THE ARCHIMEDES SCREW FESTIVAL
The Bioregional Learning Centre’s Archimedes Screw Fest connects our four key work programmes – Ecology, Arts, Economy and Learning – in a free, day-long event on the River Dart… a celebration of joined-up thinking.
Archimedes is taking a break this year while we plan the next Screw Fest. Previous years have featured tours of the twin turbine hydropower plant that generates around 1,350 MWh of clean electricity per year (enough to power around 300 homes for at least 40 years), a volunteer litter pick, kids making salmon and weaving a giant fish net, freshly-made arancini (Archimedes’ favourite snack) and Westcountry Rivers Trust’s river scientists inspiring people to become Citizen Scientists to take care of the health and future of the river ecosystem. You can learn how to test for oxygen levels (by looking at macroinvertebrates), acidity, biodiversity, and microplastics. Citizen Science is a key aspect of BLC’s River Keepers initiative.
There has been a weir at this bend in the Dart since the 16th century, built originally to catch salmon and then to power a corn mill. Today, with fish struggling to survive, a best practice fish pass alongside the turbines allows for more salmon and sea trout to migrate past the weir to spawn upstream and an automatic fish counter monitors the number and sizes of fish using the pass.
The arts are also vital in bringing attention to difficult subjects, like the decline in health of the UK’s rivers, as well as celebrating the natural environment as it is now, or creating future visions. Each year BLC explores different ways to incorporate hands-on art activities or experiences that bring insight into this particular place on the Dart. In 2018, a 3.5m long salmon, stuffed to vomiting-point with plastic waste, lay beached at the river’s edge….!
In 2018, Archimedes, played by Tim McGill of Boabab Theatre, made a surprise appearance with a specially scripted performance that brilliantly wove together his inventions and discoveries with the location on the Dart, care of nature and wonder at our insatiable appetite for plastic: “Plastic. It’s not simple, it does not follow nature. This is progress? It’s discovery, I’m sure a miracle, made merchants rich – a miracle upon a miracle upon a miracle. A simple mathematical equation would, I’m sure, demonstrate that you can have too much of good thing…!?”.
The first Screw Fest was in 2016…