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FestivALL 2021 - Reconnecting with Nature

This year’s FestivALL saw attendees flocking to Gloucester’s Robinswood Hill as well as taking part in online workshops in meditation, nature, and creative writing.

 FestivALL is Gloucestershire’s annual celebration of diverse, welcoming communities. It’s a great opportunity for organisations from across the county to showcase their inclusive practice and for people to really feel that they belong to their community. Originally set up by Barnwood Trust in 2017, the festival has since taken different forms with art exhibitions, events at Stratford Park and a huge gathering at Gloucester Cathedral. Not even a pandemic could halt this inclusive festival, and 2020’s celebration was held online through arts and crafts, laughter yoga and a panel discussion.

“This year, we wanted to recognise that things are starting to open up,” explained FestivALL Coordinator Megan, “But that some people are still more comfortable online. We kept the Zoom events going and were fortunate to find a beautiful open space to host our face-to-face activities.”

Robinswood Hill became the perfect location for visitors to enjoy nature and take part in what was on offer.

 FestivALL 2021 kicked off with a coffee morning on 1 July, where people came together to socialise in the fresh air and sample the onsite café. As well as Forest Church’s reflective trail of beautiful quotes relating to specific parts of the hill, FestivALL organisers had worked hard to design a multisensory trail for all to enjoy. Both trails were in place for the FestivALL month and visitors couldn’t wait to try it out. The route was accessible to the tramper, an all-terrain vehicle that enables anyone with a mobility impairment to get up on the hill. You’re Welcome team member Jennie was only too eager to set her wheelchair aside and board the tramper.

“Hiring the tramper gives you the opportunity to enjoy the delights of the hill with a safe and fun ride,” she said. “Being up on the hill on the tramper was great fun.”

 Visitors who took to the trail enjoyed exploring vibrant meadows and peaceful woodland through touch, sound, sight, and smell at various reflection points. National Star created three interactive stations with a musical tree, outdoor Jenga and a tent to learn about refugees in Gloucestershire. For those who couldn’t get to the hill, we created a captioned, audio described video of the trail, which you can view here:

 On Monday 5 July, FestivALL goers eased into the month’s activities with an online meditation workshop. Founder of Healing Well, Melanie Leamie took participants through mindfulness and intention practices to reconnect us with our gratitude.

 Three days later, FestivALL returned to the hill for a very different sort of day. With National Star, You’re Welcome, Forest Church, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Cotswold Crusaders Boccia Club and an accessible toilet called the MobiLoo on site, Robinswood became a hive of activity. BBC Radio Gloucestershire came to report on what we were up to; the interview starts at 1hr 13mins and is available to listen to until 8 August.

 The following week’s online writing workshop allowed participants to use the trail’s reflection points and create a masterpiece in words. Writing tutor Megan lead lively discussion and made space for thinking time in a session that saw participants writing poignant, moving messages to those they had lost touch with during the pandemic. Many commented that the activity gave them an emotional release and that it had been therapeutic.

 The penultimate week of FestivALL was very hot so that visitors to the hill stuck to the shady patches of dense trees. On 20 July Jenny Griffiths ran a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust workshop for people of all ages to learn about Robinswood through art and crafts. Thursday was a special day in the FestivALL calendar as the parent carers’ picnic took place on the hill. This was complete with a sensory tent, the return of the MobiLoo and Bubbly Heaven providing entertainment for all the family. Children were delighted by a special appearance from Donald Duck with Sally Haywood braving the heat to put on his costume.

“He was a huge hit with the kids,” said organiser Nicole. “He got hugged, given a little tour of the grassy area and had lots of photos taken with him!”

 FestivALL goers were able to wind down in the evening with Robinswood Hill Remotely: Andy Shipley’s virtual nature workshop. By asking participants to close their eyes, Andy created a meditative experience by playing in the sounds of the hill, sharing pictures, and relating facts about the wildlife there. This film, made by Sam Cavender from Forest Church, gives you a flavour of the beautiful wildlife on the hill.

 The last big day for the FestivALL took place less than a week later when Gloucestershire Deaf Association and Barnwood Trust joined You’re Welcome, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Mobiloo and Cotswold Crusaders Boccia Club on the hill. It was the busiest event of the month with Barnwood Trust’s Street art and community choir sessions providing a colourful, tuneful backdrop to the families moving from stand to stand.

 Rounded off with Jenny Griffiths’ online discussion of people’s memories of the hill, FestivALL has had a fantastic month. A big thank you to all the organisations who have worked so hard to make it fun for everyone, and thanks to everyone who took part. Whether you explored the trail, sang in the choir or logged onto a workshop on Zoom, you are a big part of making FestivALL happen. Roll on FestivALL 2022.