Water win! Creature Comforts-style animation about natural flood management takes home national film award

Pete the Frog who was voiced by our very own Catchment Partnership Officer John Gorst from United Utilities

What was the award and who won?

Four lovingly crafted stop-motion animations, produced last year by the Environment Agency, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and animators StudioDOK, have bagged a prestigious national award in the Educational Film category of the Learning on Screen awards.

The Wild Ideas about Flooding animations feature Pete the frog, Russell the dog, Brook the otter and Fin the fish highlighting natural flood management’s many benefits and how it can help protect Cumbria’s homes, businesses and farms.

The films show how natural techniques can decrease flooding downstream and reduce the impact of drought on land and pollutants in water.

Each of the four characters is narrated by a Cumbrian voice, including David Kennedy and Michael Farrell from the Environment Agency, John Gorst from United Utilities and Abigail Kennedy, a Cumbrian art and photography teacher.

Learning On Screen is a national body which celebrates and promotes film in education. Judges described the animations as stunning and the use of animal narrators as terrific, adding they delivered clear and important information about flooding. Judges also commended the ambient wildlife noises.

The win was announced and partners received their trophy at a glittering ceremony at the British Film Institute, London earlier this month, where the animations were also showcased on the big screen.

Russell the Dog was voiced by David Kennedy from the Environment Agency

What the participating organisations had to say…

Caroline Douglass, executive director for flood and coastal risk management at the Environment Agency, said:

“We are so pleased that these beautiful animations received the recognition they deserve and have won such a prestigious award.

“Education forms a crucial part of the Environment Agency’s approach to increasing community resilience to flooding.

“Pete the frog, Russell the dog, Brook the otter and Fin the fish are wonderful ambassadors for natural flood management and how it can help protect Cumbria’s homes, businesses and farms.”

David Harpley, director of nature recovery at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said:

“This is fantastic news! We’re delighted that these short films, which show how natural flood management can help protect our homes, businesses and farms, have been acclaimed with this award.

“Pete the frog and all the other animated characters have really caught people’s imaginations and have proved to be a really effective way of getting across some important issues in a fun but informative way.

“Huge congratulations to our partners at Environment Agency and StudioDOK for making the films – they’re a great support for the work we and many others are doing in Cumbria, in harmony with nature, to help alleviate flood risks in the county.”

John Gorst, catchment partnership officer for United Utilities, said:

“It was a huge honour to be asked to do the voiceover for Pete the frog and it’s been fantastic to see the reaction from people to the videos. 

“It’s a really important subject matter and finding new ways to engage with different audiences is hugely important as we look to get the message out there. 

“To get this recognition from the Learning on Screen awards is a real honour and I’d like to thank David for asking us to be a part of it.”

David Kennedy, Cumbria’s Innovative Flood Resilience Senior Advisor said: 
“To have won this award is stunning, I’m still in a bit of shock – the standard of the shortlisted films was amazing. These were films made in lockdown, we even recorded the audio in my bedroom as no recording studios were open, the director was stuck in Novia Scotia battling snowstorms and power cuts, so to have produced films this good is incredible. 

“These brilliant films were created as part of the Environment Agency’s Cumbria Natural Flood Management (NFM) programme with our partners Cumbria Wildlife Trust. They explain what NFM is and how it can benefit farming, communities and the environment. 

The videos are currently being used in schools and other public settings, such as local big screens in Cumbria which is a real testimony to how versatile they are. They are a tribute to the skill of the animators and the director who made them come to life in such an engaging way.

“Whilst the films are set in Cumbria, it is important to remember that NFM interventions can be used in any part of the country, across a wide variety of landscapes.” 

Brook the Otter was voiced by Abigail Kennedy, a Cumbrian art and photography teacher.

Natural Flood Management

The Environment Agency, United Utilities, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and many other conservation and land management organisations use nature-based solutions to societal problems such as flooding, drinking water quality, loss of wildlife.

Natural flood management is a catch-all term for a variety of landscaping techniques used to hold back water during flood events, reducing the impact on buildings and infrastructure such as bridges downstream.

It can include a range of measures, such as tree planting to slow run-off, peatland restoration to store water in upper catchments, restoring flood plains to make space for water away from urban areas and creating wetlands to protect coastal communities. 

As well as reducing flood risk, these measures have other benefits such as helping to improve air and water quality and providing habitats for wildlife and green space for communities.

Watch all four fabulous short films here

Fin the Fish was voiced by Michael Farrell from the Environment Agency who does the Salmon Redd surveys on Swindale Beck here at Haweswater

– Annabel Rushton, Visitor Experience Manager

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