Monday, 24 February 2014

Leaping into spring!

Leaping into spring!
these aren't actually Ness crocuses but worth smiling over anyway!

all packed and ready for action
2 days of hectic events in lovely Ness Gardens on the Wirral left me gazing out of the window, between sudden stunning showers and hoping for a quiet chance to visit the daffodils and crocuses that were glowing in the grass or a moment to stop and enjoy the elegance of the beech copse

But no, the Pirates were calling. A planned set of dignified 4 2-hour workshops building puppet characters and telling their stories split, like overfed amoebae, into 8 1-hour sessions that were much more rushed. We had
so many visitors that in any session we were pushing the boundaries of our space - hence the shift in plan. Lovely that so many people wanted to join in but by the end I needed to lie down in a flowerbed and hope for someone to fan me with gunnera leaves but alas, too early in the year - for either fans or fanners it would seem!

Ness Gardens is home to many animals including the beautiful Leaf-tailed F
ox and the White-nosed Shimmer Badger

Then there is the rare Ness Giraffe, so rare in fact that no-one has ever seen one

Ness Pirates: sail the seas in their ship, the Lazy Seagull, plundering people not of their gold but of their flowers - and bringing these back to Ness

Ness also features a fierce brand of heroine who is always ready to save the Gardens and its wildlife from just about anything!  

And, of course, the woods of Ness are haunted...but no-one is quite sure by what!

and one of these days, I'll get my Gunnera fan.....

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Large eagles and small people

Fallibroome Arts Week (3)

Large eagles and small people

The badge of Nether Alderley Primary School is an eagle, linking them to local folklore and the Stanley family. Almost inevitably, when this old Toad got his clammy amphibian fingers on the idea it changed a bit. We spent a day telling eagle stories, making up eagle stories, fabricating furiously and being as convincing as possible about our own adventures when ....

It picked me up! It picked me up! I was in the playground when this huge eagle... My hat blew off and I never saw it again...I was eating an ice-cream and when I got really high in the air it fell off the cone and landed on a teacher in the playground....I went away round the world, it was very exciting, I am never coming back...

So we spent a day where "every feather tells a story" with everyone in the school making at least one story-feather for our huge school eagle (wingspan about 4m).

an Interim Eagle: the shoulder spike would be
trimmed and the wings given their final position -
photo to follow!

A classroom in Broken Cross Community School doubled its complement of characters with a swarm of small puppet people with everyone from cheetah's to goblins and a very fat little devil.  We used props: pine cones, plates, kettles, goblets and tankards to set ideas in motion and build characters around objects. There were princesses holding their golden goblets, pirates with treasures and some beautiful dragons....

Friday, 14 February 2014

Fallibroome: van Gogh's secrets

a table of van Gogh's

...and in that quiet, unassuming corner of Cheshire called Prestbury, a group of young detectives (including several supermen, Scooby-Doo, a fairy who kept her wand tucked down a boot to be quick on the draw, a lion and a very fluffy fox*) detected the stories that lay all unknown behind some of van Gogh's most famous works, including the act who sat on the roof to watch the Starry Night and the boy who knocked the Sunflowers over....

I'm not sure if van Gogh himself ever got to Egypt, let alone rode on a camel

And did he ever know about the very untidy hippo who slept in that bedroom and who got into trouble from her mother because of the mess?
Superman to the rescue!

a sinister moment

And after all that excitement, we animated some of scenes and told tales in pop-up-theatres of romance, and cooking and occasionally horrible deaths...

Thanks very much, Prestbury CE Primary School!

*It was a non-uniform day to support a local hospice and added an extra surreal touch to an already strange day!

Fallibroome: a week of wild weather and wilder creativity!

I'm not sure that van Gogh expected the picnic

Fallibroome Academy - a specialist Arts College in Macclesfield, every year runs an Arts Week with a collection of Primary Schools. This year they had the immense good sense (or the unparalleled recklessness, read it as you will!) to book me as one of the visiting artists

feathers for the Nether Alderley Eagle

I've had a great week of delicious adventures from the Great Fire of London to swarms of strange ribbon-and-rod puppets, from feathering a giant eagle to roaming the world with Year 1s and today discovering the bits that van Gogh never quite got round to painting
a cheerful character from Broken Cross

I didn't get as many photos as I would have liked - so more will follow as they come in from schools

We are the Mottram Storytellers and we would like to take you on an adventure,
Come with us

Through the haunted, abandoned village where the ghosts watch,
Avoid the mysterious mine with creepy, creaking noises;
Over the narrow enchanted bridge where the crocodiles live
And piggyback on an Ogre through the warm, snake-infested, slime-gooey 
Swamp of Swallowed Souls in the Jungle of Misery and Despair.

Come into our enchanted wood,
Crawl under the twisted tree branches
But beware they don’t tie you into the trunk.
Climb over the bushy tree,
Squeeze between the two trees where something is waiting
Dig under the magical, bendy. twisty, mystical blossom tree
Climb the ladder to the tree top house.
And rest!

Follow your favourite smell
Through our wild wood,
Mint, beefburger or chocolate,
Will take you into our jail 
Of tree-roots and branches
Where you will rest on a pile of bones

Squeeze! Through the ancient bones of prisoners and trees!
Squeeze! Between the twisted, tangled, mossy branches
Dig up! Dig out! Dig under the dark enchanted roots and...

