Friday, 26 February 2016

A few more bones

A few more bones

without apology, I enjoy bones. I have a pile of skulls, shells and bones in the living room complete with festive toadstools and twinkly lights (is it any wonder I live alone with axolotls and fish?)

And with Bone Detectives brewing, I've dug out a couple of ol' bone poems. Enjoy, dismiss or ignore, it's your choice


The sweep of the sky,
The rain's bow,
The curl of a wave,
The sand's dune,
All contained in
The scoop of an eye's socket,
And the bowl of a skull.
A world cradled in
My electric palms

first published in Old stones and ancient bones: poems from the hollow hills, by Gordon Maclellan (me!)

and here is The Bone Pit, written as part of a narrative poem for Buxton Museum's Wonders of the Peak audio trail

A drumming thunder of running hooves, a racing sweep over the hilltops.
Steaming breath, rolling eyes, the wind flare of mane.
The heart beats quicker, hooves before paws, before claws, before teeth.

         Remember those who have gone.
         Bone upon bone,
         Rattle and fall,
         Tooth and horn,
         Fang and jaw,
         Warm flesh, fur and feather all grow cold
         Together in the bone-pit darkness

And wait.
Wait for a pick, for a shovel and a gentle touch
To lift the darkness of 10,000 years.

10,000 years is not so long.
We can look up and out, beyond these Buxton walls
And see the hills the old animals saw.
The folded dales may remember them yet and
All those we have lost may
Still walk in the dreams the land is dreaming.

         Aurochs, giant deer, bear, lion, and mastodon,
         Remember those who have gone.
         Bone upon bone,
         Rattle and fall,
         Tooth and horn,
         Fang and jaw,
         Warm flesh, fur and feather all grow cold
         Together in the bone-pit darkness

Haregate Hall and crystals

Haregate Hall and stray minerals

wet tissue picture of a geode

The lively lovelies of Haregate Hall are back!
a line-up of the usual suspects
a meoment ind evelopment
After the dramas of our last Haregate entry, the Cast have glued themselves together a bit more and relationships are clearly developing...

Unfortunately, this was just a short series of workshops and my time has finished...I may never know what happened ot Lady Mary Dovery-Little, and the Brigadier and this ominous looking bishop....

This post is a bit of a chance to catch up on images. As well as the last Haregate ones, I've had a few pictures back from people who joined in Marvellous Minerals
 at Buxton Museum earlier this month
crystal picture in window
Borax and copper sulphate crystals

 With so many thanks and much laughter to the Borderland Voices Art Club and the mad scientists of Marvellous Minerals

Bone Detectives

Bone Detectives

March 2016

As part of my ongoing work with Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s Collections in the Landscape project, I have been organising some events for British Science Week. Here, we’ll be becoming natural historians, working with the skills that the early collectors who set the Museum Collections in motion used as they foraged across the peaks, rummaging in bone-pits, excavating a bit too enthusiastically at times in barrows, and generally being inquisitive and over-excited. This will also be part of an underlying thread setting out to encourage a sense of investigation, to question what is appropriate when collecting, and to get people looking, thinking, talking to each other. In April, at Castleton Visitor Centre (details will follow here very soon!), we’ll be making small Cabinets of Curiosity to start some portable museums in motion

a beautiful replica lynx skull*
Discovering the secrets of the skulls
Here are the clues that will help you identify the mysterious skull you found on the beach or the bones on the moor, or perhaps here is simply the skills to exercise a fascination with ancient remains, old bones and hidden histories
When we examine a skull, we can tell a lot of an animal’s story: diet, behaviour, age, senses: the clues are all there for the skilled osteologist to read
These workshops will introduce participants to some of those skills, offering activities and inviting questions, setting an investigative procedure in motion so that even if we know what the animal is, we can still find out more

there will be skulls to handle, gloves to wear (for the wary), plastic skulls as back-up, paper to draw on, pencils, etc to draw with, information sheets to work on and keep

Saturday 12th March: Bone Detectives, 1: at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, Terrace Rd, Buxton, SK17 6DA, Tel: 01629 533540. Sessions 10 - 12, 1 - 3

Free, no booking needed, children 7 years and under need to bring an adult and squeamish adults probably need to be accompanied too

These sessions are aimed at family groups

Wednesday 16th March: Bone Detectives, 2: at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, Terrace Rd, Buxton, SK17 6DA, Tel: 01629 533540. 1 session: 10am - 1pm

This is a free session with activities and delivery aimed more at adults or young people of secondary school age

Again, this workshop is free and visitors are welcome to drop in. We recommend allowing an hour to work through activities but you are welcome to come for longer and spend more time handling, drawing and talking about the bones, skulls and shells we will have on display

Visitors are welcome to bring their own clean mystery finds with them - with no guarantee that we'll be able to solve the mystery but have confidence that we will be enthusiastic about them!

Our wonderful friends in the community group Stone and Water have achieved a grant from BSW towards the community participation in these events and to cover the costs of a similar session with a youth group. In fact, we’ve got 2 – so a local WATCH group is going to be going all skeletal and what will happen to Taxal Scouts, I almost dread to think.

