Monday, 20 February 2017

a year of excitements in Northwich

Do It Together 
with Rudheath and Witton
A year of drawing and stories, of painting, lanterns, puppets, making and doing

we don't know where Rudheath creativity will take us - leaf roses?

will there be tiny bottle lanterns?
Over 2017, Creeping Toad will be organising creative events in Rudheath and Witton in Northwich, Cheshire. As part of the much bigger Rudheath and Witton Together  (RWT) programme (a Big Local project for the Lottery), my colleague and fellow-adventurer Sarah Males and I will coordinate a programme of creative public events. At the moment, we are busy meeting local groups and venues for activities and starting to plan some exciting activities. There will be events for families to join in, activities for adults, sessions for younger children and specific workshops designed to suit the interests of different groups. With a background in storytelling and puppets, lanterns, celebrations and relaxed sessions in Parks, the Toad team are offering Rudheath a year of creativity and company. We are keen to hear from local people – either groups or individuals – about activities people would like to try or from groups who would like to have a creative session but are not sure just what would suit their members

or story towers?
Plans at the moment include instant painting sessions in the Grozone Gardens, a day of tiny puppets in various Parks, storytelling and making with young children. Running through other events we hope to gather impressions, images and words to create a residents’ map of Rudheath capturing stories and the personal side of life in the area

For a project like this, we look at a place like Rudheath and start brewing plans inspired by buildings, people, places and wildlife. But our job here isn’t really to do what we want but to help people explore the streets where they live creatively in their own ways and we will try to build events that offer the challenges people are looking for by delivering sessions ourselves or by finding the right people for the occasion

So if you are interested and know someone who might be in coming to an event or hosting an event or introducing us to eventful people,  or you are an artist or other creative person we might be able to bring in for a session, get in touch!

we might sew the streets of RWT onto a fabric map

To get in touch, email:

we might collect seasonal recipes....

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The mysteries of Fallibroome

Magic, mystery and wild imagination

Fallibroome Creativity Week

13 - 18th February 2017 

The Wizard of Alderley


What a week that was! I’ve arrived at Sunday after 5 days (Saturday was caught up in remarkably sensible discussions elsewhere)of giants and aliens, adventurous children, terrible dragons, a wizard, a horse and a set of sleeping knights, 100 painting, gluing artists, an eagle…

It begins to read like a shopping list for an adventure tale – but that would be another story

This week was Fallibroome Academy’s Creativity Week (this year’s theme was “Magic and Mystery”) where children from the partner primary schools all throw themselves (quite literally, there is a lots of dance and drama) into days that set imaginations free and running
Dragon 7
He arrives like curtains drawn across the sun
An exploding volcano of a dragon
His teeth are a saw,
Housed in the doom of his jaws
Eyes that glow as bright as lava,
Welcome you to the burning pools of his heart

first ideas for aliens
Trips to the Whitworth and Manchester Art Galleries, rub creative shoulders with adventurous science, dance workshops, Forest School and…I’m involved as one of the artists so tend to get swallowed by my sessions and don’t really build a sense of the whole thing other than the sheer scale of the organisation. But it is wild and wonderful and the Thursday evening sees a sharing event at Fallibroome where children and excited families fill the whole theatre. This year we saw dancing cats (well done, Mottram!), an almost abstract Wizard of Alderley (Nether Alderley – magnificent), the Wizard as a drama, Peter Pan in 5 minutes (well controlled, Tinkerbell). There were sound experiments on stage, a wonderful rescue of a stolen bride with fire breathers and jugglers and dancers (just what every rescue needs) and Fallibroome’s own dance club showed just what out of school clubs can offer determined young people. (Apologies for anyone I missed)

Dragon 5. 
Angry lightning,
A Lion’s roar,
A midnight evil,
Her heart a closed door

enchantment window in progress
But for my sessions….we went from charming – aliens from the book “The Loon in the Moon”, to mysterious – enchantment windows (you never know what you might see when you look through – we hoped for unicorns), to magnificent – a 3metre long frieze of Alderley Edge with contributions from 90 children, to captivating…images of the storytowers will follow. I did lots. The children I worked with did more. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and hope children did too!

a small but cheerful alien
Then we hit the Bollinbrook Dragons….I make no judgement, just post some of the reports below. The photos didn’t even get that far
Dragon 1. 
Diamond bright eyes in lizard scale skin
Dagger teeth are butcher’s knives
And his breath scorches in a shotgun blast
And his soul,
His frozen soul would freeze your heart

Dragon 2. 
She is a bright summer day until you open the wardrobe doors of her heart
Bedrock bones and dagger teeth,
With cheetah stealth she’ll stalk you,
Watching from eyes as cold as glaciers,
Welcoming you into the cauldron of her mouth
And the dark abyss of her winter soul

And we ended with the Friday afternoon giants of Mottram. At least we can end on some smiling faces. Don’t know what they are smiling about, of course...

