Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Hatching 8: inhale the future

The case of the curious trout
Ightenhill Primary School
19th March 2015
the riverbank will shelter the curious trout

Inhale the future
Exhale the past
Life moves quickly
Gotta swim fast

We reach the end of the river for now. The last workshop of the series for the moment. Here at Ightenhill,  Steve and I met our last group and celebrating with our last song and unfolding our last river

The Hatching 2015 has almost fulfilled its mission. This year 10 schools hatched trout eggs as part of the Ribble Rivers Trust's hatch and release scheme for Burnley rivers

My colleague Steve Brown and I have visited 8 of those schools, working with our Trout-keepers to offer a creative take on the hatching process. 

The fingerlings of Ightenhill go into their river next week and those brave little fish will inhale and exhale their way out into the rocks and rapids and racing waters of the Ribble Valley catchment

All our workshops this year have been great fun (they were last year, as well! see The Hatching ) but the Ightenhill trout-keepers seemed to have an extra degree of wonderful wateryness with some delightful fish-dancing to accompany their singing and some beautiful rippling water patterns in their pop-ups

Bossy bigger brothers, I'm not
Sharing my food with you no more
Gonna have to catch it, so I
Cannot be a lazy trout

Magnificent manouvres, we've
Got to dart away
Predators are coming, slyly
Pike will stalk us every day

Think I'm gonna cry now, teardrops
Run like rapids down my face
Reflecting on the river, all these
Memories will not float away

Lyrics are from the Ightenhill Trout Song, a recording of which and pics of rare and exotic fish-dancing will will post here very soon!

Many thanks to the Trout-keeprs, artists, musicians, 
composers and dancers of Ightenhill

The Hatching 7: Journey to the Sea

Journey To The Sea
Burnley St Peter's C of E Primary School
19th March 2015
our trout will enter the river about here

Final aquarium days now for our fingerlings and they are pushing the limits of their tanks. There is a sense of fish ready for a longer swim, for wilder waters, for freedom…and also the knowledge of danger
The Hatching 2015 has almost fulfilled its mission. This year 10 schools hatched trout eggs as part of the Ribble Rivers Trust's hatch and release scheme for Burnley rivers

My colleague Steve Brown and I have visited 8 schools, working with our Trout-keepers to offer a creative take on the hatching process. 

Our team of trout-keepers at St Peter's, split into two groups and while one started the Journey to the Sea song, the others started thinking about the friends, foods and enemies our fish might meet.
concentration is called for...
...and the results are worth celebrating!

upstream to the hills and old bridges? or down to the sea?

River animals unfolded as finger puppets
Great Crested Grebe - and smaller great crested grebe!

and river crowns
an angry frog on a river crown

The Journey To The Sea
We're going on a journey to the sea (sea)
Swim along and let's be free, (free)
There's 10 of  us on our way
We'll get there come what may, HEY!

We are little brown trout,
This is the first day we've been out,
We start at the river's source,
High up on the mythical moors.

Five fish lose their way,
At the fork in the river they swim astray,
"Oh, no!" the fry did cry
"We didn't get to say goodbye!"

Splash! Splosh! The fingerlings dive
How many more trout will survive?
Twist and turn down a waterfall
Another one lost in the plunge pool

Here comes fisherman John
A couple of worms and two trout gone

Out to the ocean swims our friend
Crooky has reached the river's end
"I'm proud", the trout sings loud
"I was lost but now I'm found!"

The River Singers, 1

River Singers, 2

To hear the whole song, you will need to follow the link that will be posted here very soon!
careful drawing on a dragonfly

Many thanks to the artists, musicians, trout-keepers 
and composers of St Peter's

Stories Alive! A tree of stories

Through the forest:
a Stories alive! day at Basnett St Nursery
with Carol Ferro

sunlight shines through story-leaves

a report from the Short Story Lady
"I have been chosen to work with four other artists on the Stories Alive! project, which runs across five nursery schools in Burnley through 2015. The project aims to bring together children, parents, nursery staff and the wider community, to raise literacy attainment through storytelling.
a forest full of creatures (resting)
Each nursery was allocated a dedicated artist to work with them throughout the school year, with several artist visits and training days. I am working with Basnett Street Nursery School.
leaves from a story-tree
The children were introduced to the project through a visit to Burnley Youth Theatre, where they met several of the project’s artists and enjoyed a walk through their imaginations, going “into the woods” and making their own stories with their key workers.
The stories were written on paper leaves to stick on “Story trees” to display at nursery (pictured below)
I visited the nursery for a “Gruffalo Day”, and took the children on a sensory adventure around the story. They walked round the forest area while listening to the story, made playdough models of the story characters, tasted Gruffalo foods (Scrambled “snake”, “Gruffalo” crumble etc), and helped me tell the story using puppets. We looked at a storyboard to help the children understand the order events happen in the story. We had a wonderful day, and the staff and children learned a lot."

