Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Making a Mermaid Museum

The Mermaid Museum

Buxton Museum Saturday  1st June

1 - 4pm

a merman seen as a flicker in the deep
our very own Museum Mermaid
A Mermaid Museum: alternative mermaids, fierce mermaids, shark spirits and exhibitions: help us remember the origins of the Museum Mermaid by making our own Mermaid Museum
The Vicotrians created their own mermaids out of bits and bones, wood, fish, monkey skin.....they improvised wildly. Today, we are inviting you to help us create out own Mer-folk Museum. there might be fossilised mermaids, preserved mermen, a merquarium. Ther emight be terrible tales of bravery and foul deeds on the high seas and devious entrapments in low swamps and by the end of it all we might deice our merpeople need to swim free.....

This is the last of the events in the half-fish festival. Visit here for details of earlier events in the mermaid tide that runs 30th May - 1 st June
Times: 1 - 4 pm
Venue: at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
Materials provided
No booking needed just drop by and join in - allow 30 minutes for the activity

A BM125 event for Buxton Museum and part of the festival
merperson fossil?

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Make your own pottery piggy bank!

Pottery Piggies!

make your own!

Sunday 9th June

From ancient oracular pigs to to the terrible Twrch Twyth, from engimatic carved Pictish boars to hogsback Viking tombs, pigs lie in the history and mythology of this land. You might sing the Boar's Head Carol at Midwinter or simply enjoy the gruntling of piglets, but we hope that pigs matter to you as well. Now, join us for a bit of pig-making.....
Work with potter Sue Blatherwick to design and make your very own pottery piggy bank. Sticky clay and messy hands, fascinating colours and exciting shapes, our Piggies will add an extra delight to our season of Hoards
Venue: Dove Valley Centre, Longnor
Places: free but must be booked in advance

We'll be thinking about ways of keeping treasures safe, holding, hoarding, hiding them until.....Will you make a smiling cheerful little pig filling up happily with stray 5ps? Or will your Piggy be a blundering Boar, all bristles and tusks and ready to defend your pennies as fiercely as any dragon? Sticky clay and messy hands, fascinating colours and exciting shapes, our Piggies will add an extra delight to our season of Hoards.
Date: Sunday 9th June 2019
Venue: Dove Valley Centre, Longnor
Times: 11.00 - 16.00 - you will need to bring a packed lunch
Further details etc will be confirmed through eventbrite nearer the time
This workshop is part of the Museum's public event programme to accompany "Hoards: a hidden history of ancient Britain"

Monday, 27 May 2019

Creeping back: Telling Toads revived

Telling Toads

Celebrate the wonder of amphibians and reptiles 

with a story, a poem or a personal anecdote

Legs on a lump
Of knobbled mud, turning slow,
Blinking golden eyes, gulps a fly,
And stops.

Have you a tale you could tell? A poem that could hop its way onto these pages? A new story that should be spoken? This is an invitation to celebrate the amphibians of the world, from the Frog in your pond to the Toad who creeps through the woodland, from the sheer excitement of a wriggle of tadpoles to the glory of a toad’s golden eyes. Join me for a celebration of amphibians through words.

Amphibians are in danger. Of all the vertebrate groups, amphibians seem to be in the most perilous of situations as populations across the world dwindle before pollution and habitat loss and the ravages of infections they have no defence against. Froglife is a UK based charity that sets out to promote amphibian conservation through active habitat management and wider education. While, Froglife is UK-based, the issues facing amphibians are global and I hope that by sharing our stories and poems we might add a little more momentum to a wider awareness of the wonders of the amphibian worlds.

I am not going to go into the conservation issues here. The Froglife website is a good starting point for UK folks and I am sure you can find local sites in other countries. Here, I would like to invite and challenge my friends in the storytelling, natural history writing and poetry worlds – and just about anyone who feels inspired - to drop their words into this Toad-pool. There are no prizes, probably no money, but I invite us all just to share our creativity because it is a good thing to do. Not because it is weak or feeble or over-privileged but because sharing rewards by its own action and if telling someone else’s story, reciting someone else’s poem can help excite a listener to look a little more closely at the frogs in the field, then we’ll be doing a good job.

I started the Telling Toads project a couple of years ago but then it settled into hibernation. With a hop and a shake and an optmistic croak, as the froglets gear up and toadlets get ready to venture bravely out onto grass (please don't cut your lawn when you see them migrating!), Telling Toads is getting going again....

