The X-Factor - UK River Prize & Nigel Holmes Trophy Blog

For future applicants for the UK River Prize & Nigel Holmes Trophy, we thought we might let you in on a secret - each application is assessed and scored cross a range of criteria, including an enigmatic X Factor! This is really a challenge for the judges to identify a feature of each project which might be difficult to describe, but made the project special. There was no shortage of star qualities in the latest set of applications.

Unlike the TV talent show, please be assured that all contestants go through to the final audition and there were no outrageous critiques by the judges. We were too busy looking for innovative approaches to restoration, impressive problem solving and clever knowledge transfer.

Be warned that river restoration solo performances just don't work. Having a range of equally talented and supportive partners on stage was essential for a good performance. A unique combination of partners may be X Factor magic.

Like the TV show, we thought it important to capture the attention of the general public. However for river restoration projects it is even more difficult because often there are different types of audiences which need to be engaged from local government and business, through landowners and anglers, to primary school children.

A celebrity appearance and good camera angle does not go unnoticed. If your project can attract a visit from BBC Countryfile or the local paper, go for it! But we also considered interviews with local communities a real vote winner. We were impressed by the increasing use of aerial drone images to showcase the scale, reveal behind the scenes and monitor project developments.

You might be surprised to hear poetry, art or architecture can also have a role in river restoration and help to tell local environmental story of a river. Several of the projects came to life once we found the attractive floodplain habitat map or new urban park plan. You can also capture imaginations with ambitious visions of exciting environments, like floodplain forests with long-horned cattle or other animals, or the prospect of turning a wasteland into a haven for wildlife.

If a standing ovation has still not begun by now maybe the hard-nosed members of the audiences need to be wooed with novel funding models, promises of ecosystem services, health and recreation benefits, the number of house protected from floods and other socio-economic factors. Or they maybe they can be convinced that the project would help deliver some climate change resilience for their grandchildren.

So before you finalise your application for the next river restoration prize series, pretend to be Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne!

Catherine Duigan


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