Climb over the redwood tree
Slide past the ash,
Find the glimmering, golden key
That unlocks a door to the past!

With many thanks to the staff and pupils of "my" schools - more images follow in the next two blogs

Nether Alderley Primary School

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Hatching 5: fish as fast as arrows

Singing the fish: trout brown as shadows

The rivers continue to run....but it looks like some of our images and poems have got jumbled up (what can we expect when we try to control water!) If you are one of the pupils, parents or teachers from these schools, do get in touch if pictures and words are creditted to the wrong school!

This is a silver stream, so cool and fresh as can be
Fish eggs like little beads
Eels as big as santa’s bag of treats
The robins sing in such harmony

Freezing through the splashing, popping,
Water rushing stones
Water bubbles
Huge strong rocks blocking the icy flow

Water smashing over rocks
Splashing people,
Water thrashing,
Water crashing,
Soaking the grass,

Slowing down, running wider, 
The river slips into a pool, 
Dark ice-cold water
Deep water, calm water, ripples meandering, 
Slow carp in deep pools,
Grasping weeds to pull you down, 
Down to the stones where the eels live,
Small fish, silver fish, white fish darting, 
Fast as arrows, lightning flickers

Kingfishers dive, chasing fish 
Graceful swans glide across the pool, 
Carp sneak like ghosts through weeds and water

Trout blend in brown as sand, as stone, as shadows
Moss everywhere, under water, on the bank, over the stones, up the trees, 
On the stepping stones where you wobble across the pool

Otters waiting
Big trout hunting
Deep dark, cold as ice

Yellow lightning flashes,
Thunder crashes!
Rain comes splashing down!
Every raindrop feeds the flood.

The river overloaded, bursting, flowing to the sea
A soggy disaster, dirty, nasty mess
Huge, wet, destroying, damaging, 
We are left disgusted, exhausted, vulnerable

But now the river escapes to the sea.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Hatching, 4, "a curtain of dazzling diamonds"

Singing the fish, those Burnley rivers continue to run: the Calder this time

The river begins
On the hills where the wild goats watch,
The water mysteriously drops down
Into the sparkling river below.
Tears of a mountain giant in a cave
Fill the pools.
His teeth are made of stone,
His eyes are red rubies
His lips are red like blood.
The river runs over his tongue and
Out of his open mouth

The stream
Cold, clear water,
Eddies, whirlpools, rippling river, 
Brown gravel, golden sand, jagged rocks, silver stones
Stone-cold pebbles, 
Moss-covered rocks, 
Slime-grown stones
Weed like Jenny Greenteeth’s hair to shelter
A timid trout

The waterfall,
Pulling in a curtain of dazzling diamonds,
Swishing and swirling, slithering like a snake,
Curling over the rocky edges,
Into the woods,
Like a rippling river road.
Past the Faraway Tree, 
Under the Troll’s Bridge 
And into the lake

Raging rushing rapids,
Free as birds,
Fast as wolves,
Fierce as lions,
Wild as wind,
Horrific as humans,
Drowningly dangerous,
Chaotic currents,
Untamed land,
The River Monster released!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Hatching, 3: The River runs through our town

Singing the fish: A River runs through our town

Nimbly swerving,
Dodging rocks,
Waves crushing boulders,
Frothing waters bubbling aimlessly
Rapids trample the pebbles beneath its feet
Shimmering scales of reds and purples diving across the shimmery surface

River running rapidly,
Racing, rushing,
Smashing, crashing, splashing, bashing on the rocks
frogs diving,
Salmon leaping, People swimming
Cold, clean crystal clear and elegant, 
The Calder running into our town

The Hatching 2, Holy Trinity Primary School

Our adventures with the Ribble Rivers Trust continue...

This week saw musician Steve Brown and I working with 6 schools in Burnley who are all hatching trout eggs with a view to releasing them into the Brun and Calder rivers at the end of March.

We'll visit the schools again just before the Release to create some new work, but these first visits were to give the existing the art ideas an extra waterfall or two. So we have been writing rivers in cascades of words, creating trout life-cylce scores, and telling the small stories of eggs rolled in their redds in the cold, clear shallow waters of hill streams....

a series of posts will follow: one for each school

First: Holy Trinity School

Spring gushing, 
Dashing down the hill,
Salmon leaping, 
Otters eating
Deer drinking,
Herons stalking,
River rushing,
Hitting rocks, 
Rolling rocks,
Grinding rocks to gravel

Waterfall drags the river,
Over the edge,
And drops it,
Water under the rocks!
Water over the rocks.
Lashing water into showers of spray!

Falling fast
Racing round rocks,
Dangerously dashing down, 
Slowly slowing down, 
While little fish swim in weeds and shadows,
Safe from otters and children with nets
Deep, wide cold

River running faster, faster,
Jumping over the edge,
Leaping into space,
Rocky, rushing, 
Dashing down rocks

Brown redd,
Orange eggs, 
Black eggs, waiting
Clean water, cold water,
In the gravel,
Under the gravel,
Over the gravel,
Golden eggs,
Orange jewels,
One day i will hatch
One day i will be free!
Shallow water, safe water
Alevin trout,