Inside Out felt trail

Part of project: Community

In December 2015 Storm Desmond swept through Cumbria, causing untold devastation to towns and communities across the county. The aim of the Appleby River Art Project was to encourage people to share and express their experiences of the Appleby floods through creativity and the arts. We commissioned two local artists, Karen Babayan and Debra Esterhuizen, to hold workshops and to work with local residents on creating a temporary sculpture trail, called Inside Out.

The artists described the workshops they held over the summer of 2016 as being part of a ‘carthartic, healing process’. People who were affected by the floods were encouraged to tell their story as they created felted fabric. The felted fabric was then used to create artwork for the sculpture trail.

The sculptures reflected the objects displaced from people’s homes by the flood waters, hence the title, Inside Out, as well as the stories behind them. These included the iconic sofa that was shown floating through Appleby on Sky and ITV News, as well as clothes washed into trees and fish that were left stranded in fields and trees when the waters receded.

The workshops assisted those taking part recover from their ordeal by sharing and expressing their experiences. Their stories were recorded and also incorporated into the art works they helped create. Among the responses and stories was that of an 8-year-old child who recounted that she thought ‘I was going to die…’. Meanwhile, a local café owner recalled how ‘I came in on the second day of the flood, once the water had subsided. There was still three inches of water in the café with teapots, parsnips and onions floating around.’

In addition to workshops, Karen and Debra led Appleby Primary School children on a meditative walk by the river. This gave the pupils, the opportunity to think about nature and life.

‘We took a ‘mindful’ walk with year 3/4 pupils down to the river to observe the beauty of the river restored by nature and to talk about the cycle of destruction, resilience and restoration. We realised that when we take time to slow down and observe the reality of nature, we are better able to appreciate our place in the larger scheme of things’. Karen Babayan, artist.

Four hundred people took part in the Appleby River Art project, half of whom were children. Meanwhile, the sculpture trail not only provided a creative outlet for the emotional and physical upheaval caused by the floods, but also proved immensely popular with visitors – the trail was extended by popular demand until 30 October!

We are extremely grateful for all the local residents and community groups who took part in the project including: Appleby Primary School, The Friday Club, 1st Appleby Scouts and 1st Appleby Brownies.

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