Tuesday, 31 March 2015

springing about! Creeping Toad public events


Out and about
Creeping Toad public events April - June 2015

come on out! enjoy the spring!


 Most Toad workshops are in schools and for groups which are not really open to general public participation, but I do a lot of public events and some training courses which eager visitors are (often)  welcome to join

Public events: a wide range of activities here - listed below with themes, times and any restrictions as to what is going on. In general, if you need more information contact me or the organisers, for bookings where needed, contact the organiser. Where I can, I'll put links to the relevant organisation

Training courses: these are cheerful skills-based days aimed at teachers, environmental educators, playworkers and anyone working with groups. Again, for more information contact me or the organisers, for bookings or payment contact the organisers

This list will change month by month and I'll try to keep it updated as information and plans reach me

April
Wednesday 8th
First Signs of Spring: pop-up card-making workshop
10am-12pm 
Buxton Museum, Terrace Rd, Buxton, SK17 6DA
Tel: 01629 533540 
 Join me for a seasonal morning. Celebrating new growth, wriggling tadpoles, flowers, nests, and the first ducklings down in the ponds, we'll take our favourite moments of spring and turn them into pop-up cards

                Free, materials provided
                No booking needed, just come along and join in - allow at least 30 minutes for your making
                If you are 7 years old or less please bring a grown up with you, please


May
2 days with the Festival
Sunday 10th
A wander along the canalbank, telling stories and watching for wildlife
Morning and afternoon sessions

Saturday 16th
Wild times and brave adventures
I'll be telling some Derbyshire stories and as a group we'll be inventing some new ones!
Alfreton (morning) and South Normanton (afternoon) libraries


Weekend of 22 - 25th
Green Man Gallery, Buxton
The display from our Leek: once, now and next project will be on display in this arts-collective gallery in Buxton, with a day of public activities on Sunday 24th (details to be confirmed)
Green Man Gallery,Hardwick Hall, Hardwick Square South, Buxton, SK17 6PY (behind the museum)

Monday 25th
All sorts of small creatures  
an art and storywalk telling tales of beetles, beasts and birds, inventing new ones like "why do slugs have slime" and "who paints the butterflies". As our stories grow, we'll make new animals out of leaves, twigs and other materials that we find".
Ness Gardens, Wirral, morning and afternoon sessions
Bookings needed: details will be released in April

Wednesday 27th
The Lost Castles of Buxton
invent the house (castle, palace, hovel, cottage or dungeon) you might have lived in 1000 years ago in medieval Buxton! Pop-up houses, castles and whatever! Another day with our Leek: once, now and next project, display on show as well
10 -12 and 1 -3
Buxton Museum, Terrace Rd, Buxton, SK17 6DA
                Free, materials provided
                No booking needed, just come along and join in - allow at least 45 minutes for your making
                If you are 7 years old or less please bring a grown up with you, please

June
Saturday 6th
The Great Plant, Bug and Butterfly hunt
a Biodiversity Day in The Staffordshire Moorlands
Times and details still to be confirmed but I'll be there along with other members of the Leek: once, now and next team, telling stories, putting up a display and doing some hands-on art activities to celebrate the richness of the Staffordshire Moorlands
This event has been going for some years now and is always a lovely start to summer - come and join us!

that's all for now: more to follow soon 
including lots during Buxton Festival Fringe 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Family event: First signs of spring, 8th April 2015


First Signs of Spring 

Pop-up card-making workshop 


Wednesday 8 April 2015, 
10am-12pm 
Buxton Museum, Terrace Rd, Buxton, SK17 6DA
Tel: 01629 533540 

 Join Creeping Toad for a seasonal morning. Celebrating new growth,  wriggling tadpoles, flowers, nests, and the first ducklings down in the ponds, we'll take our favourite moments of spring and turn them into pop-up cards

  • Free, materials provided
  • No booking needed, just come along and join in - allow at least 30 minutes for your making
  • If you are 7 years old or less please bring a grown up with you, please




Saturday, 28 March 2015

Years of ice and hair - a book review



Mammoths, sabretooths and hominids: 65 million years of mammalian evolution in Europe
Augustine, J and Anton, M



I ended up reading this book backwards. Given my personal inclinations, I had to dive in and find my beloved Mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) and then work outwards. With the spectacular melodrama that was dinosaur evolution, it's easy to overlook the quieter excitements of the mammalian radiation. But who could not be impressed by the graceful weight of the indricotheres and the sheer sense of inventive adventure that went with elephant diversity...tusks curving down, tusks curving up, curving out, upper jaw? Lower jaw? Two? Four? Sweeping curves? Straight out? Straight out for 5 metres...

almost no provocation is needed for me
to dig out some mammoth photos...
An academic book, “Mammoths…” balances it's learning with an easy, readable style. I still got a bit lost in the scientific names (a consequence of approaching it backwards perhaps!). The sense of change, of patterns growing and ecologies coming and going, is clear and tracked across the centuries and, as a reader, following a particular Order through its ups and downs, isolations and survivals is a rewarding exercise ( and that's me back in the mammoths again!). There is also another useful nail in the "stupid Neanderthal" coffin. Thank you.

Human evolution continues bipedally across the book. That sequence throws us into a reassuring, or possibly damning, perspective with the realisation of just how short a time, even in mammalian terms, "modern" humans have been around, how shockingly short our " urban " phase has been so far and how much damage we've managed to do in that period. But that is me responding to the book, rather than Augustine and Anton themselves commenting

I started my working life as a zoologist with a lot of geology stirred into the mix. That understanding and interest in the world still lies within much of what I do, but now I tend to respond to what I read as a storyteller as much as anything. In the descriptions of evolving mammals, I can hear descriptions of characters from early tales. Entelodonts and giant suoids (what a wonderful word!) could be describing the Twrch Trwyth, the Erymanthean Boar and some of the ferocious boars hunted through Irish myths. While surely the Nemean lion could be one of those felids while hefty cave bears inform the bears of Scandinavian tales. Without falling over any Jungian unconsciousness, getting tangled in the threads of genetic memory or even playing with cryptozoological hopes, these creatures give me new faces and family backgrounds for old friends, and offers new language and new images for my 'telling. I am disappointed that Odysseus didn't encounter any of the pigmy elephant races of the Med - or maybe those stories are contained in his Lost Adventures*.

If you are looking for a solid read, a sense of change over time and new eyes to look out over (European) fields with, recommended.


Mammoths, sabretooths and hominids: 65 million years of mammalian evolution in Europe
Augustine, J and Anton, M
Columbia University Press, New York, 2002
ISBN 978-0-231-11641-1

*still lost, I'm afraid

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
Chorus
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