The 12th Isle of Wight Riverfest on Saturday 18th May is all about celebrating the heritage, community and the natural environment on the River Medina and its historic Newport harbour. It is the largest free community event in the town. The local Footprint Trust charity organise it, with the support of Newport & Carisbrooke Parish Council, the Isle of Wight Council and local businesses and charities. Visiting this year will be the notorious vicious Wolfguard Vikings, who bring culture from a bygone age. Wolfguard is a Viking and Dark Age Re-enactment group based on the Isle of Wight and have been doing Dark Age re-enactments for over 25 years. We particularly welcome the dashing Vectis Victorians, who were formed in 2018, and are the only Isle of Wight Victorian Social History re-enactment group, and one of only a handful in the UK. They focus on portraying the lives of everyday working people from the Island from around the 1860’s to 1880’s.
Entertainment will kick off at 11am with the Vectis Corps of Drums, who will be looking to recruit new members of the day. Local dance schools will be performing throughout the day with a mixture of modern, street, Irish and traditional dancing. You can also have a go and salsa and tango thanks to experts from Touch Leisure.
Riverfest is set on the ‘New’ Port, from which the town takes its name. The name first appears in the 12th century, and was founded by Richard de Redvers. Newport had varying fortunes, in the 14th century the Black Death struck twice and the town was severely burnt by French forces. Its trade grew over the years, in the eighteenth century, the principal export was corn, and the main import, coal and timber. Beer moved in both directions, particularly to the many hostelries near the Quay! Whilst those who worked on the docks in may have been poorly paid some more wealthy Island residents were enjoying everything the dockers unloaded from almonds to anchovies.
Over time the quayside was extended further north on its east bank. Local firms like Crouchers and Shepard Bros dominated the river trade. Newport was very much a working port until the latter part of the last century. Newport Quay is also important as a centre for the local gas works, the Electric Light Company building with its distinctive stepped gable. For just under a century it was the focus of the Island’s railway system, until the railway station closed in 1966.
At Riverfest you will be able to view historical, modern and classic boats. The Isle of Wight Classic Boat Museum will be at the event promoting their unique collection. Many local charities and associations will be on hand to explain their work and to raise funds, including Vectis Sunrise Rotary. Veteran support organisations will be attending to raise funds and offer help to those who have served in the Armed Forces.
At the event you can have a say in the future Shaping of Newport and the historic quayside. The river is now mainly used for recreation and its estuary is internationally important for its birdlife. Medina Valley Centre have been offering Outdoor Activities and Environmental Education in the Medina Valley since 1963. Crew from the centre will be bringing along some glorious mud from the River so you can see the creatures of the deep that lurk there. They will also give visitors a chance to paddle their own canoe and have a go on their amazing stunt bike course. Island Bikeworks will also be checking over bicycles for two-wheeled visitors to the event. Nature conservation has always been a big part of Riverfest, Natural Enterprise will be on hand to talk about the Island’s rivers and the need to Plant Positive along their banks.
Local food is an important aspect of Riverfest with real local meat and veggie burgers, vegan snacks and for the first time – mocktails. Local beers will be plied from the Riverside Centre, Quay Arts and the Bargemen’s Rest. Local fudge and Ice cream will be on sale along with cakes and pastries from Scarrots Lane bakery.
With Spring in the air, gardeners can enjoy the exotic colourful display of drought-tolerant herbs and shrubs put on by local plantsman Robin Whitehead of Olive Grove. Southern Water staff are to be present giving guidance on saving water and will have a number of freebies to help use water more efficiently.
Handmade fashion accessories and henna tattoos will be on offer, along with salt lamps, t-shirts, toys and clothing. Local woodturner Andy Fortune will be demonstrating his craft. Trophy Pet Foods will be promoting their balanced diet foods and have provided water bowls throughout the event to keep visiting dogs refreshed.
Riverfest is the only car-free event on the Island, no parking is provided and those visiting are asked to use public transport, sail walk, cycle or use the Folly Waterbus on 07974864627 or vhf 6, 77, 72.
The Footprint Trust is an Isle of Wight charity, responsible for Riverfest.
Ray Harrington-Vail, the charity’s General Manager explains,
“This is just a small part of our work on the Island. For the rest of the year we are helping your families, neighbours and friends who are struggling with their energy and water bills, through our Warmahome projects…”
“The Footprint Trust in the last year has saved local vulnerable people over £100,000 on their utility bills and helped 2,000 people keep warm and well”
“The Trust staff and volunteers will be on hand on the should anyone wish to book a free energy saving visit, or a phone call, to chat about cutting your energy and water bills.”