River Cam Project

Rowan is lucky enough to take part in many projects and from March 2016 to August 2017 we have been focusing on one in particular. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund our students have been able to spend time researching contemporary and historical aspects of the heritage of the River Cam. They have had the opportunity to meet people who work and live by the river, as well as visit the organisations that thrive along the riverside.

The project has provided many opportunities for the students at Rowan from training in the technique of oral history recordings, interviewing people associated with the river and creating artwork related to the river in woodwork, ceramics, printmaking, textiles, mixed media and even through music and drama. Our students have had the chance to explore the river by getting out and about as well as researching the local history with visits to the Museum of Cambridge, Museum of Technology, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge Central Library and much more! The project has enabled students to develop their understanding of the value of research and many are now keen to use archive, library research and digital media as part of the development of their art. 

The River Cam Project has resulted in our students meeting and engaging with local residents as well as getting involved in other projects linked to the River Cam including Hey Clay and BBC Get Creative. We have also put on our own events and included artwork at our Cambridge Open Studios and Rowan’s Winter Warmer. A special performance was developed by our students for the Michaelhouse Centre in Cambridge where they performed two original songs and compositions inspired by the river.

Throughout the last year, all of the tutors at Rowan have engaged the students in artwork in response to the various trips made to the river. One of these excursions involved sitting on the banks of the River Cam and making water colour paintings, using water that had been scooped up from the river in jars. Students also created a set of tiles (seen above) that depict scenes of the River Cam and were made using clay dug up directly from the actual river bank. Inspired by contemporary and historical photographs of Midsummer and Stourbridge fairs, one of the ceramics groups also made two large coiled pots.

The textiles group, researched the history of the bridges and houses that people lived in along the river Cam, they made a beautiful wall hanging of the bridges along the river, as well as a scrap book with a selection of drawings from the project.

Some of the students at Rowan, along with Capturing Cambridge, produced a film all about the Memories of The River Cam including interviews completed at the Hey Clay event and amongst Friends of Mitcham’s corner. Watch the video here!

Rowan student Lucy was inspired by The River Cam project and created her own poem based upon the stories discovered. Watch Lucy’s poem here.

It has been a fantastic project for Rowan which has encouraged our students to not only learn about their local history and master new skills but to get engaged with the local community. The project has now come to an end but the film, artwork and memories continue to be enjoyed by all!