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Eco-friendly Maritime Festival to focus on protecting What Lies Beneath

04 July 2022

The River Foyle is one of the most beautiful waterways in Europe, stretching 80 miles from its source in the Sperrins to the Atlantic Ocean, tracing a path through some of the most stunning natural scenery in the North West.

In a few weeks' time the river will provide a platform for one of the biggest international maritime themed events, as the Foyle Maritime Festival makes a welcome return after a prolonged hiatus due to the pandemic, running from July 20 – 24. The Foyle will become a hive of water based activity, as tens of thousands of people flock to the festival, and once again welcome the crew of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race on shore as they head for home at the end of their global adventure.

The Foyle is always the focal point of the celebrations, so it's fitting that this year the festival programme carries a strong environmental message, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of water conservation, sustainability and the need to reduce and reuse plastics. The programme focuses on 'What Lies Beneath' and a series of activities and interactive experiences will engage young people and help raise awareness about the plight of our rivers, seas and oceans.

Learning specialists STEM Aware will be taking the lead in helping children of all ages explore the Science of Water through activities and workshops at the festival led by Fergal the LegenDerry Shark. From building Lego bridges, to recreating the sounds of the deep, there will be plenty of fun opportunities to find out more about the Foyle and our own responsibility as conservationists. Creative Director with STEM, Roisin Crawford, explained more about the programme: "We are really looking forward to welcoming everyone to the Science of Water Marquee in July. Our schedule is planned to give people the opportunity to plan their visits across the five days to try different activities.

"Neil Monteiro will deliver very exciting science shows and there will be lots of hands on fun with some very important sneaky learning for all ages. Fergal the LegenDerry Shark will be with us, as we tell a very special interactive story of his mission to help his cousin Kevin, The Great Whale, find his way home, can you come help guide them on their journey?

Everyone attending the festival will also be asked to Take the Pledge, a campaign to encourage everyone to introduce small changes into their lifestyle that will have a big impact on the environment. Even young children are being encouraged to play their part with a special message in the 'City to Sea' workshop about turning off the tap when cleaning your teeth. A special artwork representing the ethos of the festival theme 'What lies Beneath' will be created from recycled materials during real time throughout the festival, inspiring a call to action for everyone to do something positive to help save our planet by scanning a QR code alongside it and committing to making a change.

Home to a rich diversity of aquatic species, the Foyle has many stories to tell, and some magical maritime characters will be arriving on shore to share their stories, from Detritus of the Deep and Zelva the sea turtle, to the Washed Up Mermaid. Dopey the Whale and the Plastic Ocean will also be taking up residence on the quayside throughout the Festival, inviting young people to enter and find out more about the wonders of the deep and the race to save our oceans.

During the Foyle Maritime Festival, a number of practical measures have been introduced to reduce waste and make recycling more convenient for visitors. Festival Co-ordinator with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Helena Hasson, revealed more. "This year we really wanted to drive home the message that we all have a responsibility to do more to conserve and promote the recovery of our marine environment," she stressed. "We're working closely with our partners in the Loughs Agency, Foyle Port and Harbour, and agencies such as Keep NI Beautiful and Zero Waste North West to raise awareness and offer practical ways to make a positive impact.

"We're encouraging everyone to avail of the facilities in place such as the water refill stations, and we are asking all our traders at the festival to minimise packaging where possible and to avoid single use plastics. Compost bins will also be provided for food vendors and we will have Waste Champions on site reminding people to dispose of their rubbish responsibly.

"Zero Waste North West will be promoting their Nappy Library scheme and the benefits of reusable baby care products. A beverage return scheme will also be in operation at the festival bars and we have 10,000 reusable cups available for £1 each – you get the money back when you return your cup. We hope that all these small measures will ensure our event helps to raise awareness and promote a greater understanding of the world around us."

Textile Waste will also be on the agenda, as the biggest environmental pollutant on the planet next to plastics. Installations will feature in the Festival programme led by Keep NI Beautiful a part of their ongoing campaign against disposable fashion and the promotion of buying pre-loved clothing.

The Foyle Maritime Festival is led by Derry City and Strabane District Council with support from Tourism NI, Foyle Port, the Loughs Agency and Diageo. You can find out more about all the activities taking place throughout the festival at foylemaritime.com