Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Stories Alive!...a beginning

Once upon a time in Burnley...

storymaking calls for lively action....

A new project is slowly uncurling its storytelling horns and peeping its beautiful face out of its shell…(I like snails). Stories Alive! has placed 5 artists in 5 Nursery Schools (see below) in and around Burnley in East Lancashire. Our teams have been challenged to develop sets of activities to help embed storytelling and storymaking in Nursery practice, in families and in the children we are all working with
wordcloud: what are we doing, what do we remember?
We began a couple of weeks ago with an InSeT evening with 50 staff from across the Nurseries reminding themselves of skills they've already learned and processes they already use. Initially, this was a slightly daunting process when I saw how confident the group were in their storymaking (what could we contribute?). Reassuring, too: here are teams of people who remember previous training (a year or more ago with Carol Graham from Storyspace), take new ideas on board and are ready to take risks. Great! So we went on to make up new stories and build little books to help hold our stories together
Pippa in action
Then we all gathered at the wonderful Burnley Youth Theatre for children and staff to meet their artists and create their first stories together. All? Yes, ALL. There were buses ferrying small figures from all over the place, converging on their slightly anxious artists. Over two days some 300 children and assorted staff and parents joined us at the theatre. And we all survived! And we didn't lose anyone (or not that we've heard yet!). And it was fun!

Now, as the snowdrops prepare to flower, our teams of teachers, children, artists and parents are ready to flower too!  Over the next few weeks, workshops will explore ideas and develop activities. Our artists aren't there to simply go in and deliver a storymaking workshop here or there. Our role is indeed to bring our expertise but to find ways of sharing skills and developing programmes that suit the individuals and communities of our Nurseries

And every so often we'll all meet and share experiences, swap artists, try each other's activities and watch this old Toad worrying about whether he's booked enough coaches

As the project develops we'll post moments here - for project members to enjoy and, hopefully, for my wider blog-visitors to see what we're up to

Hannah Stringer
Gordon MacLellan - Creeping Toad - me!


and they all lived.....
Stories Alive! is supported by Arts Council England

Monday, 16 February 2015

Taking flight....

Taking flight….
Fallibroome Creativity Week

9 -13th Feb 2015

I thought these palm trees were amazing!
Mottram Reception class
What a week that was! Dragons, monster, flying carpets, Icarus falling out of the sky all over again ( will that boy never listen? never learn?), shadow puppets….

Once a year, in a spectacular commitment to their feeder primary schools, The Fallibroome Academy (a Specialist Arts College) in Macclesfield organises a Creativity Week that either places creative types in those schools, or supports other visitors, or facilitates out of school visits to art galleries and museums.
walking through dangerous woods, Broken Cross Key Stage 1
The scale of it leaves me gasping a bit. There are 8 schools and, I think, something happening in each school every day. I'm sure Fallibroome will document to extent of their own organisational skill! Here, I want to celebrate the schools who hosted me and the children, teachers and support staff I worked with…There are some pictures but not a lot - too busy for cameras a lot of the time! (So if any school people out there have pictures, send them through please!)
"we ate ice creams in the rain with a pink unicorn",
Broken Cross Key Stage 1
But my week ran:

         from feathering Icarus on Monday morning to carrier bag dragons in the afternoon.
Dragon hatching

Dragon 1

Dragon, 2

 Tuesday unfolded with everyone in Broken Cross Primary School. There were long pictures unrolling in scribbles across the floor, adventures being told, pop-up stories made. We started with the film "Up" and it's first five minutes but that lovely starting point got left behind as we picked up speed….
the Gingerbread Man visited Candyland
         Wednesday: and I was off making Chinese Dragons in Buxton Museum, but that's another story!

designing dragons
Thursday: and a Reception class (Mottram) set off on a flying carpet (losing a few folk when we went round corners but we had a whole class so we thought with commendable lack of concern,  what's a few children here and there?
Our carpet unravelled into personal fragments and children made the landscapes they visited: seasides, icy wastes, jungles, deep waters and high mountains were all touched
And then there were shadow puppets….from a quidditch match - broadcast on Wizardly Flickervision that very Thursday evening to some 500 visitors in Fallibroome Theatre - to ravening dragons on Friday at Upton

Big eyes are watching,
Sharp claws are tearing,
Long teeth are shredding,
Pointed tail is stabbing,
Pigeon wings are fluttering
But golden scales shine bright and
This dragon glows like a sunrise

So, thank you all!

