Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Under Grin Low

Buxton Country Park
Monday 15th September 2014
venturing underground
 The first session of a project from High Peak Community Arts' Project eARTh Buxton group. Over the next few months they'll be working with woodcarver Sarah Fiander to create a set of figures that will stand near the entrance to the Park. I will be joining them several times to work on the stories behind the shapes they produce. What will come: visually or verbally, we have no idea! Adventures all round

Monday's session was for first ideas, for exploring and talking and meeting each other.

I'm just going to post the poems that grew out of our walk through Poole's Cavern

where will our sculptures go? what could the group be like?
Introduction - the feel of this project
Almost stones.
Standing stones,
Petrified people,
Called from the heartwood,
Their stories carved into the wood of their bodies
In runes

Under the hill - this poem grew out of comments and notes. It feels like several different voices so if you read it out try getting different people to read different verses. The italic sections I think are the voices of people wandering through the cave

Our modern feet,
In sensible shoes,
Splashing in puddles,
On sensible floors,
Casting shadows over stones,
From the sensible lights.
Get in there!
A long way in,
It's a long way in.
It's cold.

The darkness waits
For us to turn our backs,
To let our guard slip,
To let the drips drop,
And the petrifying water catch us
Or our pennies,
Or our shoes,
Or our mobile phones.

A splendour of rock and water and earth.
Time stands still.
It's surprising what water can do.
It's a long way in.

Nothing here is quite what it seems,
Turn your back for a moment and the darkness comes back
Water made solid

Step into the darkness,
Into the shelter and the silence and the cold.
This darkness,
A home for hibernating bats,
A lair for bears,
A grave for the ancient dead.
4,000 years of peace broken by
Victorian shovels

a strange world
no traffic noise
no fumes
no smells at all

Purple, green and grey
Line and layers of stone,
Sideways ripples across a boulder,
Folds become faces,
A skull caught forever in 
Hanging stone
deep, mysterious
time caught in the dripping echoes 
stone-time not our time
we are here and gone again
the stone lasts
changing all the time but still here

One lump of rock becomes
A bear, a beast, a lion, a gorilla,
A chenille blanket.
A thousand years of dripping 
To grow a dragon's eye,
A cave jellyfish,
A weeping swelling 
On the cave floor.
A cauliflower,
A marshmallow for trolls,
Miniature rice paddies,
Deceptively hard,
Hard as stone and

Tree roots and a picnic bench
Up there somewhere.
We are hidden,
Secrets in the limestone hills,
We are the mystery

There are stories here,
Here in the cold and the dark
Stories waiting to be told

Voices like grating rocks and dripping water
A convocation of stalemites*
An amphitheatre of stalagmites,
Watchful, listening, patient
Waiting for the dark to return when we go away,
Poised on the edge,
Guarding their own,

This parliament of stones
Ancient but still alive,
Ancient and never stagnant

*I know this should be stalactite or stalagmite but I thought stal-e-mite was such a good word we should keep it!

Home with cowries

North Uist, 
September 2014

O, long golden beaches and long cold winds, strandlines of kelp and shelldrifts to forage in...returning home after after a few days writing, walking and laughing on North Uist

There are a set of new poems growing out of blue waters, wide horizons and a sky determinedly empty of eagles. But they'll have to wait a bit while the poems finish germinating

But the journey back from the outer edge of Scotland to my home here in the middle of England felt like traveling through timezones or phases of reality or regular shifts in paradigms. To open the door here was to step back into welcome spaces and welcome animals (the axolotls were looking particularly swimmy) but also into the need to pick up my pace and get onto booking venues and finalising plans for the autumn's work
adventurous dog!

Never mind, there is a dish of cowries to carry me back across the water

Exciting news about articles:

Link: the magazine for Wildlife Watch, the junior wing of the The Wildlife Trusts are using a post froma few months ago on Making Prehistoric Rockpools as a piece in an upcoming issue of the magazine

Revista Textura: a Brazilian environmental education journal has published a piece by me called "A broad, broken bow of a bridge: using classic literature and the outdoors to inspire poetry with children"
This link will take you to a pdf of the article. I am pleased with the article: it gave me a chance to really think about the background, activities and implications of a project (the Gawain project from summer 2013)  after its completion which doesn't often happen! Usually, I finish one project and then hope for enough time to breathe before the next one closes in on the diary!

and a few gratuitous pictures of beautiful places....
Dun an Sticir
Sticir is causewayed
lichen-hairy rocks!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Leafy pages: inspiration and activities: training course

Leafy Pages and Wild Words 
Wednesday November 5th 2014
a training course with Gordon MacLellan
organised by Wildwise 
a scatter of objects and ideas can shape a story

I spend a lot of this blog reporting back on the delightful and inventive ways the groups I work with engage with the world around them.

I do training courses for professionals, as well, offering all you workshop leaders, teachers, rangers, excitable adults or thrilling parents an invitation to join me and experiencce some of those skills for yourself 

This workshop will be hosted by Wildwise at Dartington
washing-line poems collect ideas
and inspire editing

Instant stories, sudden poems, an excitement of words: when we step outside into a wider environment, there are adventures everywhere and this workshop will explore ways of building those tales with groups. 

Alongside our storymaking, we will explore ways for recording our tales in storysticks and bundles, big books, small books, one piece books, pop-up landscapes and fold-out theatres. A workshop for anyone who wants to find new or extend their existing ways of playing with stories with groups - or just for themselves.