Our giant is a stormy night in winter
With arms that cling as tight and wrap as strongly as a squid’s tentacles
His fingers prickles like cactus spines
He is an exercise machine of a giant,
Fast, strong, relentless,
Spring-loading his legs into trampolines,
He hammers people as nails into the ground,
But his hunger,
His hunger is a black hole that could swallow whole worlds.

at least some of our giants smiled!

With many thanks to all the staff and children (and apologies to the cleaners) of
Whirley Primary School
Bollinbrook Primary School
Upton Priory Primary School
Nether Alderley Primary School
Mottram St Andrew Primary School
And Fallibroome Academy!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Fin Cop, pausing

Fin Cop,

pausing on a hilltop

the day began in mist

The forgotten dead lie under grass this wide hilltop. Walls divide the space. There are gates and stiles, a steep slope sprouting trees, crowded. Older trees, broad-beamed and statuesque mark half-forgotten field boundaries. The clouds had descended that morning before we walked this way, wrapping distance in mist. It lifted as we climbed, the sun drawing shadows, flaring moss into jewels, revealing a wider horizon so that, at last, on the edge of the cliff we saw old neighbours – Burr Torr and Ball Cross, Castle Naze on Combs Moss, Chelmorton Low. Mam Tor was a distant suggestion,  a darker grey within a grey shadow. The River Wye far below curled round the foot of Monsall Head, glittering down towards Ashford-in-the-Water.

But the nameless dead lie here, lay here, discarded, for 2,000 years*. The same could be said of so many places in these crowded islands. There are plague villages, settlements, battlefields, burial fields, small camps, old barrows. Some lost, some known, a few excavated, most not. Just there.

To get over-excited about a single hill-top seems a bit unreasonable. Down there, peering over the edge of the scarp, just down there is a Roman-British settlement. It must have its own dead. And up in Taddington Dale, near the bypass, is Old Woman’s House Cave where Stone Age families lived and presumably died. Then there are the 19th century railway tunnels boring through the limestone hills to connect Buxton to Bakewell, opening the dales, offending Ruskin. How many deaths went unremarked then? No big tragedies, perhaps, but how many stray navvies fell, or died under that single rockfall, the slipped pickaxe, or breathed too much of that lung-rotting limestone dust. Turn again, and down there is Litton Mill, stylish now, nightmarish once for workhouse children. And there’s Taddington where they slept between sufferings. So many dead here. We live in a well-used land, a richly deceased landscape.

But the quiet, sad story of Fin Cop commands attention. It was a lost story. There seems to have been no tradition of what happened here or what lay, lies, under the grass. Names often hold clues but here, Fin Cop: the end of the hill? Or Finn Low – the mound of the fiddler Fin, or something to do a bit obviously with the Celtic hero Finn. Pennyunk Lane that brings us here from Ashford might have meant “the head (as in top of a hill) of the young man/young/youth”. But it might not. And for centuries nothing much happened here. There are earthworks, early Iron Age embankments. Traces, ripples now are all that remains in the fields of earlier burial mounds. Then there were later lead mining and limestone digging and firing in kilns. There are walls. And cows. And a forsaken hillfort commanding stunning views. But after that day, that night, it looks as if no-one lived here again. Still don’t.

I’m not feeling particularly reasonable just now. I’m standing here on the hilltop, on the cliff edge, turning slowly, counting deaths. There’s not much to see, tumbled embankments, a ditch and a dyke, doubled here, lost there. The stray pimples of those robbed out barrows. But trenches on a dig here found bodies and the site promises, threatens, more*. The scientist in me wants evidence, needs to know, needs the next trench. The storyteller feels the tale, looks at landscape, at bones and shapes a story of death and fear and scrabbled survivals on a rock scree slope. The shaman in me feels presences, the forgotten dead, the abandoned dead who no one honoured, no one named, the dead who were simply left.

“Tarans” we call them in Scottish stories – the unnamed souls of lost children. I find myself whispering. I pledge an evening with a single flame, a gathering fire to warm old bones, food offered, a libation to share, a space to sit, a listening ear, an attentive heart. I’ll hold a space, a stillness. That is the invitation though I know no-one may come.

* This was not intended as a report of the excavations. This is a report of a storyteller’s visit to the hilltop. You can find out more about the tragedy, horror, massacre ( what do we know?) of Fin Cop, here

When Buxton Museum and Art Gallery opens again in May 2017, you will see some of the finds from the recent digs, and ancient deaths

“Collection of the Artists” is another project under the encompassing umbrella of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s Collection in theLandscapes project. While the wider project is supporting the redesign of the Wonders of the Peaks gallery, the digitising of the collection and my own work with events – taking the collection out into the landscape, CotA is probably quieter. There are 6 artists, working with an Arts Council England grant to explore and respond to the dynamic of the Museum’s collection and the landscape it was largely drawn from as artists.I'm here as a storyteller and poet. My work for the museum is largely under embargo until project completion, so pieces like this one and the recent Bertram, Beeston and artists are sideshoots of the ongoing process

Richard and Amanda from Kidology have posted another Fin Cop blog, why not take a visit and have another view of the hill and its story