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Park charity scoops top environmental award

SEFTON based charity, Rimrose Valley Friends, has enjoyed success at this year's prestigious Liverpool Echo Environment Awards, which recognises the best:- environmental businesses, Schools, community projects and individuals, who are making a difference, within Merseyside. The online awards ceremony took place on Wednesday, 28 April 2021 and was hosted by Roger Johnson, regular Presenter of BBC North West Tonight. The charity won the Healthy Living Award, in recognition of the role it plays in promoting the urban country park in South Sefton, encouraging people to use it for their physical and mental health and to experience and preserve the nature it contains. Other nominees included:- StedyChefs, an organisation which helps adults with disabilities and additional needs to gain independent living skills through the act of healthy cookery, and Wirral Unplugged, which supports families' wellbeing at home by distributing environmentally friendly craft packs each month.

Speaking on behalf of Rimrose Valley Friends and its Save Rimrose Valley campaign, Stuart Bennett said:- "We are over the moon to win such a high profile award. 'Healthy living' sums up Rimrose Valley perfectly. The park is an incredible, free resource which is essential for people's health and wellbeing in what is otherwise a heavily urbanised part of the City. The impact of the Covid19 Pandemic and the various lockdowns really hampered our ability to deliver events and activities in 2020 which was true for many of the other finalists on the night. We are therefore looking forward to more positive times and have big plans for the future, so we hope this award will help us to raise our profile, to grow our work and to have a positive impact on the lives of as many people as possible. In truth, it is the people and communities that use and rely on Rimrose Valley that make it so special and we are delighted to accept this award on their behalf."

The award was sponsored by Liverpool John Moores University and Professor Phil Vickerman, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives, at LJMU, said:- "I was delighted to announce Rimrose Valley Friends as the winners of the Healthy Living Award, sponsored by LJMU. We value the importance of our green spaces and environmental assets across the Liverpool City Region. Our collective experiences during the Pandemic have reinforced how vital they are to our mental and physical health and wellbeing. The team at Rimrose Valley Friends do a fantastic job in promoting and preserving the park for the benefit of their local community. I know that local people will agree that this award is really well deserved. Congratulations to everyone involved and thank you for everything you are doing."

Art project reveals Wirral stories in only 4 WORDS

SOME of Wirral's contemporary folklore and social history can now be explored in a new community project which sees artists condense the stories of the borough into 4 WORDS. Each of the 4 WORDS can be browsed and discovered on a completely free new phone app. Exploring hidden narratives through research and conversations with locals, 7 artists have visited 3 locations:- Port Sunlight, New Ferry and Spital; each with rich unknown histories to share.

4 WORDS WIRRAL was funded by Arts Council England and developed by artist Alan Dunn during lockdown as he began to explore in more detail the Spital neighbourhood on his doorstep whilst walking his dog Lulu. He discovered, for example, that Italian prisoners of war were once housed in Scout huts on the edge of Dibbinsdale Nature Reserve woods in Spital, not far from where Harold Wilson lived. The paths through the woods were built by those prisoners of war, which is now a nature reserve and park filled with birdsong.

Dunn invited other artists to explore the stories in nearby locations, those artists being:- The Singh Twins, Malik Al Nasir, Steve and Phaedra Hardstaff and Joseph Cotgrave who each unearthed historical and contemporary stories from Spital, Port Sunlight and New Ferry, some light and some very serious. The 30 final stories; all distilled down to 4 WORDS each; reveal connections with slavery and Africa, a community in transformation after a massive explosion, hidden viruses and the power of nature and wildlife during a Pandemic. The project also unearthed other unexpected links to:- 'A Clockwork Orange,' Batman, PLUTO and even the Beach Boys.

On the project website:- 4WordsWirral.Com, when viewed on a mobile phone each story is transformed into a floating Augmented Reality animation that can be:- 'projected' onto any location, creating instantaneous tiny or gigantic artworks that can then be screen grabbed and shared globally on social media using #4WordsWirral.

While each of the stories relate to these 3 neighbourhoods in Wirral, they resonate with Merseyside. And the augmented reality aspect, designed by Field. Studios and Alan Dunn allows people to create artwork in their backyard, whether they are in Spital or Huyton.

Contributor Alan Dunn says:- "I had the idea for this project during lockdown 2020, sitting at home and needing to savour and find out more about these areas that are all within a 4km radius of where I live. I wondered if we could look afresh at the familiar and I wanted to work with Regional artists only and have socially distanced walks with them in these places, just looking, chatting, researching and meeting people, gradually peeling back the layers to reveal stories that are not just history but part of people's everyday lives who have lived here. I've been doing these 4 WORDS projects since working with Metal 2016 when we hired the huge Media Wall opposite Lime Street, thinking that they are already too many words out there and not wanting to add many more, and I wanted to explore AR as it kind of reflects our interest in narratives that are hidden until you start looking. Some of the things we found were heart warming, funny or occasionally disturbing but wanted this free app to encourage people to look further for themselves into various important topics."

Another contributor Malik Al Nasir added:- "4 WORDS has been a challenging project, as it's not easy to encapsulate something so horrific as the Leverville atrocities in the Congo and contrast them to the Lever Bro's model village in Port Sunlight. But Alan Dunn's vision; whilst challenging; was not impossible and my 4 words 'Port Sunlight; Plantation Darkness' when contrasted with the accompanying imagery within the 4 WORDS app achieves this seamlessly."

The Singh Twins say:- "As a project developed during the Covid Pandemic we feel 4 WORDS is a brilliant example of how important the arts have been in enabling people to continue to engage with the natural environment and places they live in. It shows what creative collaboration can achieve even under the most difficult and challenging circumstances. It's remarkable to see how well the range of words selected really express the complexity and diversity of the places they represent not only in terms of their past histories and what they mean to different communities but also how they have been interpreted by the artists. On a personal level (as artists whose work is very much about exploring hidden histories and alternative narratives through multiple levels of interpretation) we very much identified with Alan's Dunn's idea of challenging people to:- 'look beyond the surface' of those places and found the challenge he set us both fascinating and rewarding.

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