The River Project

firebird logo 2010  About Blazing Tales

Blazing Tales is a participatory arts company working across art forms to find new, creative ways of making people’s stories heard. We aim to make high quality art work and bring out the best in people, whilst developing skills, confidence, creativity and improved well-being for the people we work with.


We like to work outside and where possible lead projects in the environment. Designing combined arts workshops that help people to connect with their immediate environment and its’ stories. We believe that supporting a sense of belonging can be of positive benefit to individuals, the people around them and the places they go. The company has a special interest in working with rurally based mixed-heritage families and has led several projects with this group.

Contact Sara Hurley at Blazing Tales if you want to go on the mailing list for ‘The Camp’ 2014.


river exe logo‘the river expedition’ was one project we lead with mixed-heritage families. This page is about that project.

It’s a project that has sparked plenty of interest. A Radio 4 documentary inspired by the camp plus a book that is coming out NEXT WEEK on Monday 11th November.

The book is about: living in a mixed-heritage family in a rural area and leading arts projects in the environment. As the editor, Malcolm Learmonth says ‘it’s about much more than it seems to be about.’ It will be available at and is called ‘Blazing Tales: ‘the river exe-pedition’.

About the River Exe-pedition Project

A combined arts project with mixed-heritage families in Devon. 

 ‘The river exe-pedition’ was a place specific, creative arts project for rurally based mixed-heritage families. Over three seasons, between February and November 2009, the families participated in workshops as they adventured along the banks of the River Exe from its source to the sea. Workshops were held at five locations running the course of the river. These included: a residential weekend at a youth hostel in Exford; a residential camping weekend on a farm in the Exe Valley; a day on the river bank on the outskirts of Exeter; a discovery day in central Exeter; and a boat trip and day by the sea in Exmouth.

Through song-writing, storytelling and art making the families explored a changing local landscape and looked at global history from a local level. Our intention was to increase a sense of belonging and improve knowledge about where they live whilst introducing them to places they otherwise might not visit. Through the opportunity of being together relationships and networks were strengthened and family experiences shared.

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Rural mixed-race families

“Contrary to popular perception, mixed-race families in Britain are not – and never have been – confined to an urban, inner city experience.” Chamion Caballero, Senior Research Fellow, London South Bank University.

The River Exe project brought together mixed families on the premise that living rurally in the provinces is a vastly different experience from living in, and around, Britain’s major cities. There is no intentional positive or negative bias to this statement, it’s simply a fact.

Blazing Tales were interested to see what difference it made to families being with other families similar to their own, and how participating in creative activities affected them. Was it helpful for mixed children and families to relate to others like themselves?

Families came for a good day out somewhere new, for their children to play together and to do some interesting creative things in the environment. The rest was osmosis, in the background, gathering momentum with the strength of the river, flowing towards making sense and storing memories.

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Like a River

Like a river I meet different people

Like a sea I go to different places

Like the water-cycle we sometimes have to start all over again

Like a tributary we see each other in all sorts of places

Like a stream we have to say our goodbyes

Olivia. Aged 10. written in Exford. (with kind permission of the author.)

The Five Workshops.

boy boat

Making boats from natural materials


‘Songs and Spring’A workshop weekend at Exford youth hostel in February.A group song called ‘The Beginning.’

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Arriving at camp

The weekend camp.

High Exe Valley

‘Indigo and Buddleia’

A camping weekend in June.

A song called ‘Come dye with me’.

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Crocodile in a Devon river

Lower Exe Valley

‘Swallows and Crocodiles’

A workshop day on the river bank in August.

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A history of river trade


‘Wells and Walls’

  A day of workshops in the city in October

flower poem

writing a remembrance poem


 ‘Garlands and Waves’

A boat ride and workshop day by the sea in November

 A song called ‘Open Space.’

Our Recipe for ‘Peace Cake’

All the ingredients are different but when they are put together they make humanity.


Oodles of love

A sea of unity

Ladles of Joy

A cupful of understanding

A hat full of humanity

Some ground confidence

A big bag of courage

Heaps of acceptance

A kilo of compassion

A slice of honesty

A pinch of passion

A sizzle of sorrow

A cup of overflowing kindness and generous waves of milk.


  1. Listen to the sifting wisdom from the past.
  2. Mix it all into the drum of compassion and lay to prove in a field of sunflowers.
  3. Serve still hot.


exmouth fleur

Thanks to the funders for making this work possible.

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