Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Frogwitch's tale

Frogwitches, mermaids 
and monsters passing through
Douglas Academy, 
Milngavie, 20th Sept 2016
cooperative storymaking
We started with stories to be told and listened to but we grew…

...through places

Mugdock Woods and Craigend Castle,
The Lost Zoo, and
Kilmardinny Loch, and
Those woods, and
That old house, and
Mugdock Castle, and
There’s two castles, you know

...and into characters
the elephant who walked into Glasgow
the lion, Oh, yes there was a lion

And on into natural bits and artefacts

We grew stories, new tales, the lost tales of Milngavie

And our stories were shaped into pop-up storyscapes. There wasn’t time to write and we recognised that writing can rob a story of its potency but building a story as shapes and colours and patterns helps fix it in its own distinctiveness and in our own memories

Two workshops on that eventful Tuesday at Douglas Academy, drawing P7s (Yr 6 for English readers!) from the Academy’s feeder schools with a select band of S1s (Yr 8s, do keep up) as my storymaking support team, into an explosion of stories. Two workshops with 100 or so students in each.

There were bits everywhere, an explosion of imagery, an eruption of stories, a frenzy of scribbling and drawing and sticking and then we sent our P7 storymakers back to their schools with the challenge of telling their stories again
a certain elegance
“My” S1 storymakers have a similar challenge now: to prepare new stories and go and tell stories to young children over the next few months.

This was a great day: a return to Douglas. We had delivered a similar day last September. 

This time, I heard about the Kilmardinny Mermaid - she has left now, packing her elephant seal suitcase, tying it closed with an octopus clasp and migrating down the Kelvin to the sea when the noise and pollution of the growing town became too much.

I learned of the Frogwitch who has been trying to remember how to turn back into a Witch for several hundred years. The kissing bit never quite works and now there are lots of Frog princes (and farmers and peddlers and teachers and big brothers) around the woods...

With so many thanks for their enthusiasm, their welcome 
and their readiness to just dive in 
and go for it to the artists and storymakers of
Milngavie, St Josephs, Baldernock, 
Craigdhu and Clober Primaries,
My hosts at Douglas Academy
And my S1 Academy storytellers
before and after, lots of resources

Monday, 26 September 2016

wildlife celebrations masterclass

A creative masterclass
From bumblebee lanterns to hedgehog flags,
Fierce faces to friendly frog masks,
Spinning stories from footprints, leaves and feathers
Make a pop-up minibeast landscape

river hats and finger puppets
 Join me for a day of creative adventuring
celebrating wildlife through art
tiny fish lantern
10AM - 3PM  
Come along to...
• Gather ideas about how you could spark action to help local wildlife
• Get inspired about making a centrepiece for your wildlife garden
• Try out different techniques using natural and recycled materials
• Get expert advice about what might work for you!

All you need to bring with you is... 
• a notepad and pen to make notes
• comfortable shoes and a coat or sun cream (depending on the weather!)
• bags of enthusiasm for getting creative!
Lunch will be provided, so please let us know if you have any specific dietary requirements
To sign up for the masterclass please contact Manon Keir on
01244 389 828 or email 
There are limited spaces available so get in touch soon to secure your place!
owl flag

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A crocodile of words

A crocodile of words  
and the 
spinning plate of death
a moment of peace at Chanonry Point
there were bits...

Following on from a woodful of stories, last week dropped me into a whirlpool of schools and groups, classes and bits. Bits and bits and more bits.There were witches and monsters, tales out of old Scotland and relics of Robert the Bruce’s last meal. I have roamed from Auldearn to Strontian with Inverness in-between and have ended up in Dollar.

Inspired by Krindlekrax, in one class we created a crocodile of words:
Midnight and thunder and lightning,
A pebble-dashed log,

A creeping camera flash,
Pointed as needles,
Waiting like a cave.

We got the words down first as the scales then swallowed excitement in colour and shape and set one little group off creating their own crocodile….

