Thursday, 30 July 2015

Pirates in Mottram

The Mottram Pirates
30th July 2015
pirate ships racing across a treacherous tabletop sea

the quiet village on Mottram St Andrew, tucked into the shadow of Alderly Edge in the leafy lanes of the Cheshire plain, harbours a dark and terrible secret

the pirates were generally a cheerful bunch

but one poor pirate was stranded on a desert island with his boat - but no sails

It was once the home of the terrible Mottram Pirates who, in their ship, the Mighty Mottram, pillaged their way across the high seas (and the low seas and various damp and swampy bits in the middle)
the Mermaid Judges at Pirate's Got Talent
a mermaid on her throne

A palace full of mermaids was involved as well but no-one is quite sure how
a pirate in his rowing boat

And one princess who annoyed everyone else, when her family wouldn't pay the ransom, ended up locked in a dungeon

the princess...
...and her prison
a pirate speed-boat
even with only one sail, a pirate ship can glide across the skies

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Ice Age life and adventures

Ice Age life in old Buxton
a workshop at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, 
29th July 2015

Evidence - but of what we're not sure!

With many thanks to all our artists and makers this morning - just over 100 people joined me and made puppets and pop-ups in a stampede of mammoths over two hours

There are activities every Wednesday through the summer holidays. Contact the Museum for more details - or look at this post for details o a couple of other ones...

A fox lurks in a cave: Fox Hole Cave on Wheeldon Hill perhaps - or maybe Reynards Cave in Dovedale where a hoard of Roman coins was found...

 The inhabitants of this cave kept increasing....the owl moved in unexpectedly... (see top of the page)
We were also making folded-card animals. Two cave bears....

A small boy and his camp-fire
 A beautiful cave by a river, under a steep, sharp hill
Some of our cave-people were a bit was quite sure what the batmobile would have looked like, Ice-Age style, but we were sure Batman and Robin looked much the same. A Bat-sled with huskies perhaps?

 Unexpected inhabitants: a dragon!

An owl flies over the mouth of the cave, and an adventure begins...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Toadwords creeping out...

Toads are breaking out all over
- or maybe breaking in?

Over the last year, I've been contributing to various other blogs and journals. I thought a list of opening paragraphs and links might prove interesting….

Wild Storytelling
June 2015: a piece on storytelling and landscapes for Highland Environment Network's newsletter issue on environmental art

It begins….
Telling tales of wonder and delight, stories to enchant, intrigue and captivate. Telling tales to draw people into the landscapes, plants and animals around them. Or at least that's what I hope I do. It's certainly what I set out to do but as with most creative activities we share with the public (or pursue as individuals) in the end, like water and weeds, the creativity finds its own path....

"…on this day that hopes for rainbows"
Using the environment to inspire poetry

It begins…
We started with a venue we all valued and a belief that children’s language grew more by direct experience than by just reading, listening and being told about things. Then we stirred into the mix Simon Armitage’s recent translation of “Gawain and the Green Knight” with its beautiful sense of rhythm and movement. A pinch of Michael Porpurgo’s Gawain followed and a grant from the Clore Duffield Foundation coordinated by Mid-Pennine Arts and we were ready to bake, with myself  - environmental storyteller, artist and general creator-of-celebrations - as the spoon that stirs the pot.

A River In The Classroom worksheets
Musician Steve Brown and myself produced a set of worksheets for the Ribble Rivers Trust inspired by the workshops that were followed through "The Hatching" blogs in 2015 and 2016
You can download a version of the worksheets here

There are 5 worksheets in this set offering everything from how to compose your own watery soundscapes to techniques for building your own folding river. While these are river-specific activities the techniques and principles involved could be applied to a much wider range of themes.

Over the hills and far away….
July 2015, and I had the excitement of reciting one of my poems for a film about fell-running by Jimmy Hyland.  The film is a lovely few minutes of watching, so please tune in, relax and imagine yourself up in the hills….

I hope the film link works!

Pym Chair above the Dale of Goyt

 A broad broken bow of a bridge:
June 2014, another piece about working with poetry, this time for an Environmental Education journal based in Brazil. The link will take you to a copy of the article. Look at the rest of the journal - but you might need to some Spanish or maybe Portuguese!

It begins…
A broad, broken bow of a bridge:
using classic literature and outdoor sites to inspire poetry with children

Once upon a time…
This story began some 700 years ago when a scribe in a monastery started writing - or recording - the narrative poem that was to become known as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Mixing Pagan imagery with Christian morality tale and straightforward heroic adventure, Gawain has survived the centuries since then and stands now as a classic text of early English literature

Packhorse Bridge at Wycoller Country Park

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Words in the woods

Well-wooded Words
The Grinlow Poetry Trail
18th and 19th July 2015

Running alongside the Grinlow Art and Storytelling Trail, we spilled words through the woods, threading poems between crocheted cups, very small peg-doll fairies, giant toadstools, occasional dinosaurs, paintings and people

There was something everywhere it seemed, under feet, over heads, ragged crows flying through the trees, a haiku shrubbery