Thanks for your enthusiasm, readiness to plunge in and make and improvise and do and for just having a go!
It was a delight to work with you all!

and we might as well end on a sinister note
with the path through the wood to a suspicious house

and a witch's spellbook built into the pop-up

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Well-wooded Words: a Buxton Poetry Trail

Well-wooded Words

18th and 19th July 2015
a poetry trail through Grinlow Woods 
during Buxton Arts Festival

a delicate moment from the 2014 Art Trail

weaving words through trees and bushes, 
poems through the flowers

inviting visitors to wonder as they wander
to enjoy the richness of the woods, 
the beauty of stone 
and to touch the emotional heart of their summer

In a companion trail to this year's Grinlow Art And Storytelling Trail (website on its way, meanwhile you could visit the facebook page), we are inviting poets, scribblers, scrawlers and storywriters to submit pieces for a trail of words and wonders through Grinlow Woods

The Art Trail and its attendant activities were a great success last year, so we thought it would be good to add another strand to that creative woodland experience.

“We” are Stone and Water, the Buxton-based community group who celebrate the richness and creativity of the Peaks through projects like Exploring With Stories and Ancient Landscapes

We are looking for pieces (poems or prose) that might 
    • draw their inspiration from Buxton and the Peak District 
    • provoke reflection about the area 
    • use these landscapes to challenge reader’s own perceptions of themselves
    • or something like that

So we invite you, challenge you, to share your enjoyment, your passions, your delights and your despairs of, from or about the Peaks and send us your words for the Grinlow Poetry Trail

our Trail won't take us into the caves but your poems might grow
from those beautiful underground palaces

FINE DETAILS (and some small print!)

What will be happening?
On the weekend of the Art Trail (18, 19 July 2015), our poems and stories will be laminated and presented through Grinlow Woods in Buxton Country Park. The Poetry Trail will follow a similar route to the Art Trail (see below). There will also, hopefully, be storytellers performing, poetry/writing workshops, make your own woodland book activities and perhaps some poetry readings (let us know if you’d like to be involved in that)

Our trail will have its own map and possibly a booklet (available to buy) of all our juicy poems and stories

How long a piece can you submit?
We are allocating each writer the equivalent of 2 sides of A4 (so please, no monstrous tomes or Homeric epics!) and in a largish font, maybe 20pt, for ease of reading. If you're not sure, just send your piece in and we'll advise. Of course you don't need to send in that much: if you compose precise and elegant single haiku or tanka, maybe just one will say exactly what you want. At the moment, we will only accept one submission (ie one longer piece or several short poems) from each poet. If space arises we might invite more contributions from existing Trailers

Where will our poems be?
The Trail will wend its way up through Grinlow Woods from the Visitor Centre car park towards Solomon Temple (but will probably stop just short of the upper edge of the woods
Until we see what is coming in, we can't say where pieces will go. if you have a piece that definitely needs to be displayed by rocks, or a park bench or an oak tree, say, let us know

Complementing the Art Trail
Our poetry trail will run along a similar route to the Art Trail. Poems do not need to associate with artworks unless you want them to. We don't really know what other art is going up until the last minute so we cannot advise you of what's going to be around. If you know an exhibiting artist, why not scheme wildly with them, keep us in the loop, and it might all be wonderful when we display words and visuals together

Filthy Lucre
We are not planning this as a money-making activity but we would like to generate enough cash to design and print poetry trail maps and maybe produce that booklet of poems for sale. We are asking for a contribution of £10 for each submission (ie for each poet's contribution not for each individual poem). Don't send any money with your submission. We'll contact you about money and other fine tuning when your contribution is accepted