We told stories of Old Scotland and made new Lost Tales of Old Scotland with the old woman who defended herself with a plate, with this very plate here, spinning it like a frisbee to slice the heads off her attackers. There were enchanted frogs, wonderful treasures, mysterious rooms and dangerous children…there were even a few aliens who came down and spirited away a whole class

And finally, I spent a day at the Three Lochs Book and Arts Festival in Strontian where stories unfolded between the mountains and the lochs

Thanks and delights to the artists and storymakers of Auldearn Primary, Dalneigh Primary, Balloch Primary, and the Ardnamurchan schools

precision drawing

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A woodful of stories

On tour, 
northern Scotland 
September 2016
a cloth, a drum and a kettle: ingredients for adventure
the terrible tongue fisherman

Down in the woods, on a boat in a pool, an angler hopes for sharks as he dangles his long tongue in the water. His friend launches baited hooks from his two rods, because of course you need two lines when fishing for octopus. 

a watchful tree
But the tree people watch, a dangerous squirrel broods, a unicorn that poohs rainbows canters by and a lone wolf-cub wanders through the woods of Evanton, wondering if she is the really the last wild wolf in Scotland. The situation, escalates: the fisherman's mast topples over, throwing him into the water but striking the matches in his bag setting a forest fire in motion,
causing a general stampede, 
attracting a passing dragon (romance on the horizon),
calling for unicorn rainbow rescues, 
a small twiggy firelog who extinguishes the fire with his eyes  
but that annoys the dragon, 
while the squirrels are peeing on the embers but  (I hope you are following this, there will be a test at some point)
one ember hatches a new, golden, dragon, 
and then the woodland fairies offer wolfhood to anyone who fancies it and the woods erupts into werewolves (or squirrelwolves, and treewolves and barkwolves.....).
So at the end, the fisherman is eaten by tadpoles, the wolf has a fmaily and two dragons fly off into the sunset and there is a party in the wood....
busy puppeteers
I’m back up in the north, telling stories, making puppets and generally leading people astray all over the place. Excitements his week include lots of chidlren in Rosebank Primary School and then two days with Evanton Community Wood: a school storywalk, a teacher-training session and then a day of public events where about 100 people joined us for messy, cheerful, leafy, twiggy, storyful sessions
A pause now on the Black Isle to gather what few wits I’ve ever had and prepare for another week of liveliness - and for the 3 Lochs Festival on Friday
props waiting for stories to unfold around them

Thanks to all the children, teacher,s parents and 
puppeteers of Rosebank and Evanton

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Old images, new photographs

Reimaging the Peaks
revisiting the work of the early travellographers

A Knowledge Seeker Workshop for
Collections in the Landscape
Sunday 9th October, 9am – 5pm
in  Cressbrook, Derbyshire, 

Chee Tor
Over the last few hundred years, The Peak District has become a destination of choice for visitors from Edwardian visitors “taking the waters”, through the days of Victorian empire and right up to the present. Early prints of the Peaks promoted the area as “the Alps of England” and revealed craggy peaks, sheer mountain passes and picnics with dairymaids and wandering cows…In this workshop we’ll start with some of those wonderful prints, working onwards and outwards to visit those sites and capture their 21st Century moments with a 21st Century photographic eye

This workshop is one of a series of Knowledge Seeker workshops being organised as part of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s Collections in the Landscape (CITL) project. With a grant from the Heritage Lottery, the Museum is changing the way people can access the Collections. As well as physical changes to the Museum itself, collections are going on-line and a series of apps will encourage people to connect places with Museum treasures even when they are out walking in the Peaks

This workshop is free but places are limited and need to be booked. 
Rocks in Middleton Dale

The workshop will be led by Chris Gilbert a Peak district photographer with his own distinctive view of our landscapes. 

More about Chris
 “I am a Landscape and Nature Photographer and I live in a small village called Cressbrook, which is in the middle of the Peak District National Park. When it comes to working with the wonderful landscapes of the Peak District there's nowhere better to be.

For as long as I can remember I have been interested in art and have been a keen photographer for over 30 years. I made the move to being a full-time in 2006 and my focus is now very much on the Peak District. As well as pursuing my own interpretation of the landscape around me I also work closely with the Peak District National Park through the
Peak Photography Gallery in Bakewell.

I feel very strongly that I have developed my own style and approach to Landscape Photography and I bring this into my coaching. In the last few years I've met and worked with a lot of great people and simultaneously introducing them to both photography and the wonderful landscape of the Peak District has been a privilege and a pleasure. Seeing how their work improves after they have worked with me is incredibly satisfying and for me is a great validation of my methods.
In recent years I have featured regularly in the shortlisting stages of national level photography competitions. I was shortlisted for the Take-a-View Landscape Photographer Of The Year award in 2009. In 2012 I had two pictures shortlisted for the National Parks Organisation 'Beautiful Britain' competition and I was also 'Commended' in Take-a-View, featuring in the publication for 2012's competition. In 2015 I was shortlisted for Outdoor Photographer Of The Year. My work has also been published by National Geographic.”
Ashwood Dale