Caught by the River began as an idea, a vision and a daydream shared between friends one languid bankside spring afternoon.
It was conceived as an online meeting place for pursuits of a distinctly non-digital variety: walking, fishing, looking, thinking. Birdsong and beer. Adventure and poetry. Life’s small pleasures, in all their many flavours. It was – and still is – about stepping out of daily routines to re-engage with nature. Finding new rhythms. Being.
Launched in May 2007, the website initially drew inspiration from a variety of singular figures renowned in their various fields as writers, explorers, conservationists and, perhaps than anything, dreamers: Roger Deakin, Alice Oswald and Chris Yates – each as inspiring as the pop stars that many involved in Caught By The River grew up in awe of.
The site soon established itself as what early champion Robert Macfarlane described as “a true confluence of currents”, with a growing number of hill-top philosophers and holloway wanderers converging to share their many landscape-based passions. As co-founder Jeff Barrett once remarked: “Caught by the River is a place where nothing bad happens.” Early contributors included Bill Drummond, Chris Yates, Laura Beatty, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Chris Watson, Charles Rangeley-Wilson, Tim Dee, Pete Fowler and Emma Warren.
With rivers as its arterial theme, 2009 saw the publication of Caught by the River: A Collection of Words on Water, a compendium of writing from renowned figures such as Jon Savage, Jarvis Cocker, Alice Oswald and Edwyn Collins. It was followed in 2011 by On Nature: Unexpected Ramblings on the British Countryside, as diverse a collection as the British landscapes, coastlines and islands that it paid homage to. For newcomers, the website also hosts its Nature Book Reader and Music Book Reader, two growing archives of writing on contributors’ favourite reads.
Caught by the River has always offered space and encouragement to emerging voices. The evolution of the site has coincided with the renaissance in nature and landscape writing and is proud to include amongst its contributors writers who have gone on to acclaim, including Amy Liptrot, Melissa Harrison, Richard Benson, Will Burns, Martha Sprackland and Benjamin Myers, as well as emerging musicians and multi-media artists such as Jeb Loy Nichols and Rob St. John.
Branching out into book publishing, CBTR has published Neil Sentance’s beautiful series of lyrical recollections Water & Sky, followed by On The Snap, legendary journalist Brian Case’s encounters with leading names in jazz, rock, film and crime fiction.
An Antidote To Indifference is the website’s semi-regular print off-shoot, a DIY fanzine that collates articles from the site, as well as commissioning new works that explore themes such as sound recordings, islands, illustration and site-specific pieces.
The print and online world moved into the real world, with Caught by the River regularly staging events at festivals around the country. Their fifth birthday party took place at the Southbank’s Purcell Rooms and they can be found annually at Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall and Festival No 6 in Portmeirion. They have also hosted Caught by the River Teifi, a festival of music, talks and workshops in Cardigan, West Wales, and a diverse stage at Cerys’ Matthews The Good Life Experience in 2016, that featured artists including Stealing Sheep, Modern Studies and the Heavenly Jukebox DJs. Forthcoming events include the Caught by the River Calder in Hebden Bridge and regular CBTR Social Club nights.
In August 2016 the first official Caught By The River festival was held on the northern banks of the Thames at Fulham Palace. Over two balmy days, several thousand people gathered in the capital to celebrate, as The Guardian noted, all that is great and good about the CBTR world: “nature, literature, poetry, psychogeography, silent film screenings, a genuinely eclectic musical line-up and global eats in a park setting near the river: a hip village fete, really.”
Here the legendry likes of Super Furry Animals and Low rubbed shoulders with Chris Packham, Kate Tempest, Melissa Harrison and cult favourites such as Gwenno, Virgina Astley, Iain Sinclair, Darren Hayman and Pete Fowler, across stages including the Faber Poetry Chapel, The Idler Academy and the Museum Of British Folklore.
Caught by the River Thames also saw a performance by the BE collective playing their album One. A conceptual, hypnotic combination of classical and drone-rock accompanying the sampled buzzing of 40,000 honey bees in a Nottinghamshire beehive, One was released on our own Rivertones record label and was one of the unexpected recorded highlights of the year. It was followed in September by the single ‘Blue Lullaby’.
Rivertones seeks to document inventive musical and sound recording projects that defy easy categorisation. Field recordings? Auditory experiments? Sound narratives? All of the above. Early releases included the vinyl companion to At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison, an audio collaboration between Robert Macfarlane and Chris Watson, the much-loved Dylan Thomas-meets-King Tubby soundclash ‘Under Dubwood’ and the mysterious The Weather Clock by July Skies, a collage evoking “lost youth, Henry Moore, pylons across fields, abandoned airfields, Avebury, , trudging coastlines, Festival of Britain 1951, endless childhood summers, forgotten England, the romance of the heavens well after closing time” and so much more.
In 2016 Rivertones released I Had Myself A Nuclear Spring by Kate Carr. Recorded in French wetlands beside a huge power plant, it is described as “an eerie symphony of cracking power lines, cries of water birds and the high pitched whine of nuclear towers.”. It was followed by Darren Hayman’s Thankful Villages Volume 1. The first of three albums to document his journeys through those British villages in which every soldier returned alive from World War I, it is Hayman’s evocative and moving collage of Britain’s hidden places, rich in history and community.
Collectively each Caught By The River event, essay, release or publication sees disparate strands of creativity coming together in perfect symbiotic harmony. Together they hopefully form a collective whole that represents an outlook on a world full of endless discovery, innovation, poetry…but mainly just doing things for the sheer joy-giving hell of it.