Waterlight Screening at Haverhill U3A

Waterlight filmmaker James Murray-White shares his latest screening of our Waterlight film with local audiences.

I was delighted to accept an invitation, and travelled to Haverhill at the end of last month to introduce the film to the Haverhill U3A Nature Group. They had hired the visitor centre at East Town Park for the morning, and about 25 or so members filled the space. I found it very moving to watch and hear Clare and her words again on the screen. Every time I see this I shed a tear for a dear friend, and feel we all co-created a wonderful legacy of her gifts and passion.

As it was, in fact, Burns Night that very day — to commemorate the life of Scottish National Bard, Robert Burns — I had done a quick scout around to find a suitable Burns poem on water to share, but unable to find anything that fit the bill, I opted to read them a poem of Clare’s, from her 1997 pamphlet, Landscapes (published by Redbeck Press). ‘Unknown Colour’ speaks of her beloved Cumbria, and is indeed dedicated to artist Winifred Nicholson, who also had a deep connection to that landscape; but the poem is also very broad in its dive into the territory of landscapes and elements – all of which absorbed Clare and her way of looking at the world and the landscapes she inhabited.

Showing 'Unknown Colour', a poem by Clare Crossman
‘Unknown Colour’, by Clare Crossman. © Estate of Clare Crosman, 2024

We got into a deep conversation afterwards, and I shared some current work I’m involved in on a community campaign, including a film, to improve the flow of a chalk stream that rises from multiple sources around the village of Dullingham, travels past Devils Dyke and around Tattershall’s horse stables and is then culverted under Newmarket’s main road (under the Jockey Club, no less!), through the town, and connects finally to the River Stour at Snailwell, under the A14.

More about that project as it progresses.

Much concern arose about the current states of rivers, both here in East Anglia and Nationally. The problems of both over-abstraction and pollution were discussed, as well as how chalk streams and waterways are responding to climate change. We are seeing many of these fragile streams dry up entirely during the hotter summer months and then be inundated with too much water during these recent stormy winters. Discussion continued into how communities can respond to these challenges ahead of us and really engage with the more-than-human. This might involve adaptation and developing greater resilience, as well as pushing for any political options, including (in my personal view) the re-nationalisation of water companies and beefing up the power and resources of the Environment Agency, which has been so badly under-funded and asset-stripped over several years by successive Governments.

Feedback from participants included:

“Loved the film, the photography, music and poetry and now have a better understanding of the rarity and importance of chalk streams. Covered a great range of topics in the discussion afterwards. James’ enthusiasm was infectious. Really raised an awareness of our problem with water in this area.”

“I enjoyed it. Beautiful photography and poetry.”

“Seeing the Waterlight film for the second time made me fully appreciate that it is a lovely sensitive mix of beautiful photography, the lovely poetry of Clare Crossman, the scientific input on the ecology of the river, the history of the river and the community spirit to preserve, maintain and care for the river.”

“Film was very atmospheric highlighting what we stand to lose by contamination and over-extraction of these streams. Hope we can have a visit over there.”

“I found the film quite exhilarating and very informative and inspired, I hope, a discussion going forward to perhaps setting up our own working group to create or assist in a wildlife area locally.”

“I really enjoyed the film and the discussion on the film and project.”

“Most informative. Also enjoyed hearing about the other projects James is involved in.”

It was lovely to learn that several of the group had already seen the film, at earlier screenings in Linton, hosted by the FROGS group there (Friends of the River Granta), and are involved in efforts to clean up that river. May we all find ways to engage with our local waterways, brooks, rivulets, streams, and winterbournes.

You can find out about future screenings at our Upcoming Events page.

You can enjoy Clare Crossman’s poems for the Waterlight project on our Poems page (where there is also a short video of Clare reading Crossings at the river Mel, and poems that other people contributed for this site). And do visit Clare’s own website, where there are many more of her poems, including recordings of readings she gave, and poems she contributed to the ClimateCultures website.

Showing 'Landscapes' by Clare Crossman
‘Landscapes’ by Clare Crossman.

Explore the Haverhill U3A site for other events and activities, including the Haverhill u3A Nature Group.

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