Stories Alive! has placed 5 artists in 5 Nursery Schools (see below) in and around Burnley in East Lancashire with the challenge of developing 5 different sets of activities to help embed storytelling and storymaking in Nursery practice, in families and in the children we are working with

Stories Alive! - Superheroes in Taywood

Superhero Storytelling 
at Taywood Nursery 
with Pippa Pixley

a report from a superhero workspace....

At Taywood Nursery many of the children evidenced a real interest in superheroes.  To support their interest, and to expand upon it, the children had enjoyed stories such as Traction Man by Mini Gray, Super Duck by Jez Alborough and Super Daisy by Kes Gray & Nick Sharratt.  As part of continuous provision a tray of old comic books was made available they could cut up and rearrange to make their own stories.

During Pippa’s visit the children could access a large box of superhero stuff, providing opportunities to explore imaginative play with capes, masks and wristbands.  Little superheroes soared, zipped and zoomed as they created stories using puppets.  Pippa used open questions to encourage the children to think about what could happen next in their adventure.  They explored the sounds the characters make, such as “Roaaaar” and “Stomp, stomp, stomp“.  They added actions using their hands and fingers (big scary claws!), as well as using facial expressions to enhance the story, making the telling exciting and fun!

Everyone sang rhymes and role-played being superheroes.  This naturally led to retelling the story.  The groups of children started by creating pictures of the characters and the situations on a large roll of paper.  Some drew large zig-zaggy scribbles for big teeth and then added words using emergent writing, while others linked the story elements with continuous lines to create story maps.  The story text was then transcribed on a separate piece of paper and hung in the hallway alongside their work for the parents to read.

Here is an example of how one group of children collaborated to make their story:

Several children are choosing characters for their story from a resource box . . .

Keziah –             Superheroes eat superhero food!
                        Superheroes eat ice.
                        Superheroes eat sausage rolls.
                        Superheroes eat cheese.
                        Superheroes eat smoothies:
Strawberry, banana, pear, blackcurrant, orange juice . . .

Angel -             Put in the bowl and press the button – mmmmmmmmm . . .
                        Healthy superheroes.

Sam chose the T-Rex . . .

Sam -                         Big feet, spineasaurus. Big, scary claws!

Angel -             Loud sound: STAMP, STAMP!!!

Keziah chose the pig . . .

Keziah -             Baby pig was crying, wants his mummy, couldn’t find his mummy.
                        Along came a dinosaur: STOMP, STOMP!!!
                        Pig crying: wee, wee, wee, wee!
                        Dinosaur roared: ROAAAAH!!!!

Sam -                         He wanted to eat him! (Sam “grumbled” for the dinosaur)

Keziah -            Pig cried again: wee, wee, wee, wee!

Ocean -            Brought Super Sammy Seal to fly to the rescue!

Sam -                        The dinosaur broke his neck and died. The End!

Stories Alive! has placed 5 artists in 5 Nursery Schools (see below) in and around Burnley in East Lancashire with the challenge of developing 5 different sets of activities to help embed storytelling and storymaking in Nursery practice, in families and in the children we are working with

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Hatching 6: the river awaits the fish

"a ripple of change"
Heasandford Primary School
12th March 2015
growing fry and their reflections
The fry are growing, their days indoors numbered now. Next week, fingerlings will swim free, out into the wildness and danger of the open water and this years's Trout Raising Scheme with the Ribble Rivers Trust will start putting its aquaria away

This nearness of change became reflected in our songs and artwork during a day with 2 classes of trout-keepers at Heasandford Primary School
designing a river

I'm happy in my tank, I've got lots of friends
I love my life here, I hope it never ends

Oh no, there's something wrong, there's another fish gone
1 down but 99 going strong

A pike is on the loose, I'd better swim away
Hiding under pebbles, that where I'll lay

Our fishkeepers know perils will surround their charges and hope their fish will be wary of fishermen and bigger fish and kingfishers and bullies. They know that alevins get eaten straight away or might starve to death

Our children also know that this is also a new chapter in these fishy little lives and they hope there will be excitement and space, freedom and rapids to swim in. There might even be romance and a fishy family of their own

A trout like me that's small and sweet
That's the fish I'd like to meet

 I was taken to the river, it's much more fun
Jumping up a waterfall, now I'm free
The river Brun's the place to be

Many thanks to all our artists, musicians 
and songsmiths at Heasandford

waterfall and leaping trout

Thursday, 12 March 2015

from Northern Seas

For no particular reason other than they've been hovering for a while, here are two poems inspired by the Vikings and their presence/absence in the northern seas

1. This day begins in fire and mist,
With a haar* so deep
It steals the sound of the sea
And leaves us in dreadful anticipation
Of the rhythm of the oars and
The long dark ships that burned the world.