These events are supported by BritishScience Week and are also part of Buxton Museum's Collections in theLandscape project

The replica skulls I'm using come from  an e-bay shop with the exquisite name CrimsonRichDesire. Go on. Indulge.

replica skulls come from Crimson Rich Desire

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Haregate Hall?

Meet the cast of the thrilling new drama 
Haregate Hall
Borderland Voices, February 2016
Haregate Hall's slightly self-important Dowager Nuisance

The excitements that were recorded in Characters For A New Adventure have continued. Our scatter of cheerful folk have settled down a bit now into what is beginning to look like the cast of a new period drama....(but they probably won't! This blog grows out of a slightly over-excited conversation we had about this idea. We'll probably change our minds next week!)

Technically, we've been working with rolled paper figures building armatures of paper and adding clothes and character on top of this. The aim has been to make a set of characters while using as little "specialist" materials as possible. Mostly we're using photocopier, Christmas wrapping and tissue paper. Hats have involved some modroc (plaster-cloth) and heads are usually paper eggs

the worktable
Based in Haregate Hall in Leek, our cast* might include:
Major General O** Decisive

and his tweed-clan friend Handy-with-a-shotgun

Lady Mary Dovery-Little (seen here with her maid)

and her impetuous (and unmarried) sister Fringilla***

Visitors to the Hall at the time of our drama, include a stray Bishop and a slightly provocative ice-skater (who might actually turn out to be a dancer)

* nothing written here should be seen as in any way final!
** O= Occasionally, called Ocky by his friends
*** go and look it up

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Lost People and Marvellous Minerals

Lost People and Marvellous Minerals

events at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

February 2016

visiting the Crescent in Buxton

We began with the people who used to live here, or might have lived here, or really should have lived here…and we ended up in kangaroos.

a villainous type, with staple scars
“Lost Peoples of the Peaks” built puppet characters inspired by the pictures around us on the walls of the Project Space at Buxton Museum. So we saw the elegant ladies of Haddon Hall, a deer that liked a woodland and some villainous types who loitered with pillage in mind in the caves of Dovedale.

There were wolves, too, and a cheerful rabbit and a remarkably stout mouse. And from somewhere a kangaroo hopped into the picture. We claimed it was the last of the Roaches Wallabies (if you have never heard of them then that is a sad story for another day). Explaining away the elephant was harder.
she wandered off among the wild rocks and tumbling streams
precision work
There were crystals of amethyst and citrine and delicately pink rose quartz. We wondered at the weight of galena and the glow of Blue John and tried to trick each other with Fool’s Gold. We met salty halite and the delicate strangeness of mica. We marvelled at minerals and took those inspirations to fashion our own crystal pictures. In an explosion of glue, tissue and cellophane, visitors made their own sheets of translucent crystal pictures. As precise as chemists, we measured out borax or alum or copper sulphate and armed with sachets of chemical and instructions,  our mineralogists have gone home to try to grow their own crystals. Hopefully, photos will follow….there are hearts and stars, snowflakes and scorpions crystalising around pipecleaners all over the Peaks this evening. It doesn’t always work!

Events at Buxton Museum
17th February: Lost People of the Peaks
18th February: Marvellous Minerals

There are  more events coming:
Check in at the Museum website
Or on the Collections in the Landscape blog for the next adventures

Many thanks to all our hard working, imaginative 
and very patient visitors! 
We pushed the Project Space to a limit these two days

Friday, 12 February 2016

Wandering houses and Titania’s troubles

Wandering houses and Titania’s troubles
Fallibroome Arts Week, 2016
The mountains of Ancient Greece
a temple from Ancient Greece
 A week of slightly deranged creativity draws to a cheerful close. These last 5 days have bounced me from Leek to Blackshaw Moor to Nether Alderley, Prestbury and Whirley. This could simply be a collection of delightful names if the names weren’t also accompanied by some delightful people

The majority of workshops were part of the magnificent Fallibroome Academy’s Arts Week where they coordinate arts input, trips and performances among the Academy’s feeder primaries where teachers take workshops to each other schools, classes go on trips to art galleries and the likes of me come into school and disturb the equilibrium a bit….
retelling myths
This has been my third year as part of Arts Week and I love it! I meet wildly enthusiastic children in friendly schools where people just dive in and have a go at whatever gets thrown at them…..

In Nether Alderley, we met Victorian explorers and the people, buildings and myths of Ancient Greece

The Storm.
Clouds in the sky,
Rain is coming.
Tip, tap,
Raindrops going tip, tip tap.
People in the puddles go splish, splash, splosh
While the thunder bangs and lightning crashes

With bobble hats and boots
Or no hats, no shoes, no long trousers, only shorts
We go out in the rain and the rain goes splash
And the wind goes whoosh
A storm strong enough to blow us away!

