Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Creeping Toad on tour, Highlands September 2012

What else could happen?
Creeping Toad on tour,
3 - 14th September 2012

what else could go wrong?
what other trick could we play?
what will happen next?

With stories to inspire, enchant and engage, workshops to captivate, books to make and new adventures to find, Creeping Toad stories involve participants in worlds of marvel and wonder and leave people full of words and images and ready for action

“like dogs who need toys to have fun and be happy, children need fun and to play to be happy. Then we learn well. With Gordon we play and have fun and learn at the same time”
Year 5 pupil, Runcorn, 2011

effective story ideas are absorbing
and invite concentration
Gordon MacLellan – Creeping Toad – is one of Britain’s foremost environmental art and education workers…and he tells stories too!

Between 3rd and 14th September, 2012  (and again in November), Gordon will be working in the Highland area (at least) and is available for a few bookings….

A day’s visit to your school ( or nature reserve or private group or college...I'm versatile!) might include

storybuilding using found objects and a few treasures
storytelling performances: lasting up to 60 minutes for up to 90 children at a time

stories outside! using the school ground, we’ll take storymaking out of the classroom and use the immediate environment, the day’s weather and whatever we can find to shape a set of stories never told before (allow 60 minutes for a class session)

story and book workshops: taking a bit longer (allow 90 minutes for a class) as well as discovering the stories that no-one has ever heard before, now we will build those into the books that no-one has ever read before and leave the classroom with a library no-one has ever visited before!

tales of old Scotland: a collection of stories of Highland folklore and Scottish histories, of heroes and sorrows, bravery and the magics of sea, mountain and moor

storymaking works across ages and continents
your own themes and ideas: or are you exploring a particular theme that you would like to involve some stories in? pirates….tropical islands….ancient cave people…..where in our school would bears live?…castle adventures,  have all featured in recent Creeping Toad projects

Charges: £250 a day: includes storyteller’s fee, travel and materials. Can be paid on the day or I can invoice you

For further information:
         visit the Creeping Toad website at
         or by telephone:
         landline: 01298 77964
         mobile: 07791 096857

storymaking invites you to pause and step out
of busyness and into a sense of the place

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Word on paper and other places

I tend to operate at a gallop most of the time and don't give myself the time I need - and want - to do more of my own writing and other personal creative pursuits. So, I recognise a degree of envy in recommending to people to go and enjoy these products of other people's creativity! Never mind! Buy a book, read a poem, visit a blog, regardless of some ol' toad muttering into his fishtanks!

Three places and ideas to recommend

The Beauty in the Beast
A new book by my lovely hedgehog fried Hugh Warwick. Following A Prickly Affair (his book about a lifetime interest in hedgehogs), he has gone out and talked to people as interested (or as obsessed?) in other animals as he is in urchins. It is a wonderfully unexpected selection of (British) wildlife from solitary bees to otters, dragon flies, and house sparrows to foxes. I've hopped in there, too, as an amphibian voice

Book details:
The Beauty in the Beast by Hugh Warwick, ISBN 978-0-85720-395-3
Hugh's website:

Caroline Hawkridge
Ona quieter, and dare I say, more elegant note, why not visit Caroline's site? Poet and delighter-in-wildlife, Caroline writes beautifully and has just launched this site about her work including a poem inspired by the peregrines nesting on Derby Cathedral. 
Caroline has also written about bilberries

And then I did manage to get some writing done! Hoorah! (well I enjoyed it) and then we had to edit the piece down, so I'm going to post the missing paragraphs below. These were the opening sections for a piece for the Summer edition of an on-line magazine, "Native British Spirituality"

"The purpose of this website is to provide a focus of re-connection with these islands – so that we make the land well, and the land makes us well. Our intention is to share our lived experiences of these islands, their cycles and seasons, the elements, sacred places, spirits of place, and native flora & fauna, defining ‘spirituality’ as ‘connection with Spirit’, or ‘alignment with Nature’."

My piece is on the Air page and originally was due to start:

Bright are the willow tops,
Playful the fish in the lake
The wind whistles over the tops of the branches
Nature is superior to learning”

All of a sudden, “getting out there and connecting with nature” seems to be the thing to do. BBC Wildlife is advocating “52 wild things to do this year”, the National Trust has “50 things to do before you're 11”. Even staid Natural England is trying to get 1 million children out into the countryside (but not all at once). There is also another strand which turns the need to make connections with nature into an intellectual discussion with debates on “nature deficiency disorders” and the problems of environmental disassociation.

Of course, none of this is new. A lot of us have never stopped “connecting” with the world around us. Simple test: are you still breathing? Connected! Have you stopped breathing? Still connected. Cynicism aside, of course it is good to encourage people to go out, to get out, to enjoy this beautiful world we live in

And it is so easy. Renewing connections doesn't need trips to National  Trust houses or Natural England Nature Reserves. A garden would do it, or  park or even shut a walk along a street....

  As “Creeping Toad” a lot of my work is about celebrating the relationships between people and places and encouraging individuals, groups and communities to explore their connections to  those places around them. We use activities like these, simple light-hearted adventures to invite people to step back into an awareness of the world......

(Opening quote from The Red Book of Hergest)

Monday, 14 May 2012

Ancient Landscapes - the tide comes in again

we've had a busy few days as the second phase of this project begins, or maybe as the tide runs again toward the full

Antler coral

With Ancient Landscapes, we are looking at the limestone of the Peak District where we live and the fossils that rock contains. Then mixing observation, deduction and wild imagination, we work to create the original environments that spawned our limestone as installations in crochet, knitting, clay, beads, felt and anything else that takes our artists fancy!

coral development takes concentration
....concentration, and tea!

The first installation is on display in Leek for the next two weeks as part of the Borderland Voices exhibit in the Emporium Art Exhibition (details to follow)

Meanwhile, a new group has taken up the challenge of extending the ancient landscape and a session at Buxton Museum last week, led on to a workshop at Fairfield Community Centre today. Five more sessions will follow and then we'll see just how our coral garden grows before it unfolds its glories again in the Buxton Art Trail in the summer


Our use of crochet in Ancient Landscapes was inspired by the global Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project ( whose influence we acknowledge even though we couldn't afford to sign into their network as a community group.

The connection between those techniques, other artforms and our Peak District landscapes comes from Stone and Water, a Buxton-based community group dedicated to celebrating the creativity of the people and landscapes of the Peaks.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

More Small Things, and snow-covered mountains

A weekend in the Cairngorms with cold but bright days and snow on the mountains. Wonderful!

I was there to deliver a day on stories for activity and expedition leaders for Wilderness Scotland to extend their storytelling skills. This was part of an activity leaders' development programme, a joint venture betweenWS and the Institute for Outdoor Learning . Enthusiastic participants, nice venue and beautiful setting. What more could a'body ask for?
evening walk and knotted tree-roots on the banks of the Green Lochan
Lochan reflections

We spent Saturday evening in the company of Rupert Hutchinson watching planets rise and constellations twinkle slowly into sight as the skies darkened. Saturn looked like a cartoon of itself: such a small, precise image through the telescope. Venus and Mars glowed and we lost Andromeda somewhere behind Glenmore Lodge.

There was also an echo of an earlier post in the tiny peblle person who emerged during one of our exercises and promptly charmed the whole company so we took lots of photos of him/her/it posing….