This tide ran out,
Ran on down all these years,
And left us here,
Watching the empty sea, and waiting,
In the mist for the fire,
And the long dark ships that changed the world

*Haar: a sea fret, a cold sprawling coastal mist. the term seems to belong 
to the coasts of the North Sea and might well be a Norse term 
adopted along (some of) the coasts they visited

2. The beat of the drum
Is the rhythm of my heart,
The beat of the drum
Is the pulse of my blood,
The beat of the drum
In the oars in the waves,
The beat of the drum
In the dragon-prow rising.

The beat of the drum
In the surge of the sea,
And the sigh of the wind,
And the sword-call of gulls.

The beat of the drum
In the high sailing clouds,
And the wind that follows
And the storm that swallows.

The beat of the drum
In the billow of the sail,
The beat of the drum
In the rope on the mast
In the keel on the sand,
And the running feet,
And the swinging axe,
And the flames,
And the scream.

The beat of the drum
In a changing heart
And the lure of the machair,
And these high green hills.

The beat of the drum becomes
The sound of hearth and garth and hold.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Summer stories

ready for stories
 Summer stories
Stories in school with Creeping Toad

Summer 2015

celebrating the richness of the season, here are old stories, 
new adventures and chances to create tales that

no-one has ever heard before!

With stories spinning from the first signs of spring right through to earth giants, summer flowers and thunder-tigers, here are stories and activities to enchant and inspire.

me, in action at Plas Power Woods*
I am now taking bookings for the summer term -and would welcome enquiries from schools, clubs, parks and nature reserves looking for public events, and just about anyone really! We all breathe the same air, maybe we can all enjoy the same world!


I am based in Buxton in Derbyshire and organise work spreading out from there. I am due in the north of Scotland for two definite blocks of time

April: 20 - 29th

August 24th - September 4th

Other than that will be working across England, with a few days now and then in specific areas - Sussex for example in April and May.

So, if you're interested in a workshop get in touch and we'll sort something out

planning Arts Week? shaking your literacy up a bit? designing a celebration? hoping to get to grips with the stories of stones or the speaking and listening of your children....

Who are workshops for?

Most of my work is with school children from Reception through to the end of Primary , but activities can be adapted to suit Reception or High School students. Equally, public events might be aimed at families or shifted to suit particular audiences - I'm writing stories and poems with adult groups just now on one project and training teachers on another.

What could we do?

A days visit to your school might include

storytelling performances: lasting up to 60 minutes for up to 90 children at a time

stories out of anything! outdoors or in, we'll use leaves and pine cones, twigs and stones and shells to inspire words, create poems and shape a set of stories never told before

(allow 60 minutes for a class session)

story and book workshops: taking a bit longer (allow 90 minutes for a class) as well as discovering those stories no-one has ever heard before, now we will build those into the books that no-one has ever read before and leave the classroom with a library no-one has ever visited before!

pop-up storyscapes: allow an hour for a class: gathering ideas, images and words well make quick 3-d landscapes holding the essence of a story or maybe the thrills of a lifecycle in a setting, key characters and the words that set the adventure running

a shadow puppet visit to a castle
shadow stories: out of my stories might come new stories: drawing on whatever theme we are working with to create quick performances of shadow puppets. Incorporating silhouettes, translucence and transparency, we'll mix science with story to create an (almost) instant set of story performances to show or perhaps to film

Ancient Lives: add a voice from the distant past to your history topics with stories that our Stone, Bronze or Iron Age ancestors might have listened to. Stories, models, artefacts and drawings can feed into art inspired by cave paintings, carvings and jewellery

inspired by Celtic jewellery
Old Scotland: sets of stories drawn from a Scottish heritage: tales of clans, of heroes and villains and the wonder-tales of an ancient Celtic world

your own themes and ideas: or are you exploring a particular theme that you would like to involve some stories in? pirates.tropical islands.ancient Greeks…fairies, frogs and trolls..where in our school would bears live?the Great Fire of London have all featured in recent Creeping Toad projects

How much?

 £250 a day: includes storytellers fee, travel and materials. Can be paid on the day or I can invoice you. 
Activities can be adapted to suit groups from Reception through to Secondary

 To book: contact me (Gordon) directly at


            or by telephone:

            landline: 01298 77964

            mobile: 07791 096857

you never know who, or what, will end up
 in a Creeping Toad story!

* Plas Power Woods photo c/o Laurence Crossman-Emms 
and the Woodland Trust