What we’re looking for
We’re looking for poems or short stories about frog and toads. These might be personal anecdotes, reports of your own adventures, retelling of ancient myths, or pieces catching what you find is the essence of toad-life. We don’t want scientific papers – but the personal experience of that study might give us rich words to share
No. of words: to keep this under some sort of control: maximum number of words is 500

something a little more exotic might inspire....
Other practical stuff
Nature of work: if your work is racist, sexist, or discriminates on the grounds of species, religion or gender identity, or comes across as simply offensive, we will reject it
The work must be your own original work: if it has been published before, at this stage that is OK as long as we have your permission to put it on a blog. If we build to publication we’ll need to revisit this. We will, meanwhile acknowledge the original publication if you include the details! In submitting your work, you accept that it might be published online and that this is acceptable to you. If the possibility of publication with remuneration develops, we will come back to you
Editorial control: I am the editor of the Toadwords collection and while I will refer to other writers for opinions, I will hold editorial control
Submissions language: English please! Unless there is someone out there who might want to run a parallel Spanish or other language version

your work will be given serious consideration....
What will happen
1. First responses:  initially, we’ll see what sort of response we get. First submissions will be published on this Creeping Toad blog. If submissions build up in numbers, we’ll set up a separate Toadwords blog or website.
2.  Growing numbers: If numbers and quality of work merits it, we’ll look at producing an online resource for people to tap into. Perhaps as a downloadable pdf. If there would be charge for this, we will contact authors about royalties and permissions
3. As work comes in, selected pieces may also appear on the Froglife website and might feature in issues of the newsletter Natterchat

As word or plain-text attachments please to:
Froglife: and just so no-one can say they don’t know, yes I am not at all impartial. I like Froglife. I am one of their Trustees and I have no qualms at all about saying that I think they/we are an excellent organisation. And, yes, i do know that other amphibian and reptile centred organsiations are available!

Newts, salamanders and caecilians: and no, we’re not ignoring the rest of the amphibian order,  all the amphibs are welcome…and reptiles are invited to the word-party too!

adventurous toad

You might like to take a look at a review of a lovely Frog book: "In Search of Lost Frogs"

Picture credits: from the top:
Toad: myself
Rushes: V Walker
Goldsitch Moss: myself
Dart Frog: Martin Paul
Majestic Toad: Kenny Taylor
Adventurous toadlet: Ian MacLellan

with many thanks!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Troll pizza and elephant trees: training courses in July

Pizza for trolls and elephants in the trees

From young children to adventures everywhere: 

training courses with Wildwise

Devon, 17th and 18th July 2019 
small things hold big stories

This summer I am doing two days of training with Wildwise in Devon. These are two stand alone days – come for either or both

Workshops like this are aimed at teachers, outdoor ed practitioners, forest school leaders, playworkers…anyone really who is interested in adding some (hopefully) new activities to their toolkit. I run training courses thata re cheerful, relaxed and full of variety, exploring dieas, playing with a ctivities, offering people ready-made activities to take away while offering time for people to then stop and think, turn thigns inside out, add their own ideas and experiences and come up with ideas that suit themselves

Wildwise are based at Dartington in Totnes so we work in the lovely woods of the Dartington Estate. Booking notes with each course description and at the end of the page - contact me ( about content but talk to Wildwise about bookings!

Wednesday July 17th
house, trap, adventure point?
Stories everywhere: a day about finding stories in the world around us, improvising adventures and creating instant poems

A day to enjoy words, this workshop encourages participants to find “adventures everywhere” anywhere. It will offer activities designed to draw inspiration from simple observation, fostering confidence in participants own skills and encouraging innovation within supportive activity structures. The activities used will also allow ideas to merge as a number of short activities flow together to give longer more intricate adventures. 
The activities used here have been tried and tested with family groups, on adult events and with school children - often in situations where Literacy is an issue and activities are needed that remove worry and fear and encourage simple enjoyment of words
Programme will include:
  • first words: setting out on an adventure
  • adventures everywhere: short activities with minimal equipment for use outside
  • holding onto adventures: ways of recording our words
  • bigger stories: working in groups to make quick, longer pieces
Activity options:
  • developing story characters
  • deriving adventures from found objects or artefacts
  • the value of treasure
  • story bundles and adventure boxes

Booking for this course: £80 (individual adult), £95 (community/not-for-profit), £120 (sponsored adult/business adult). if booked through eventbrite their fees apply. For more information contact Wildwise

strong characters make all the difference
Thursday July 18th
Adventures with Early Years: a day of activities to use with younger groups arounds tory making and wider literacy and turning words into play
who knows who waits in the woods?

