Annie Lord, works as an artist and has been getting involved with the project delivering a number of workshops and the piece at Almondell & Calderwood Country Park. Here’s her thoughts on Sunday’s workshop in Whitburn.

As part of the RiverRubbish project I was invited to run a series of art workshops which would allow participants to learn more about the impact of river pollution through creative activities. The RiverRubbish project has been exploring the impact of rubbish on the ecosystem of the River Almond. A group of volunteers have been working to clear a section of the river just upstream of a water treatment centre and the rubbish has been tallied and sorted in order to understand the extent and nature of the problem. On Saturday 18th May we took advantage of the drizzly weather, retreated to the warmth of the Whitburn Community Education Centre and settled in for a morning of art and craft activities.

In the first part of the workshop participants learned how to make small resin casts of objects that could be found in the river. These ranged from natural plant materials and small pieces of glass to pollutants such as wet wipes and crisp packets. We worked on a tiny scale, cutting the pieces into different shapes and arranging them into different compositions. There was lots of creativity on show with participants treating the rubbish like precious metal and jewels – strips of coke cans were twisted into spirals and small shards of plastic were layered on top of leaves.  We then cast the objects in resin which hardens into a glass like finish and made them into necklaces and key chains. The finished pieces are small mementos of the river which can be worn as a daily reminder of the local river. Some people planned to attach them to their pencil cases to show to their friends at school or give them to siblings so that they could have a small token of the river too.

While we waited for our resin pieces to dry we had a look at some of the items that have been collected from the banks of the River Almond – scores of wet wipes and sanitary items that have travelled through the sewage system, plastic straws and bags that have been swept into the water, dog balls, bottles and cans were just some of the objects on show. Nim from the Forth Rivers Trust explained how resilient our rivers are so we shouldn’t despair, instead we need to come up with solutions to prevent these items entering into our rivers in the first place. Lots of the workshop participants know the river well and were keen to share their stories about how they experience it. Despite the problems that it faces the river is well loved and a place for people to enjoy.

Inspired by what we’d seen we made drawings of all the different items that are found in the river. Using stencils workshop participants made wax rubbings of sticklebacks, trout, tadpoles and snails as well as introducing some of the man made objects. We were challenged by some of the participants to make some new stencils – Nim came up with an excellent caddis fly larvae!

There were lots of opportunities throughout the morning for participants to share their thoughts and concerns. It can be disheartening to see the volume of rubbish that ends up in the river and this was a chance to channel our feelings into a creative output.