Saturday, 22 December 2012

Book of the moment: Counter-tourism, the handbook

Counter-tourism, the Handbook, Crab Man, Triarchy Press, 2012
ISBN 978-1-908009-86-9

Here is a treat for anyone who has wandered round a historic site, bored by the expected and provided routes and interpretations. Counter-tourism is a challenge, an invitation and a license for the gentle naughtiness of doing the unexpected thing. Walking through the rooms of some stately home at your own unpredictable speeds, seeing how much dust you can collect, wandering round the outside of a property....the principles embedded here are about independence, imagination and personal experience. A lot of these activities remind me of how young children get to know a place. They wander. They run or walk or just stop and look under beds and wonder about secrets, treasures and horrible hidden stories 

There is an underlying cynicism about the heritage industry: 

“Visitor centres are machines for the contraction, disguise, obscuring 
and hollowing out of the places they propose themselves as portals to”. 

Maybe not entirely fair - we all know of effective interpretation that invites us in and welcomes us to a place without controlling too much and limiting our experience too much (or I hope we do!). And that perspective may upset some professionals, seeing themselves as skilled interpreters of a place, the people who know best.  But the theme here (that I endorse fully) is that visitors deserve the freedom to take what they will from a place, echoing arguments that people learn what they want to learn and learn best when they are choosing their own learning styles – and also that every site offers far more to experience than we offer in our planned interpretive and educational experiences. (And if that ruffles a few interpretive feathers, they probably needed the ruffling!)

People explore places in their own ways and these books champion that independence. Counter-tourism offers visitors some sneaky alternatives to the often controlled and sanitised experiences we are offered at sites, inviting us to find our own ways of getting to know a place. And for all those professionals who reckon they've got their interpretation processes sussed, these books challenge us to explore sites in new ways, offering activities to shake conceptions a bit. 

So have a read, have a think, wander, try and do, use these activities or just relax into some new ones of your own – as an interpreter, as a visitor or simply as someone out to get to know this world we walk on.

Counter-Tourism, the Handbook, Crab Man, Triarchy Press, 2012, 
ISBN 978-1-908009-86-9
Counter-Tourism, A Pocketbook – 50 odd things to do in a heritage site, Triarchy Press, 2012, ISBN978-1-908009-67-8
Tactics for Counter-Tourism – 31 short films by Crab Man and Siobhan McKeown:

Monday, 3 December 2012

Wild Words!

Wild Words
a story project proposal from Creeping Toad for 2013, the Year of Natural Scotland

While Scotland is a land of such spectacular landscapes and impressive wildlife, it is easy to forget the value and richness of the everyday plants and animals that share our streets, gardens, urban parks and local woods. Using storytelling and creative writing, Wild Words will inspire people to become involved with their local environment, appreciating that their own experience of the wildlife on their doorstep can enrich the lives of both individuals and communities

Wild Words will provide workshops for schools, and community groups, and public events for families and the wider community. Activities will use storytelling, direct experience of the environment, storymaking and instant poetry to help participants explore the wildlife on their doorsteps for themselves and to express those discoveries and feelings in new stories

Wild Words will offer storytelling and storymaking sessions to
schools: aiming to get out of the classroom and work with the wildlife of school grounds or local parks
stories might grow from found, natural or left-over objects...
general public: with storytelling performances and participatory family events in conjunction with interested organisations like the Forestry Commission, Wild Things! and Glachbeg Croft Centre (these are all "maybes" just now - would love to hear from other people keen to be involved!)
longer workshops: taking a day or two with a single group (rather than the more fluid public events) to take our words further, building stronger stories and possible performances
build a legacy: building our new stories and poems about local plants, animals and landscapes into an on-line, and possibly printed, resource and preparing material for display with local partners

Just now
we are looking for possible partners
schools: who might like a workshop
other organisations: who might like to host a family event, longer workshop or coordinate several local public or school sessions
a possible host organisation: while Creeping Toad is happy to administer the project there is a chance that the grant award we are applying for may need a local organisation to host it
on-line venues: anyone with a web-site that would like to receive stories and have a Wild Words page
a small adventure

Target dates are to have sessions in May, June and September in the Highland Region and Moray

Creeping Toad
Gordon MacLellan, Creeping Toad, is one of the UK’s leading creative environmental educators with 30 years of experience at the leading edge of environmental education. His work sets out to “find ways of celebrating the relationships between people, places and wildlife”. He is well known in Scotland through storytelling tours of the Highlands and project work with Wild Things! in Moray and with other organizations


Help us shape new stories of natural Scotland!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Messy lantern making!

Padfield Lanterns
work begins!

photos and feedback from two excessively sticky days in Hadfield Hall this weekend. 70 people on Saturday and maybe 90 today (Sunday). Trying to work out a collective noun for lanterns: an adhesion of lanterns? a glue of lanterns? a spike? an accumulation?

accumulated lanterns

These were lovely days and I can only thank both the Hadfield Hall helpers, High Peak Community Arts and all those well-glued members of the public with their good humour and patience as more and more people arrived and we gradually ran out of willow

Other comments come from participants...

