Thursday, 6 June 2019

a Mermaid season

A season of Mermaids in Buxton

30th May - 1st June

our Museum Mermaid inspires all sorts of responses
It might have begun with a “make your own mermaid or sea monster" workshop last Thursday afternoon
~ or before that in a conversation between Rob Young and myself about how many mermaidy things we were thinking about for a day of activity
~ or before that with Rob writing a mermaid story
~ or before that with a trip to Blake Mere one snowy December afternoon
~ or before that with Rob meeting our museum mermaid for the first time

Or before that with someone gifting a slightly life-worn and stare-weary sideshow mermaid to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Or longer ago and further away in time, this mermaid tide began when people met the spirits of water in rivers, on sea-washed rocks, by kelp beds and in our wild upland pools

But itself got going with a splash of puppets in the Museum last Thursday

Then on Friday there were mermaids on rocks to be made in a “Hand-made Mermaids” workshop in the Green Man Gallery

Interview with a mermaid
Have you ever met a professional mermaid? Have you wondered about this as a career? If you can hold your breath enough, if you can swim with a wriggle and a flick and if the sea fills you with a passion for its life and wonders, maybe you could consider it. Anita Jasso works betimes as a mermaid and challenges perceptions and stereotypes and invites us as watchers, listeners, thinkers, to consider how these modern mermaids might contribute to the current awareness of the fragility of oceanic ecosystems. Can a mermaid become a conservation tool? Can she, he, or it, by the stories they embody challenge us to respond, to remember the wonder the seas bring both ecologically and culturally, and how important they are at so many levels of our being. Mermaid tails are also very heavy

Mermaid CSI
Anita Hollinshead then took us into a world of detection and strange dissection, x-rays and manipulations…I missed the crucial bit of this talk about the composition of our Buxton mermaid and my head is still full of a recitation that was growing, complete with MacBeth’s Weird Sisters skipping round the Green Man Gallery

Monkey bone and salmon skin,
A child’s hair and slender shafts
Of wood and nails,
And glue and paint,
Shell eyes and someone’s teeth,
And a liberal dose of varnish….

Our mermaid tide was still running, as Rob took over with Mermaid: the Movie: a 1 hour masterclass in film-writing that resulted in exciting “treatments” involving penguins and knitting needles, personal challenges and changing hopes and despair.
Maybe one of the participants would like to add a comment about their ideas!

By the evening, the tide was fully in the we settled down on the beaches of our imagination to listen as the magnificent young actor Sarah Day read Rob’s story D E E P. Reaching from Blake Mere’s dark waters to a young man’s dark thoughts, running like our tide in and out of excitement and anger and laughter, D E E P gave us all images to turn over and think about. Rob’s work and the development of D E E P can be followed if you start here

who waits in the deeps of Blake Mere?

By Saturday, the tide was turning and a final “Mermaid Museum” workshop on Saturday afternoon in the museum was quieter and gentler, a wash of people and smiles and ideas on wet sand in the sunshine…..inspired by Anita’s CSI Mermaid, we had visitors designing mermaid fossils and thinking about those grim sideshow worlds with our own mermaid Aquaria (Merquaria?). Ours proved to be a bit more cheerful than a “pay a ha’penny and gawp at the freak” sideshow booth and echoed more the other Anita’s work around celebrating and protecting the seaworlds

quiet company
By the evening, the mermaid tide had definitely ebbed and I settled down to leave the jetsam of workshop resources in my car to have a chat with my own December Diamond mermaid and not think about anything else for a bit!

A good idea. A good event. A good tide to look for next spring with maybe different mermaids swimming through it but a wave of the same flavour……


With many thanks to all our visitors at and especially to our workshop and leaders and speakers, to the Green Man Gallery and Buxton Museum and Art Gallery for their enthusiasm and support

And thanks to the artists who donated their merwork to give us a series of big mermaid pictures to display
Jo Thilwind (look at Dreamspaceart on Facebook) was organised by Rob Young and Gordon MacLellan (Creeping Toad!) as part of the BM125 project celebrating 125 years of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. Visit the Museum page to find out more about this project and other work the Museum is doing 

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