Down by the River

Down by the River


River Tours: The Lune is a live performance with ‘tour guide’ Orla Cottingham and a beautifully crafted textile map of the Lune by Sewing Café Lancaster.  This spring, the show is travelling upstream to reach local audiences.   

River Tours: The Lune was created in 2022, when Lancaster Arts worked in partnership with renowned theatre company Stan’s Cafe as part of their international touring project, Rivers of the World.  This is a long-term project working with different places across the world – each selected place is near a river. Locally based artists are commissioned in partnership with local organisations to create a textile-based map and text of their neighbouring river and it’s then performed.   

Here in Lancaster, we engaged the activist stitchers, Sewing Café Lancaster to make our Lune textile, which identified all bridges, dams, major settlements, and confluences along the river’s length. Claire Dean – a local writer whose own home was flooded by the Lune during Storm Desmond in 2015 – came on board to develop the text. Then began the highly reciprocal making process.  Artist Katrina from the Sewing Cafe said, “We met throughout at every step. This level of interaction meant that [each element] could change and develop as we went.  It was responsive so writing fed into making the textile and vice versa; sharing the draft script and having an early reading by Orla gave a sense of the spirit of it which fed into our visual representation”. Claire said: “hearing Orla voicing the river at the early stages of writing made the writing feel like a collaborative act. As a writer you’re usually working in isolation, so this was a daunting but very special part of the process”.  See our blogs/interviews for an insight into the making of the project: James Yarker, Director of Stan’s Cafe, Sewing Café Lancaster, Claire Dean.  

People watching a performance on the banks of a river

The finished textile map was then used to illustrate a guided tour, performed by actor, Orla Cottingham, and covered thousands of years of history, natural phenomena, famous sights, fascinating facts, the odd myth and one or two tall stories about the River Lune.   

In October 2022, Lancaster Arts presented the show outside at Green Ayre overlooking the river in Lancaster as part of Lancaster Arts’ programme,
and the Mill Race: Flow of Change programme funded by Historic England. 

The performance was invited to Lancaster’s Litfest in 2023 and then to the Morecambe Milieux, Aqueous Futuresconference at the Midland Hotel in Morecambe.   

As most of the creative team are based here in Lancaster and Morecambe, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to extend our collaboration and tour River Tours: The Lune – this very home-grown project – to audiences right along the river.  So, we’ve spent the last few months making relationships with a range of partners such as the mental health intervention, Growing Well, at Tebay services, Arkholme Village Hall and the Town Council in Kirkby Lonsdale… in order to do just that.   

As part of the tour, the creative team are carrying out workshops in schools in Caton, Kirkby Lonsdale, Glasson Dock and Sedbergh.   

We have also made a beautiful book, designed by Adam Gregory, which contains Claire’s text and a fold-out representation of the textile map.  You can purchase that here soon, and at our tour sites.  We’ll be making a film of River Tours: The Lune too… but more on that shortly – watch this space!  

Tickets for the show are ‘pay what you feel’ and can be booked here, or email for more information.  

This tour is supported by Arts Council England and Lune Rivers Trust.   

Illustrated map of the river Lune with Tebay, Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale, Arkholme, Halton, Lancaster, Glasson Dock and Sunderland Point listed.