Build your own toolkit of activities and themes to use with younger children. Looking at a world full of stories, we can use immediate environment to inspire language, encourage communication and foster a deep sense of excitement in and connection with that world. We might shape a story on the walk to school, design a pizza for a troll, discover who hides on the other side of the tree and how to call a dragon from a flowerbed. Using readily transferable techniques and easily sourced materials, this workshop will encourage us to value and cherish the creativity of younger children

Who is the course for

Early Years teachers, Forest School practitioners, family centre and playgroup leaders, environmental education and countryside staff

What will you take away
  • ways of building storylines with young children that help us shape their experience and learning
  • activities that combine visual art, stories and the environment
  • activities to encourage creative exploration
  • event ideas for family groups
  • direct experience of a range of activity ideas from outside storybuilding to rainy day alternatives, mixing discovery with story, drama, art and craft ideas
  •   the value of tiny things and the power of giants

Booking for this course: £80 (individual adult), £95 (community/not-for-profit), £120 (sponsored adult/business adult). if booked through eventbrite their fees apply. For more information contact Wildwise            

1. Email Wildwise here: please provide your contact details and how you would like to pay i.e. BACS or card
2. By phone: call 01803 868269 (message service when office unattended)
3. Online booking via Eventbrite: instant booking with immediate confirmation (recommended for late bookings). Eventbrite booking fees apply.

tell a tale along a twisting branch

Thursday, 16 May 2019

gather your own Hoard - events

From dragons to coins to something to keep them in,

events for Hoards,

May 2019

A heap, a hoard, a treasure, a treat…a glitter of staters across a cave floor, the gleam of a brooch in darkness, a dream wrapped and bound and hidden in hope. What makes a hoard so special - and so very personal?

The Hoards: a hidden history of ancient Britain exhibition is still shining its way through the galleries of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and our next set of events is coming up fast. Why not come and join us? All events are free and where materials are involved, they will be provided. Children of 7 years and less need to bring an adult with them but otherwise events are open to everyone

Sunday 26 May, 12 noon–3.30pm
Giants, dragons and terrible traps
How would you protect your hoard? Would there be a monster rumbling in a corner? Would there be a dragon resting on the pile of your gold? Or would you design some terrible trap, a maze of crushing rocks and flying spikes and trapdoors to flip a robber into a bottomless pit….
Cartoonist Martin Olsson will help you draw your treasure and how you would keep it hidden! Allow 45 minutes.
Venue: Buxton Museum

Thursday 30 May, 10am–12noon
Make and take: curious coins
Counting your pennies…..what coins will fill your hoard? Have a look at the coins in the exhibiton: there are horses and hands, gods and heroes, numbers, names and things we cannot decipher. Would you be the face on your lost gold? Would you hoard some unicorn pennies or open hand thruppenies, or wren farthings…..
Design your own coins with local artist Sarah Males.
Allow 45 minutes.
Venue: Buxton Museum

Sunday 2 June, 12noon–3.30pm
Silk purses and sow’s ears

“What would hold your hoard? Do you want  a beautiful patterned purse, all beads and embroidery? Or would you like a painted pouch pulled tight with a drawstring to hold your hoarded coins safe? Or maybe you are a sow’s ear person, a folded twist of old leather, tough as boots and bristling with a the last of a pig’s hair
Make your own treasure bag with Creeping Toad, a special something to keep your coins in. Allow 45 minutes.
Venue: Buxton Museum

These events overlap with our wonderful festival. You don’t know about our mermaid excitements? Go here for a sense of the tide that is running!
dive into

Saturday, 11 May 2019

mermaid tide

a Mermaid tide is running

In the Water

Sea Dancer
A swirl, a splash, the flap of a broad tail on the water or the silence where someone has vanished….we don’t see much of merfolk unless they want to be seen

A handsome pony stands on the bank of a highland stream, gleaming black and friendly, climb on my back, I like the company, I am safe, an easy gallop over the moors…Kelpies are notoriously tricksy shapechanging water folk

Rather wizened now, older than any of her visitors, her strange and marvellous features not quite as strange and marvellous as they once were but the Museum mermaid still has the power to fascinate and people come and stare. It doesn’t cost a penny any more to come and admire and the Boyd-Dawkins Room at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is very different from the sideshow, freakshow tents were she started her career in show business, but the Museum Mermaid still draws her visitors…..