Running home,
Running home
Wet footprints in the hall
(Whirley Primary School, Reception)

At Whirley Primary School, we also discovered the scenes that Shakespeare missed out of Midsummer Night’s Dream
he forgot the angry trees

...and the dramatic castles

...he didn't tell us that Demetrius was carrying a ring

 And today in Prestbury Primary’s Reception classes, we heard of adventures….
brave nights cross a bridge over a river
There was the house that needed a pee, so it stood up and went for a walk. Eventually it found a swimming pool and relieved itself but having tasted freedom, the house didn’t want to go back to its own place in the  street and wandered off exploring. It found a cave and squeezed inside looking for treasure. But the cave was the home of a lion who, alarmed by the arrival of a whole house, roared! The house was so frightened that it ran all the way home and jumped into its space in the street. But it was in a such a hurry that it landed the wrong way round with its back door where the front door should be*. If you walk through Prestbury now, you might find the back-to-front house and then you will know it is the house that went for a walk

an adventure storyboard
an adventure following a path through a wood and flowers
Or there was the pirate who lived in a tall, beautiful house that had no kitchen, So he went off hunting for a kitchen. He looked in the wood of blue and yellow trees: no kitchens here. He looked under the bridge where the trolls lived: no kitchens here. He went into outer space on Alexander’s Flying Boat. They few to the Dark and Dangerous Planet: no kitchens here. They went to Saturn: no kitchens here! Coming back to Earth, the pirate went into a shop in Macclesfield: kitchens! Kitchens! Being a pirate he tried to steal a kitchen but it was too big to carry. So he went home and dug up some of the treasure he had hidden under his bed and went back and paid for a kitchen. Now he is a happy pirate

 Many thanks to the artists and storytellers of Nether Alderley, 
Whirley and Prestbury Primary Schools

* It is just possible that the house ended up upside down, “like that house in London”.
Midsummer Night's Dream: the Fairy Woodland

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Characters for a new adventure

Papier-mache People of the Peaks
Borderland Voices
2nd February 2016 
a gentleman awaiting his face and a tricorn hat

Working with BV’s Tuesday Art Group in Leek, we have started shaping a set of characters who might have, should have, may once have, lived, loitered or even lingered in the Staffordshire Moorlands

we started with sketches and rolling and scrunching paper

Elbows, knees, hats and shoes and faces next week…..
ready for some clothes
elegance taking shape

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Summer stories: workshops for schools and public events 2016

Summer stories
Stories in school
and other excitements
with Creeping Toad,
Summer 2016
celebrating the richness of the season, here are stories, 
sculptures, flags, books and  boggarts

With stories spinning from the first signs of spring right through to earth giants, summer flowers and thunder-tigers, here are stories and activities to enchant and inspire.

a small story-house
Drawing on 30 years of professional experience, my work blends environmental experience with creativity. “Much of my work uses storytelling and story making but I also make small masks, giant masks, flags, lanterns, pop-up landscapes and create wild and wonderful occasions”

Scottish Tour dates: 
April 25th - May 6th
September 5th - 16th

Dates for England & Wales:  
just about any other time - I tend to plan trips as bookings come in

These notes are written for schools. if you have a community grouup or fancy a public event these might give you a guide to what wee might do but talk to me about your specific situation...

a group telling their own stories,  Woodland Trust 2015

In school

A day’s visit to your school might include:

storytelling performances: lasting up to 60 minutes for up to 90 children at a time 

stories out of anything! outdoors or in, we'll use leaves and pine cones, twigs and stones and shells to inspire words, create poems and shape a set of stories never told before
(allow 60 minutes for a class session)

New workshop!
headfulls and handfuls of river animals
puppets and headfulls of animals: like the illustration, we can make quick finger puppet animals or magnificent animal crowns. Allow an hour and a half for a class
New workshop!
Heroes for stories: building characters - as quick puppets and as written pieces: capturing the qualities of our characters for stories: their ambitions, triumphs, disasters and secrets - skills for a richer tale

make your own book
story and book workshops: taking a bit longer (allow 90 minutes for a class) as well as discovering those stories 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!

pop-up storyscapes: allow an hour for a class: gathering ideas, images and words we’ll make quick 3-d landscapes holding the essence of a story in a setting, key characters and the words that set the adventure running

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

Ancient Lives:  a wider historical perspective could be involved, by adding a voice from the distant past to your history topics with stories that our Stone, Bronze or Iron Age ancestors might have listened to. Stories, models, artefacts and drawings can feed into art inspired by cave paintings, carvings and jewellery

your own themes and ideas: or are you exploring a particular theme that you would like to involve some stories in? In recent projects we have also made talking stone puppets, a giant eagle to hang from a classroom ceiling, prehistoric rockpools, a swarm of shadow dragons, pop-up castles

an African selection

Charges: £250 a day: includes storyteller’s fee, travel and materials. Can be paid on the day or I can invoice you. Activities can be adapted to suit groups from P1 through to Secondary

For further information and to book    
contact Gordon directly at
or by telephone:
landline: 01298 77964
mobile: 07791 096857

release the storytelling pirates!