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

Thunder-graves

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 labyrinth...so 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!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A summerfull of stories


A summerfull of stories

 a simple cardboard cut-out castle
can help set a story in motion, Tiny! 2014

These last few weeks have seen a whirlwind of activity as the Summer Reading Challenge workshops start running through their Mythical Mazes and Derbyshire Legends

But there have been other livelinesses as well…

Buxton Art Trail, 2014
Buxton Art Trail - telling stories surrounded by wonderful artwork in the woods of Grin Low - congratulations to the many artists who exhibited here and especially to Ruby Moon who held it all together!

Tiny! our Tiny! adventurers were back for another day of delightful craziness in the Pavilion gardens in Buxton

Just telling stories: Brownies at Thornbridge Outside near Bakewell (audience over the day of c 150), in the Magic Storytelling Yurt for High peak Community Arts  in the Buxton Festival (total audience: c 280)…and today in New Mills




in action at Thornbridge, 1

I'm not very good at staying still...

and it is hardly surprising that in the middle of all this, after an exciting day preparing for Hen Harrier Day (10th August - get out there, my lovelies, and soar like a Harrier), I subsided into a heap and slept for 24 hours and decided that i would have to forego the pleasures of Druid Camp. Apologies to anyone there who was dreading a Toad workshop. Another time?
recovery days with prints of African wildlife

Next August livelinesses:
Wednesday 6th Worksop Library: Summer Reading Challenge workshop
Thursday 7th, Ogden Water Country Park: storywalks inspired by butterflies, bumblebees, bimbly-bees and the wild creatures of the woods (they have booked me, and i will be there even if I'm not on the programme!
Saturday 9th: Derbyshire Myths project: Killamarsh (10am - 12 noon) and Dronfield (1.30 - 3.30) libraries 

Tiny! Princesses in a tower



Buxton Art Trail, 2014



Sunday, 20 July 2014

Make your own ancient rockpool

Make your own prehistoric rockpool

We have used this easy technique many times.We designed it for public events where we would have to make a lot of rockpools with visitors in a short space of time but it is very versatile and you could adapt to suit your situation. While this was set up as an Ancient Landscape event you could of course make a modern rockpool, or perhaps a pond!

I produce a blog for the project Ancient Landscapes. That project is winding down now (or at least its tide has gone out for a bit - it might come in again!) but we are still posting actvities for people to make a mess with on their own. We have just posted this one. 

This activity guide uses the materials we used with notes about why we chose this or that

You will need
  • a dish - we used waxed card pie dishes (buy in packs from discount stores and supermarkets). Most of our dishes were white but the occasional blakc ones that we found worked well, too!
  • acrylic paint - to paint on the waxed card - we use large bottles but you could get some small tubes, or try mixing some poster or redimix paint with PVA glue and see if that works
  • paint brushes or sponges
  • Plastic plate to squirt the paint onto (easy to clean)
  • small sheets of card
  • coloured pens or pencils
  • sharp scissors
  • a small stapler (the smaller the better)
  • PVA glue
  • scraps of stuff: sponge, wool, carrier bag, felt, glitter, sand.....


Thinking about fossils
some of our inspirations
Our aim was to make a rockpool that you might have found if you could have gone walking along a Carboniferous seashore 300 million years ago. You might want to find pictures of some of the animals of the time to help you. Or maybe you have some fossils to look at? Or some plastic ancient sea creatures? Could you visit your local museum and do some drawings...Perhaps if you printed out this page and waved it at them, they would set up an event for all you ancient rockpoolers?



Prepare the pool
Cover your work surface with a sheet of paper - acrylic paint can be hard to clean off. Cover yourself as well if you are a messy worker. You might want an old shirt rather than another sheet of paper

Select your rockpool colours: blue, green turquoise and raw ochre are often good. Smear them round the inside of your pool (paintbrush or painting sponge). You do not need to be too precise here. It is  background and more a sense of sand, rock and water that is needed rather than detailed painting

Set of one side to dry

Prepare the wildlife
Ok. Now it’s up to you......

In this pool we have:

  • drawings or a trilobite and an ammonite (should we have coloured these in?)
  • drawing of a horseshoe crab that has been cut, folded and stapled to give it a more 3-D effect
  • drawing of a coral
  • fragments of one of my painting sponges have given us some rock
  • green wool and a shredded green carrier bag have give us some seaweed
  • Fingertip coral: this is another technique - we’ll post a “How-to” guide to that in a week or so




Fitting the wildlife
You could glue everything straight onto the dish, or make little brackets to lift things up off the floor and wall a little

Brackets might be small bits of foam or thin strips of card either folded or zig-zagged into a spring

Carefully glue them in place.  A matchstick can be helpful in applying glue

Let it all dry, sit back and admire. Then go and tell someone about the day you found a trilobite.....or take and print a photo and send it as a psotcard to someone else?

Or send us that photo and we’ll have a gallery of rockpools!

a delightful belemnite pool
rockpool in a mixing bowl