Water People enchant us: with their beauty or their power or their seductiveness or their danger or their grace and generosity - or with all of those at the same time. here in Buxton we are blessed with local stories of mermaids and water people (Blake Mere, Kinder Downfall, Redesmere) and with our own Arnemecta, the Goddess of the Waters


In celebration of the Museum mermaid, of the water people tales of the Peaks, of the water people stories from across our islands and of the spirit of water in general, we are organising a small festival.
30th May - 1 st June
All events are free - for some of them booking is needed as spaces are limited
For all events, children 7 years old and leass need to bring a grown-up with them (in case we have some hungry water creatures to feed)

The Land and the Sea

1. Mermaids and monsters
Make a mermaid, a sea serpent, a fluttering sea horse or some wild and wonderful creatures no one has ever met before. Quick puppets of shimmering, sliding sea creatures with Gordon from Creeping Toad

Venue: Buxton Museum and Art Gallery* (venue details at foot of post)
Times: 2 - 4pm
Materials provided
No booking needed just drop by and join in - allow 30 minutes for the activity

2. Hand-made mermaids

Inspired by ‘The Buxton Mermaid’, recreate your own idea of this mythical creature, using a variety of art materials, then place her in your very own sea. A drop-in workshop with Artist and Educator Anna Spratt.
Venue: Green Man Gallery*
Times: 10.30 - 11.30am
Materials provided
No booking needed just drop by and join in

Feral mermaid

3. Interview with a Mermaid
Anita Jasso is a ‘professional’ mermaid, with a breath-hold of 5 minutes, who can free-dive to 40m. You may have seen her on the ITV drama, Butterfly. With mermaid clubs springing up all over the country, there has never been a better time to discuss this cultural phenomenon.
Venue: Green Man Gallery
12 noon - 1pm
No booking needed just arrive and listen with a smile

4. Mermaid CSI
How was she made? Where did the bits come from? Why did they make her? Solving the mystery of the mermaid! Listen to Conservator Anita Hollinshead reveal her research, after studying ‘The Buxton Mermaid’ for her MA in the Conservation of Historic Objects at the University of Lincoln.
Venue: Green Man Gallery
Times: 1.30 - 2.30pm
No booking needed just arrive and listen with a smile or maybe your best detetcive notebook….

5. Mermaid: the Movie
Former BAFTA Screenplay Judge, Rob Young, will give a one-hour crash course in how to write a movie. It’s Film School in an hour! A warm, witty and welcoming workshop in the craft of storytelling. Free, but booking essential.
Venue: Green Man Gallery
Times: 3 - 4pm
Places limited: booking through eventbrite

6. D E E P
The world premiere of a short story by award-winning writer Rob Young, inspired by The Buxton Mermaid and the ‘haunted’ pool at Blake Mere. D E E P tells the story of Jan, a Buxton boy who discovers that there’s something strange in the water. A darkly-comic urban fairy-tail for Young Adults (older adults welcome too). Performed by Buxton actress, Sarah Day.
Venue: Green Man Gallery
Times: 6 - 7pm
Places limited: booking through eventbrite

7. A Mermaid Museum
A Mermaid Museum: alternative mermaids, fierce mermaids, shark spirits and exhibitions: help us remember the origins of the Museum Mermaid by making our own Mermaid Museum
Venue: Buxton Museum and Art Gallery* (venue details at foot of post)
Times: 2 - 4pm
Materials provided
No booking needed just drop by and join in - allow 30 minutes for the activity

* Venues
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
Terrace Rd
SK17 6DA
01629 533540

Green Man Gallery
Hardwick Square South
SK17 6PY

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is 125 this year and to mark that anniversary, the BM125 project will bring together experienced with new and emerging artists with 12 months of artistic initiatives
Whale Rider
Illustrations on this blog are extracts from bigger pictures by some of our Water people artists!
  • In the Water and The Land and the Sea are by Ruth Evans
  • Sea dancer is by Jo Thilwind - visit her work at Dreamspaceart on Facebook
  • Kelpie is by Gordon MacLellan (me!)
  • Feral Mermaid, photograph by Rob Young
  • Whale Rider is by Maria Strutz