I’ve not done a full-on summative evaluation for Tales from the River Trent like I’d do if this was a work thing.
This was a self-funded, hobby project. But I’m enough of an evaluation nerd that I have done some thinking about it – both for our own interest, and in case it’s useful/interesting to others. So here’s a quick post of the basics.
What were we trying to do?
In formal terms, we had some practical objectives:-
- Walk 185 miles from one end of the River Trent to the other, on our own two feet.
- Over three weeks, 1-21st September 2012
- Doing storytelling and storysharing events on the way.
We hoped that people in communities along the way would be interested, entertained and informed by our events. And that it would give people a chance to think about and talk about their relationship to the landscape.
- Document it as we went – so people could follow along from home and even interact with us – using blogposts, twitter, photos and recordings.
- Experiment with a new form of public engagement – as far as I know no-one’s walked along a river telling stories as a form of public engagement before – try variations, find out what works and what doesn’t work about it.
- Learn stuff about rivers in general and the River Trent in particular.
- Have fun and an adventure:-)
How did we do against these objectives?
1. Walk 185 miles from one end of the River Trent to the other, on our own two feet.
OK, we cheated one bit near Alrewas where we were really knackered and depressed and getting behind and we took a bus to get to where our gig was. We thought of going back the next day to make up the ground, but we decided we weren’t doing an endurance event or a Guinness Book of Records attempt and it was probably OK just to get some sleep.
We did walk loads more than 185 miles overall though, cos there was plenty of walking off route we did at various points.
2. Over three weeks, 1-21st September
Incidentally, we were incredibly lucky with the weather. Do you remember how wet last July and August were? It would have been a nightmare if we’d walked the Trent any earlier in the Summer.
As it was we had glorious sunshine nearly every day (ending up with one-sided tans from walking in the same direction all day) and only got rained on three times. Which in Britain is some kind of miracle.
Learning point: If you want to do a walking project in Britain, I strongly recommend planning it for September. (Although looking at the Met Office’s historic weather data, maybe we were just lucky…)
3. Doing storytelling and storysharing events on the way.
Although, among the many things that didn’t work out quite how we’d hoped, some places we’d turn up to do an event and they obviously weren’t really expecting us, or no-one had come to see us. So we’d be faced with a pub beer garden full of people eating their Sunday lunch in the sunshine and not expecting Tales from the River at all.
Out of bloody-mindedness and optimism, we’d do the show anyway and tell stories and play the ukulele at them. But it’s beyond even my powers of stubbornness to order a field full of innocent diners to break into small discussion groups and do exercises I set them. I may be descended from teachers, but there are limits.
So some places we just did storytelling and music shows. Some places we had the discussion afterwards too.
(Or, on one memorable occasion, we turned up to a completely empty venue. We just went to the pub. You had to get pretty zen about it all.)
Overall, we did 15 events, attended by approximately 170 people.
4. We hoped that people in communities along the way would be interested, entertained and informed by our events. And that it would give people a chance to think about and talk about their relationship to the landscape.
I think. Some people anyway. I’ll
ramble on go into this in more depth in a future post (series of future posts…). Cos really this is the big question, and it deserves more than a paragraph.
5. Document it as we went – so people could follow along from home and even interact with us – using blogposts, twitter, photos and recordings.
- Daily blogposts
- After the first few days, short audio logs daily
- Uploading photos several times a day (899 photos in all)
- 932 tweets altogether on the #talesfromtheriver hashtag, from 68 unique tweeters (although the majority of tweets were from Sophia and Ross). There were also lots of reply tweets from people not using the hashtag.
- 122 comments on the blog
- 26,766 views to date on the website
6. Experiment with a new form of public engagement.
Check. In spades. So much so, we’re planning a new project based on this. We’ll be announcing all about it shortly. Watch this space.
7. Learn stuff about rivers in general and the River Trent in particular.
I’m going to write a series of blogposts on some of the stuff we learned. If you’ve got any particular questions or things you want to know about, let me know in the comments (or on twitter, or by whatever channel you prefer…) and I will try to accommodate.
8. Have fun and an adventure:-)
We had so much fun I’m now 7½ months pregnant…