Being organised and officious
And we're sorry to say this but there will need to be a bit of editorial control here: please don't send in anything offensive, or discriminatory. Our boundaries are very flexible but there are limits and we will reserve the right to simply say "no". We'll try not to, but that reservation needs to be there

First deadline: we need to have a working set of poems by 31st March 2015: enough for us to know the plan is viable
Second deadline: assuming we get enough poems to make the Poetry Trail viable, we'll go on taking new submissions until the end of May

email your work to

Gordon MacLellan: stoneandwater@btinternet.comPlease send it as an attachment in Word or TextMake sure: your name and contact details are also on the attachmentBy post: to  Creeping Toad, 51-d West Road, Buxton, SK17 6HQ
and we'll be in touch!

Grinlow Woods, paths to wonder

So! flex those fingers, ink up those quills, 

charge up your keyboards, knot your strings 

and carve your runes

Saturday, 14 February 2015

What would make this moment richer?

 What would make this moment richer?
I should remember to pack my storytelling rugs
on every occasion there is room in the car!

There are various questions that I often forget to ask myself in the final phase of planning, sorting and packing a workshop

I know they are there, hovering like moths on the edge of thought but the immediate questions - how many scissors? where is the glue? where is the other glue? have I packed the cutting boards? isn't that already in the car? tend to keep them at bay.

Cowries and a top shell
But these elusive challenges are often the questions that can shift a session into a stronger, more rewarding place and they call for me giving myself the chance to step back and look at a workshop again. The session will already be planned, the packing listed if not completed, the camera charged and then I just need to pause and look at the bigger picture again before I set out. It's all very well 20 miles down the road to think "O, it might be good to have a pocketful of cowries"*, but better to do the thinking when there is still time to respond to the thought!

So I am hoping that if I blog these questions as they hit me, maybe that will help me keep them more active in my consciousness.

So, first one:

What would make this moment richer?
even a small box of "things to hold" helps everywhere...
Is there something I should take with me that would add that little extra something… Without messing up timing, without turning the workshop into an exercise in ego (O, look, I've brought this wonderful thing because I could bring this wonderful thing and let me tell you how I got it and why I'm even more wonderful than it is**), without throwing the theme and thought of the session but that might add a little extra inspiration, a touch of magic….

...and plastic animals should never be underestimated!
Little Man
(Little Man is a puppet I made 30 years ago and has helped out at so many workshops in so many unexpected way that he has earned his current retirement)
* there is almost always something intriguing in a pocket - an owl-whistle is a great regular, and I've usually got bones and shells  about my person.
** heard this and really hope I've not done it!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Hatching, 3, on a day of snow and ice

Thursday 29th January 2014 was a day of blowing snow, icy roads, schools closing and cars sliding, but our Trout Schools were open, their Trout were hatching and our Trout-artists and River-musicians were as enthusiastic as we could ever ask for
somewhere, there are 100 fry in here!

Steve Brown and myself visited Springfield  and Worsthorne Primary Schools in this second day of creative input into the latest trout hatching with the Ribble Rivers Trust
Steve and an artist in discussion

They were such busy workshops, I didn't take as many photos as sometimes so will pool the results here

2 folds of a river pop-up: finished ones might have 30 folds!

In both schools, the visual arts/story side of things this day was to make folded rivers: concertina pop-ups that when finished could run right across a classroom.
starting with a river and fish in photos

creating water patterns
Folded Rivers grow slowly, taking time for ideas to unfold like the card and to flow like the water. As an artist I'm always excited by the complete unpredictability of the process and the sudden flashes of inspiration that set people darting off after new ideas
the river runs over front and back of a card
the wonderful red rocks of the River Brun
(no, we'd not met them before either, with fry hiding in the gravel)

Worsthorne's "The Source To The Sea"

Initial design and half finished pop-up with a big trout - some fisher's "one that always got away"

almost finished

Just as artwork is controlled by our young artists, so collective song-writing comes from them, with ideas being thrown in from all sides and songs growing as fast as a trout can swim

"Hey Trout", the Springfield song