Very helpful staff, as a Grandma I needed help which I got lots of. Alfie had a good time sticking! We will see you all on Friday

My children and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Gordon was very helpful and entertaining. Much fun was had by all of us. Would love to do it again

Brilliant! Very well organised and well run. Fab morning + can't wait for Friday

Really brilliant

Nice workshop, not rigid, so children could chose own designs which we liked.

Lovely idea, Beau really enjoyed it, looking forward to the parade and hope its on again next year when we can try something more ambitious when they are older

evidence of hard work?

slightly grisly-looking greeting!

big stars proved quite popular

lanterns loaded and waiting for their
grand appearance at the procession on 7th

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Lantern workshop for December

When: 1st and 2nd December 2012
When? 10am - 2pm
Where: Hadfield Hall, Hadfield, Glossop, SK13 2AA

What: a lantern making workshop, using willow and tissue to make simple processional lanterns with the opportunity to maybe be a bit more adventurous!

What? just come along and join in. Drop in during the session - give yourself at least 45 minutes to make your lantern (more for the more intricate ones). We'll provide materials and give you the chance to end up peeling glue off your fingers
leaves, pictures, patterns can all be
fixed into our lanterns

Cost: it's free! (I think)

Who: High Peak Community Arts have brought Creeping Toad (me!) in to lead lantern sessions with local schools and now with the public
lanterns might be fish, pirates ships...

What's it for? We are making lanterns for a procession on Friday 7th, meeting at the Hall at 6pm and then processing through the streets of Hadfield before the switching on of the Christmas Lights

and even party girls 
So come and join in, be creative, make a mess and then join the procession on Friday and add your light to lift the winter darkness!
a procession from Calke Abbey last December

Stories for a lonely Beast

Over the last 3 weeks, I've been working with children from Whitefield Infant School at Wycoller Country Park.

Each of three Year 2 classes has had a day at the Park working with musician Steve Brown and myself, using the wonderful Wycoller environment to inspire stories, poems songs and music about the Lonely Beast. In the book by Chris Judge, the Lonely Beast goes all over the world looking for other beasts to befriend...we picked up on his arrival in are a couple of the children's poems

Arriving at Wycoller
The Lonely Beast went to Wycoller and saw

1 ruin where there might be dangerous ghosts, and saw
2 dogs barking loudly behind the gates, and heard
3 birds singing in the trees, and saw
4 slippery, mossy rocks beside the river, and saw
5 parked cars with nobody in them, and saw
6 houses full of frightened people, and took
7 big steps to get up the steep hill, and heard
8 chattering children splashing through the river, and heard
9 quacking ducks racing across the pond and saw
10 leaves drifting beside the high trees

How to find a Wycoller beast

Look under the bridge over the fast, stony river
For trolls in the shadows and slime,
Creep beside the river, with the tall trees dropping leaves,
Run up the long stairs where the goblins hide,
Then back down the path, sliding in the mud,
By the pond where the ducks play
And in the ruins, inside the fireplace,
Maybe Beasts hide there

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Lanterns in Haregate

Tucked away on the edge of Leek in the Staffordshire Moorlands is Haregate, an estate of curving roads and open spaces with the ragged edges of the Roaches rising on the horizon. It is also the home of Borderland Voices and over the last couple of weeks of October some friends and I were working with Haregate schools and youth groups to build the components of a lantern procession

this looks amazingly synchronised!
autumn themes and colours

Come the event, a dramatic Hallowe-en evening, it rained. And rained. One youth group got stranded somewhere on the way back from Nottingham (serves 'em right for spending a day down in dungeons!)
lanterns loitering, waiting for adventurous processioneers!

a Lady lantern admiring herself!

But a hardy company assembled and we squelched our way, undaunted, round the estate, entertaining equally damp guisers and giving all those folk hiding behind their curtains someone to point at, wave to and talk about

And then we were warmed with soup and spider bread and pumpkin cupckaes!

Delight persists even in the rain!

(Thanks to Andy Collins and Viv Young for the photos - and with Sarah Males and the school and youth groups for your help, enthusiasm and hard work! And thanks to Andy for getting it all going and keeping it all together!)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Biodiversity excitements in Derbyshire!

Lowland Derbyshire Biodiversity Partnership Forum 2012
17 November 2012
9.45 - 16.00
County Hall, Matlock
A programme of talks, workshops and displays showing how you can get the message about biodiversity
across to a variety of different audiences in fun and imaginative ways.