We ran this first Poetry Trail separate from the Art and Storytelling trail as we didn't know if there would be enough interest in it to make a viable feature. There was. It did. It worked. Maybe next year we'll knit the art, storytelling and poetry together even more closely. Most visitors didn't separate one from the other and of course there were poems that were part of the art trail and storytellers who appeared in both….it's too easy to ramble here so I'll stop and paste in the Review of the Trail from the Festival Fringe below

a Haiku bush

And when you are feeling wildly inspired by all of this, you might like to get a copy of the Well-wooded words collection of poems. A  modest £3.50 (includes P&P) from Stone and Water. Cheques to Stone and Water at 51-d West Road, Buxton, SK17 6HQ. Paypal is possible - drop me an email at and I'll send you details
the cover is actually a rich dark green

Grinlow Poetry Trail review
The poetry trail was an enormous success. It was well attended with people taking a great interest in the poems as well as the art and the storytelling. It was enhanced greatly by the piano accordion player walking around and other musicians playing in the woods, which at first I heard from a distance. There was also a surprise performance of a choir at 1.30 pm singing four well known songs.

The art and poetry lived happily side by side. In one area there was a row of paintings showing mainly urban scenes each with a corresponding poem on the same subject. There was also a mushroom area with many poems about fairies not far away.
There was a great range of contributors, from people who wrote the occasional poem, to poets with more than a local reputation, through to the immortals like Shakespeare and Virgil.
not a poem but too striking to omit!
The subjects included descriptions and feelings provoked by Grinlow Woods, works about the beauty and magic of woodlands, invitations to visit places nearby and poems about tragedies caused by drug-taking. Not all viewed nature as a source of joy. Some dwelt on less pleasant elements related to woodlands and nature such as trees fighting against the elements for survival. 

One of my favourite sets of poems was written on large banners which were very eye-catching. The poems are about nature being in a constant state of flux and the poet’s thoughts became absorbed with the process. The poet tries to guess where the raindrops will fly and where they will rebound. 

Another of my favourite poems dealt with a human relationship, making analogies with the progression of the seasons.
It all took place in a very beautiful environment with good weather which brought about much social interaction between the viewers.
Roger Horvath


Grinlow Art and Storytelling Trail review can be found here

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Summer events at Buxton Museum


Lively times at Buxton Museum

life in Ice Age Buxton had its excitements...

 summer events with Creeping Toad people

all events 
Venue:  Buxton Museum andArt Gallery, Terrace Road, Buxton, SK17 6DA

Times: 10am - 12noon
Booking: no booking necessary, just turn up and join in - but allow 45 minutes for making things
Costs: free events, just bring yourself and a cheerful grown-up if you are 7 years old or less

Ice Age Life
Wednesday 29th July,
Step back in time with artist and storyteller Gordon from Creeping Toad (me!) and make your own model of Peak District life in a colder age. Inspired by mammoths and sabre-tooths, cave lions and reindeer we'll make pop-up landscapes and the animals and people who lived here 10,000 years ago

Peg People of the Peaks

Wednesday 12th August,
From elegant Victorian ladies to medieval villains, Norman knights to Robin Hood, all sorts of people have visited the Peaks.  Artist Sarah Males will help you make your own characters, real or imaginary, nice or nasty, from the history of the Peaks

Lost tales of the Peaks
Wednesday 19th August:
using photos of local buildings and places that feature in local stories, Gordon the Toad (me, again!) will tell old stories and help us invent new ones. From murder mysteries to wild romances, treasure hunts and terrible ghosts, we'll spin new stories out of the hills, dales and buildings of the Peaks
what treasures will help us spin our own stories

Monday, 6 July 2015

Event: a Toad's Tale

The Tale of a Toad
An evening of conversation with this ol' Toad: 
talking about stories, adventures and life within a living landscape

14th July 2015
The Castle Farringdon, 
34 Cowcross St, London, EC1M 6DB

Organisers: Nova Stellar Meet-up
Tickets £3.00 (at the door)
Time: doors open 7pm (some people come for food first) 
talk starts at 8pm
Facebook page: Facebook event page

Official blurb:
talking about why seaweed excites me 
Better known as Creeping Toad, Gordon is one of the UK's leading environmental educators blending storytelling, investigation, awareness and creativity to create dynamic and inspiring projects. He is also an animist, a shaman with a lifetime of connection to a vibrant world of animal, plants and landscape spirits. This evening he will talk about that connection, about a world that thrives on passion and some of the still, delightful and wild moments of a life lived in a wakened landscape.

An Honorary Life Member of the Pagan Federation and a founder member of groups including Hoblink, the first open pagan LGBT network, and general causer of trouble, Gordon has been an active member of the Pagan community for 30 years.

Other details
Books: as Gordon MacLellan:
· Old stones and ancient bones, poems from the hollow hills,
· Wanton Green, contemporary pagan writings on place (editor, for Mandrake)
· Celebrating Nature (for Capall Bann)
· Sacred Animals (for Capall Bann)

Chapters in
· Pagan Visions for a sustainable future
· Storytelling for a Greener World
· The Woodlanders