to what is very much an environmental event. So in addition to the rock pooling, beach scavenger and treasure hunts we decided to apply for additional funding to run a puppet show and beach poetry sessions.  We were lucky enough to secure some funds from the Live Literature Fund through Creative Scotland so it was all on! 

So the first day arrived more quickly than it should and marquees were put up and banners displayed at the small village of Rockcliffe.  The weather wasn’t great but what a turnout of people.  I hadn’t realised that the event coincided not only with the Jubilee weekend but also the English schools half term. Around 600 visitors came along to the small beach and took part in the activities – Dragonfly Dreaming’s Great Marine Show, sea kayaking taster sessions, a Carbon Hero workshop and of course the beach poetry sessions with one of our local award winning poets, Jean Atkin.  Jean had produced a blank booklet beforehand so that the visitors who turned up for her timed session could gather treasures and ideas on the beach and then write their marine inspired poems in the booklet.  Nine people took part, produced lots of interesting work and went away with the skills to produce more nature based poetry. What a great day!  People from all over the country took part and certainly seemed to have a great time.  Comments from the feedback forms included – “Excellent, informative, inspiring, engaging. Well done!” and from someone whose favourite activity was the poem on the beach, “It was very fun and amazing”.  Onto the next weekend! 

Port William is a fairly remote small village on the Machars Coast of Galloway so we knew not to expect nearly as many visitors as the previous weekend. On the morning as I drove the 75 miles from east to west across the region the weather just got better and better. By the time I arrived in Port William at 8.30am the sky was blue and the sun was hot! So rolled out another great event with at least 300 visitors. We had a slightly different mix of activities although the puppet theatre and beach poetry were a huge success again. We also had a local celebrity “Cook-Off” with a local chef giving a cooking demonstration using sustainable fish - very popular and a unexpected bonus was local band, the Razorbills, turning up to play on the beach. And unusually for the beach poetry session in which Jean used the booklet format again the majority of the group of twelve taking part were 10 -14 year old boys, not an age group normally interested in poetry! They really got involved with gathering treasures, hearing some sea poetry and then coming up with great poems which will go onto the SFP website shortly. They also went away with a new skill - writing poetry. By the end of the day the sun was still shining and everyone went home happy.

The conclusion from this year is that we had more visitors than to any previous event and the great range of activities really helped to bring people in that might not have come otherwise. The poetry sessions really added to the events and having a poet on hand added a new dimension. This success is likely to be built on with the new SFP project, “Making the Most of the Coast”, where schools and communities around the coast will engage with the marine environment using a variety of activities including writing.  l think I’d better start looking for more funding for arts and writing activities for 2013!