Free but places need booking

More information:
Get the biodiversity message across!
In our world of 24 hours-a-day media, and with many demands for our attention, we need effective and imaginative ways
Each year the Lowland Derbyshire Biodiversity Partnership holds a themed Annual Forum for partners and community groups. This year that theme is about Communication.
Our event will look at a number of imaginative ways being used to encourage others to appreciate and respect nature, or to become active volunteers or members of local groups.
The workshops on offer will be wide and varied. You can pick up to three, so it’s easy to try out different activities in a safe environment and learn from experienced practitioners. Details of the workshops are on the next page of this flier. Please select your preferred choices of workshop when you complete this booking form.
By the end of the event, we hope you will be inspired to try out some different ways to communicate your passion for nature to others. The workshops are designed to give you a range of different techniques to take back to your work or voluntary projects, so you’ll be contributing to the ‘educational’ part of the Lowland Derbyshire Biodiversity Action Plan, too!
There will be plenty of opportunities during the day to share experiences amongst like-minded individuals, as well as to meet other groups and individuals within the county.
How much does it cost?
Attendance at the Annual Forum is
free, but places must be booked in advance using the attached form.
Who is the event aimed at?
The event is aimed at partners, parish councils, landowners, schools, volunteers, community groups, students and anyone else who wants to find out about different ways of communicating a biodiversity-related message. Anyone can attend the event, but priority will be given to organisations in Derbyshire, or who are already part of the LBAP Partnership.

A world gathering worth joining

It's a bit of an unwieldy title but WEEC2007 was one of the most exciting events I've been to in ages!

The 2007 WEEC was in Durban and I came away with new friends, new experiences and a bucket full of ideas to think about
things to see

2013 is a bit closer to Europe - Marrakesh in Morocco. We're right on the deadline for submissions and for early bird bookings but do take a look, have a think and maybe plunge in! (Images are from Durban)
time and places to stop and chat

Don't think too long, like jumping into the water, it's better just to leap!

Hope to see you there!

things to handle
And we visited an aquarium so, of course, I got very excited about the animals!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Stories from the woods

Stories that grew out of a beautiful autumn day in Plas Power Woods for the Woodland Trust with some 40 people visiting us through the day, along with several friendly dogs, a possible bear and occasional breezes

storytelling camp
We listened to all sorts of stories - of ducks and rabbits and friendly monsters and discovered that you should always be kind to Conker Trees as they remember when they used to e able to run around the dance and play
one of the Hundred-handed Giants

the Witch
Deep in the woods, an old witch lives
If you are careful you might find her,
Putting on make-up down by the stream
Mud for lipstick,
Berry eyeshadow,
her hair is leaves and grass
Her eyelashes twigs
Stick eyebrows arch over
Eyes as dark as a forest pool
In skin as green and grey and rough as bark

You might see her there,
A shadow by the rapids
Sharpening stones on the riverbank
Fitting her mouth for teeth

The Lost Fairies
One bright autumn day, two woodland fairies, Stephanie and Jasmine, were out exploring the forest. They should have been busy flying the Royal Butterflies but were fed up up with the Butterflies because whenever the girls took them out, the insects all flew in different directions and the little fairies felt as if their arms were going to be pulled off!

So today, they had tied the butterflies to a bouncy tree branch and gone off looking for an adventure

Stephanie and Jasmine went deep into the woods. Here, they could hear the rushing of the river and the rustling of the leaves. They felt the roughness of bark and smelt the dampness of water and mud and moss

In the middle of the woods, in a pool of sunlight by the river, they met a beautiful blue dragonfly.

The dragonfly told the girls about a wonderful white deer that had been seen in the woods, a rare and magical animal

Through the woods,
Under the oak trees,
Over the logs,
Beside the stream,
Across the river on the stepping stones
The fairy girls went hunting

But somewhere
Between one tree and the next,
Between daytime and night-time,
Between sunset and moonrise,
In the mist and the woods,
Where the squirrels look down from the branches,
And the hedgehogs look up from the bushes,
The fairy girls disappeared and
No-one has seen them again. Yet…

Bob the Duck

One sunny and windy afternoon, a very hot duck was swimming in the river trying to cool down, when suddenly a huge holly leaf blew down on the wind and landed on his head! The leaf was very spiky and knocked some of his feathers out.

Bob the duck went swimming away down the river. At a very loud waterfall he stopped and listened to some birds singing. A girl came to look at the waterfall and the birds. Bob didn't want the girls to see him so he swam further and further down to the very bottom of the waterfall.

But as swam down, he could smell delicious pie. The smell wasn't coming from the bottom of the pond but from up where the girl was. Bob decided that he didn't care if the girl stroked him - he just wanted pie!

Bob swam up to the top of the pool and the girl said, "What are you looking for?" and Bob said, "I'm looking for pie". So the girl showed Bob the way to the pie. But as they walked through the woods, a giant spiky conker fell on the girl's head. It hurt.

So Bob helped the girl through the wood and forgot that he was missing some feathers. When they found the pie, they both felt better and stayed together to have pie for tea