Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Bertram, Beeston and artists

Collection of the Artists
writing starts with walking, and experiencing

When I start a project like this, it usually begins in a babble of words. It often doesn’t matter what direction I am meant to be going in, my self just fills up with any old thing. Bits, phrases, odd rhymes, sudden weathers of feelings, images to try to gather into words. It’s interesting and rewarding and exciting as it starts to give me unexpected shapes. A commission might be asking for “a story about a tree” and my sensible head goes sensibly off on a path through the woods, skipping slightly, perhaps swinging Little Red’s basket while wearing Dorothy’s shiny red shoes. But the rest of me will have sidetracked completely and be sitting under the trollbridge sharing marshmallows* with a troll family and knitting socks for sheep. And that random departure is almost always the response that gives the best results
anything can set the fires of ideas

Beeston Tor
So now I’m in the random stage. My note book is filling with conversations with ravens about the warmth of Liff’s Low. I’m watching clouds turn over the emptiness of Fin Cop. A whole tribe of Boggarts arrived in the margin of notes about caves and stalactites. And St Bertram is simply being irritating.

“Collection of the Artists” is another project under the encompassing umbrella of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s Collection in theLandscapes project. While the wider project is supporting the redesign of the Wonders of the Peaks gallery, the digitising of the collection and my own work with events – taking the collection into the landscape, CotA is probably quieter. There are 6 of us, working with an Arts Council England grant to explore and respond to the dynamic of the Museum’s collection and the landscape it was largely drawn from as artists.

The team include
Potter: Caroline Chouler
Richard and Amanda from Kidology, bringing visual art and music to the work
Textile artist Seiko Kineshito
And metalworker Simon Watson will be shaping ideas into bronze
O, and me: storyteller and poet
(more links will follow!)

Richard and Amanda are CITL long term artists-in-residence and are already producing work related to the collection
we have already done events on curiosities

Over the next few weeks, ideas will develop: together and as individual artists and as things evolve, I’ll post them here – at least from my work

It’s exciting stuff. I know what I think may come out of this, but who knows…

1. O, Bertram,
Christian hero,
Or abandoned Pagan saint,
I will give you
The apple in my bag,
The chocolate in my pocket,
A poem from my wordstore,
If you will bring me safe from this place.

Up here.
It goes up here.
There’s a rope to hold onto.
Try coming down backwards.
It’s easier backwards.
You do need to let go

And then there is St B
Don’t misunderstand me, I like the chap – bit of a fool, maybe. He did, after all, leave his new wife in labour in a wolf-wood to go off hoping to find a helpful midwife? He really couldn’t have helped himself? Of course not. Then we wouldn’t have had the tragedy, the despair, the renunciation of worldly things, life in a cave, death, sanctification, pilgrims, hidden bones and a shrine that is one of the very few left in an Anglican Church in England. Or so I am told…..There are other St B’s but ours lived (eventually) at Beeston Tor and then his bones were enshrined at the little church at Ilam and that is his only shrine, anywhere. Other St Bertrams are apparently not him. He does have a statue at St Bartholomew’s in Longnor just a few miles up the dale.

Find out more? St B turns up in lots of books, but you could try Sacred Britain by Martin Palmer and Nigel Palmer (Piatkus, 1997, p149)
Walk more? Why not consider following the new pilgrimage route from Ilam to Eyam?

2. Here?
Is this where your pilgrims came?
Did they hold a rope too?
Was this path easier then?
A thousand years less stone-cracking ice?

Hand over hand,
Take it slowly.
A long reach over nothing for a wary foot.
The river waits.
Don’t think,
Just reach.
It’s easier backwards.
You do need to let go

It all gets a bit confusing and he’s not really within my remit for CotA but this comes back to that random excitement. So, as ideas develop, so will something inspired by St Bertram and a wonderfully craggy cliff where people lived, worshipped, died and hid their treasures for thousands of years….

3. Pause here,
A tormentil lawn in morning warmth,
Warm enough to wake the ants who live in the stone,
Rest and be still and listen,
To the whispers
On the wind, in the stone, out of the shadows

He don’t heal.
He don’t cure.
He blesses babies.
Babbies is important since ‘e loss ‘is.
‘E telt me not to be so addlepated, such a fool ‘e call’d me.

Down there,
Not up here.
Down there,
A stroll down the lane,
An easy wade through cold water,
A splashing ford,
That side of the hill, not
This side of the tor,
Hand over hand,
It’s easier backwards.

O, Bertram,
I gave
The apple in my bag to the birds,
The chocolate in my pocket to my friends,
And a poem from my wordstore,
I whisper to the voices in the darkness of the caves
we should have crossed the river

(we still haven’t got to Bertram’s cave)
(* marshmallows? O, that is another story and watch for the book due out sometime this year for that one) 
Thanks to Sarah and Ronson for being photographed....the slightly agitated lines in the poem, however, are all mine!

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