Catch up with BBC Radio 3: How rivers provide a source of inspiration

Catch up with BBC Radio 3 celebration of rivers as a source of inspiration for artists, writers and composers in an extra special week-long season called ‘Along The River'.

The River Brathay at Elterwater on a sunny day in Cumbia.

From 12 – 17 May, BBC Radio 3 celebrated rivers as a source of inspiration for artists, writers and composers in an extra special week-long season called ‘Along The River.’ BBC Radio 3 controller Alan Davey reviews the highlights and explains how you can listen again.

How to listen

Now available for listening again via BBC Sounds, the week of programmes combined interviews, essays, new compositions and live recordings all based around the theme of Rivers, brought to you by our music and culture experts. The season followed on from last year’s exploration of Forests on Radio 3, with the intention to explore our fascination with rivers and their cultural significance. It will also hopefully allow you to slip away from the busyness of modern life for a few moments.

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Why are rivers so important?

Rivers have an active impact on our lives – they connect our towns and cities, they carry trade and they have been conduits of cultural exchange.  Human activity has been modifying their flow for centuries, but there is a wildness that cannot be completely contained. Nature and mankind coexist along a river.  

J4Y69W River Braan Rumblin Brig falls. Perhshire Scotland. Scotland

There is also a deeply meditative element to our understanding of rivers that we set out to engage with throughout Along The River – they have a place in many religions, and also in myths and legends. As many writers, walkers, anglers and those ‘messing about in boats’ have discovered, rivers can also be places of relaxation and contemplation.

On Sunday 12 May, wild swimming enthusiast Professor Alice Roberts kicked things off by marking twenty years since the publication of Waterlog, Roger Deakin’s influential document of his journey via rivers in Sunday Feature – Waterlog, which you can listen again to now via BBC Sounds.

Meanwhile, from Monday through to Friday nature enthusiast and BBC Radio 3 Breakfast presenter Petroc Trelawny brought you his Breakfast programme live from five locations on the River Severn, which is Britain’s longest river, treating his listeners to live music, the natural sounds of the riverside and the rich cultural heritage of the Severn. Starting near its source in mid-Wales, travelling through to Shropshire, where Petroc and the Breakfast team enlisted a local 10 piece Jackfield Brass Band to play live along the Iron Bridge River, which was a spectacular listening experience and site to behold.They then moved onto Gloucestershire before joining the Bristol Channel on Friday for the final Breakfast show in the season. Listen back to all Breakfast shows here.

On Wednesday singer of pop-punk band The Undertones Feargal Sharkey reflected on the Zen Art of Fly Fishing as part of The Essay: The Source (re-listen here), and Poet and teacher John Clarke talked about tracking a polluted Cornish river in Free Thinking – Rivers, Poetry and Ecology. Earlier in the week Late Junction brought experimental musicians together at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios, to improvise around graphic scores of English rivers. As part of this, musician Sam McLoughlin picked a spot on the river Spodden near Rochdale called the Fairies’ Chapel, named after the shape of the rock carvings, and the location of strange sightings over the years and shot a magical short film (watch here) that the musicians then improvised to in the studio. The performance also features Sam’s river harp which, when submerged in the Spodden, resonated with the movement of the waters.The Late Junction editions also featured artist, composer and field recordist Annea Lockwood who shared her favourite field recordings that have inspired her own work making sound maps of the Danube, Hudson and Housatonic.

The Slow Radio format is at the heart of a lot of what we do here at Radio 3, combining the complex sounds of the natural world with music and poetry, and capturing a rare snapshot of British pastoral life – whether you listened live, or download via BBC Sounds – we hope to enhance your commute with the soothing charm of rivers.

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