Saturday, 11 October 2014

Leek: once, now and next

LEEK: once, now and next

very little of the original Dieulacres is left....
 Free public activities celebrating the richness of Leek's heritage, the excitement of the town now and dreams for its future

Using the 800th anniversary of the founding of the now vanished Dieulacres Abbey to get ideas going, Leek: once, now and next sets out to encourage the people of Leek and the Staffordshire Moorlands to celebrate the richness of their heritage. I'm involved in this as one of the artists - so join us for some wild times, big drawings, fascinating talks and occasional silliness!

With a grant from Awards for All, the project offers free activities for families, youth and community groups, clubs and the general public involving everything from "design your own abbey" pop-up landscapes, to "once and future" lanterns, and a "Leek Now" Big Draw frieze. In the middle of the project there will be a "Birthday Party for a Lost Abbey" featuring Abbey Lanterns from local youth groups, music, storytelling and a giant Abbey Birthday Cake

The Lost Abbey: running through all our events is the thread of Dieulacres: Leek's Lost Abbey. For a few hundred years Dieulacres was one of the richest and most important Cistercian Abbey's in the county but with its Dissolution in the reformation almost all traces of it disappeared. A few carvings and other stoneworks  survive in the buildings of Abbey Farm, but that is all. 2014 would have been the Abbey's 800 birthday…

Buxton-based community arts group, Stone and Water find innovative ways of celebrating the richness of the people, wildlife and landscapes of the Peak District. Recent project have included crocheting a prehistoric seabed fro the ancient seas that gave us the limestone of the White Peak and adventurous activities designed to encourage people to go "exploring with stories"

Borderland Voices aims to promote mental health through the arts and to raise public awareness and understanding of mental health issues by delivering accessible arts projects and offering creative space for self-expression within a mutually supportive community.

Public events
all events are free and no booking is required
Sunday 12th: Apple Day, visit this farm in the Upper Dove Valley for an autumn day of orchards, fruit recipes, art and stories and a chance to explore this beautiful landscape, its animals and plants
Time: 11am - 3.30pm
Where: Dove Valley Centre, Under Whitle, between Sheen and Longnor

Friday 17th: Stitching time: join our artists and add your own panel to the new Cope for the Lost Abbey. Images of ancient saints and modern heroes lie side-by-side on this community cloak. With fabric and felt, wool, silk, thread, beads and sequins: no experience is needed!
Time: 1 - 3pm
Where: Silverdale Library, Newcastle: High St, Silverdale, Newcastle ST5 6LY, 01782 297444

illumination workshops have been
capturing Moorlands moments
Saturday 18th: Old stories, new adventures! Join our storyteller to listen to old tales of the Moorlands: of giants and mermaids and magic and monsters! Create your own stories about life and adventures in Leek
Time 10am - 12noon
Where: Leek Library, Nicholson Institute Stockwell Street Leek. ST13 6DW

Saturday 18th: unrolling Leek! a Big Draw event, we'll be drawing all your favourite places in Leek on one huge piece of paper: from Brough Park to the Foxlowe, from William Plummer's anchor memorial to your own back garden, everywhere works!
Time: 2 - 4pm
Where: Foxlowe Art Centre, Market Place, Leek, Staffordshire ST13 6AD

Thursday  23rd, Ladydale Well, the Leek Ladder and other marvels: a talk by  archaeologist Mark Olly. A chance to meet the more mysterious side of the town, join us to think, wonder and speculate
Time: 7.30 (finishing about 9 - 9.30), refreshments provided
Where: Quaker Meeting House, Overton Bank
Leek ST13 5ES

Saturday 25th, Birthday Party for a Lost Abbey! make a small monk puppet, write a poem, listen to stories, wonder at the Abbey Lanterns, add your own visions for the future of Leek - an afternoon of activities and creativity will lead to the unveiling of the Cope and the formal cutting of the Abbey Birthday Cake
Time: 2 - 6pm
Where Foxlowe Art Centre, Market Place, Leek, Staffordshire ST13 6AD

Tuesday 28th, Ancient Adventures: To celebrate Leek's ancient history: come along and make your own medieval castle or pop up abbey – and add some tiny puppets to tell some ancient tales!
Time 10am - 12noon, 1.30 - 3pm: drop in, allow yourself 45 minutes to make something!
Where: Leek Library, Nicholson Institute Stockwell Street Leek. ST13 6DW

Wednesday 29th, Dieulacres Abbey - Leek's vanishing heritage. A talk by local historian Michael Fisher: find out about the history of Leek's lost abbey!
Time: 7.30 - 9
Where: Foxlowe Arts Centre, Market Place, Leek, Staffordshire ST13 6AD

Thursday 30th: Ancient tales, modern adventures: storytelling, story making, art: what adventures can we invent for the trees, animals and children of Brough Park?
Times: 10 -12, 1 - 3
Where: Brough Park: Vicarage Road Car Park or walk in and find us under a tree in the middle of the Park!

For more information, contact 01298 77964

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Adventures at Abriachan

Adventures at Abriachan

25th and 26th September 2014

a two day workshop drawing inspiration from woods of Abriachan Forest Trust to give us poems, stories, puppets and plays….
workshops began with long scribble-sheets of ideas

workshops began with long scribbly drawings, sharing ideas, looking out of windows and speculating wildly as people arrived.
scribbles became pages in our Old Book of Abriachan

first draft, meet the actual maiden below

The woods gave us  characters to play with, strange artefacts to discuss, goblin camps with troll-snot on sticks* to enjoy, smoke signals to send

Deep in the woods, 1
Deep in the woods,
The wind whispered through the branches,
Speaking in quiet airy voices,
Voices sounding like waves on the sea.
The treetops creaked like sailing ships.

Always watching
For sea eagles,
Always watching,
Always waiting.

Distant voices?
Distant laughter?
Children having fun?
Over where?
Over there!

Don’t go!
a little old house where a little old man sits

Deep in the woods, 2
Beyond the path,
Beyond the pond,
There is an old, old house,
Where a lonely old man sits,
Knitting his beard into socks,
A beard so big he carries it in a bag,
Too old to use the stairs,
Too crumbly to use the ladders,
He zip wires up and zip wires down
When he goes shopping 
For shrimps in Drumnadrochit

Stories and poems grew out of moments, notes and pictures. Unexpected characters grew under our fingers

a poem written as pictures
a rather lovely storyboard

3. Not nasty, just lonely

An old witch lives
In a house made of branches and bracken,
On a beach beside a burn,
Brewing bubbling potions
In a big, iron cauldron

But lonely old man
Met lonely old woman
And they went out for a romantic meal

Goblin Girl, 1...

... and her friend, Goblin Girl 2

Day 1 produced small puppets and instant plays while on Day 2 we took time to make more complicated puppets and build more involved stories, inviting parents, carers and stray passersby to join us for final performances in the Textural Maze

a dramatic moment

3 warriors on a quest for the red ribbon that will stop wars
(they also found an emergency caterpillar)

Goblin Girls out adventuring

a rapt audience

* less educated people call it marshmallow

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!