Times: 9.30am - 4.30pm
Place: Dartington
Costs: £115/£95/£70 (rates: organisations, charities & voluntary organisations, individuals)
Booking: contact Wildwise

and then there are always boggarts to wrap a story or two around

Sunday, 31 August 2014


This is a post from a sister-blog of a project I am working on. Derbyshire Myths and Legends has been running as an enrichment of the Summer Reading Challenge in Derbyshire (surprisingly enough!). By the end of the project I'll have done workshops in 20 libraries which have been wonderfully delightful and potty. Even by the slightly sideways standards of the stories we've been creating, the Storm Story with the Burned Girl that evolved all of a sudden in Creswell Library last week was exceptional. So without further comment, I'm going to post that story and some of its associated images. Follow the link above to see the rest of the project blogs and more pictures

Creswell Library
Thursday 28th August 2014
A Thunder-grave in the dark woods

“Walking with an umbrella during a tornado is not a god idea”*

But the girl went walking with her beautiful blue umbrella, anyway

She is buried in a thunder-grave,
Deep in the woods.
A lonely grave,
A single grave,
And there she brings
Thunder, lightning and storms inside the wood
But the edges of the wood are peaceful
And guard the world from her anger.

But one wild tornado escapes
And collects a bus full of panicking school children,
Spinning them round,
Ready to do them to death.
But the bus sprouts wings and 
As an aerobus with rocket boosters
Sails through the storm
To safety.

But the lightning strikes
A goblin house in the Old Widow’s Tree
And the goblin and the two fairies who live in a hole flee
don't trust the Burned Girl!

The storm chases them,
Winds to blow them, rain to beat them,
Even their strongest spell doesn’t help,
And they run and run,
Too wet to fly, too scared to hide.

Down to the lake
Where a girl sails her boat through the storm,
Over a lake horrible with giant waves.

She carries them through the wind and the waves and the rain to...

Who lives in the old cottage behind the gray fence?
There is a bridge there, too,
Over a river behind the house,
A bridge to an island where a rock hides caves.
And might offer a new home to the lost goblin and his fairy friends

“Beware of the person who lives in the house behind the grey fence.”*

* “The things my Mum used to tell me”, numbers 25 and 32
a brave girl who could sail a boat through a storm
By the end of the story, all the characters had taken cover in Creswell Library where they live to this day, hiding in the bookshelves
even the Burned Girl enjoys a good read
with many thanks to all the storymakers, artists and puppeteers of Creswell!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Faces from Mansfield

Summer Reading Challenge
Mansfield Library
13th August
maze making in full swing!

following on from Maze-Makers 2
here are some more pictures from Mansfield Library
planning our giant maze

collective drawing
from communal, we went to individual and people chose
and developed their own mazes
glue, sticks and tiny puppets...

our communal mazes on display

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Maze-makers, 2

more Nottinghamshire Mazes
August 2014

Over the bridge,
Over the lake,

Over the crocodiles
Into the maze.
Here, a silent cat leaps over a fence,
A frog hops into the middle of a pond,
A rainbow unicorn opens the gate.
Follow the tunnel, twisting and turning, up and down

Thread the maze,
As quiet as an owl,
Spider-climbing the webs on the walls,
As silent as a moth flutters,
As fast as a cheetah, 

As brave as a lion prowling through the night,
Slither like a snake, like slugs on slime,
Sly as a fox 
Be ready, 
Angry tiger fighting, 
Jaguar swift, cheetah fast
Frog-hop, leap the fence,
Over lava, over water, 
Stepping-stone the lily pads

The King’s Crown waits in his treasury in the heart of the maze
Thread the maze and in your heart,

Be bold, be bold and
Don’t be ready to die!
Have the mind of a mad scientist
And the memory of an elephant.
Remember your family,
Their faces will bring you home.
Look, look, some people forget to look!
Keep looking right to the very end!

A whole family of bears live in this maze,
And a yellow yawning dragon that falls asleep and gets in your way,

Perfect pink; blue bone-seeking; grumpy green,
The dragons.

A vampire with teeth as sharp as knives and needles.
An invisible snake with poison in every tooth and every scale of its body.
A monster with 10 million eyes and 10 million hands and 10 million feet.
This maze moves with monsters!

The Maze-poem has tangled itself together out of ideas from various libraries and I think there is another set of images to come, but this posting celebrates the delightful ideas of Maze-makers from
Mansfield, Worksop, Stapleford and West Bridgford libraries. There are other events happening during the holidays at Nottinghamshire libraries - follow the link above to find out 
what's happening at libraries near you!
Well done, all you Nottinghamshire Makers of Mazes! It has been 
a joy and a delight to work with you!

in navigating mazes, maps sometimes help. But not often.

Maze-makers, 1

Summer Reading Challenge, 
Nottinghamshire, August 2014
2 proud maze-makers
There has been a labyrinth of workshops spilling across Notts libraries over these last few weeks and images will come in in bits and pieces now....
As part of this year's Summer Reading Challenge, I've been doing "make your own maze" workshops:. As maze-making companies, we've been mixing stories with poetry, communal drawing with personal ideas, and throwing in lots of mess, lots of laughter and occasional Terrifying Moments ("if you fall in the lava, you will die!" "There is a monster here that sits on people and squashes them into jelly")

I've had 2 cameras fall apart on me in the last 2 weeks, a third has wandered off somewhere and my new camera is exciting and shiny and very good but that doesn't always help when we're working with lots of excited people and there are glue and pencils and puppets and mazes everywhere and time to take photos slides down a slippery sideshoot of a photos are going to be rather erratic!

But here are a first set of images from exciting times in  Newark Library
tabletops grow their own mazes
of bits and pieces

Many thanks to the Maze-makers of newark!