Over the last 3 months, I’ve been dipping into a longer project organised by the Ribble Rivers Trust. Specially cooled aquaria were installed in 6 schools in Burnley who went on to hatch 100 trout eggs each so that the school communities can watch these first few weeks of trout-life before releasing the fish into the rapidly improving River Ribble
My friend, musician Steve Brown and I visited those 6 schools to write poems and stories and make music inspired by this process. The resulting artwork reinforced the experience and has been helping us share the excitements and anticipations of The Hatching with a wider public
“In the past, industrial and agricultural pollution as well as water abstraction and inadequate sewage treatment have caused severe habitat damage to the Ribble and its tributaries, to such an extent that the wildlife supported by the river has been put under threat. The Trust was established in order to enhance the water environments of the catchment, by restoring and protecting the river to make certain that future generations can enjoy the beauty of its wildlife and fauna.” – introduction from the Trust’s website
Activities began back in January with a day with the Canalside Community Association
Then, first sessions in schools, explored the early days of trout-life as the eggs hatched, golden pearls releasing tiny fry into the world and we wrote about rivers and made pop-up landscapes of riverbeds and redds (gravel bed nests where trout spawn)
This is a silver stream, so cool and fresh as can be
Fish eggs like little beads
Eels as big as santa’s bag of treats
The robins sing in such harmony
Freezing through the splashing, popping,
Water rushing stones
Huge strong rocks blocking the icy flow
Water smashing over rocks
Soaking the grass,
Running on into the pool.
Slowing down, running wider,
The river slips into a pool,
Dark ice-cold water
Deep water, calm water, ripples meandering,
Slow carp in deep pools,
Grasping weeds to pull you down,
Down to the stones where the eels live,
Small fish, silver fish, white fish darting,
Fast as arrows, lightning flickers
Kingfishers dive, chasing fish
Graceful swans glide across the pool,
Carp sneak like ghosts through weeds and water
Trout blend in brown as sand, as stone as shadows
Moss everywhere, under water, on the bank, over the stones, up the trees,
On the stepping stones where you wobble across the pool
Big trout hunting
Deep dark, cold as ice
Yellow lightning flashes,
Rain comes splashing down!
Every raindrop feeds the flood.
The river overloaded, bursting, flowing to the sea
A soggy disaster, dirty, nasty mess
Huge, wet, destroying, damaging We are left disgusted, exhausted, vulnerable
Ancient Landscapes is a partner project to Exploring with Stories and we thought you might enjoy the delights of a project bringing limestone to life
we’ve had a busy few days as the second phase of this project begins, or maybe as the tide runs again toward the full. (PIctures from the first phase can be found on my own Creeping Toad blog – I am Gordon MacLellan, is one of the workshop artists and disorganiser of a lot of the Stone and Water projects)
With Ancient Landscapes, we are looking at the limestone of the Peak District where we live and the fossils that rock contains. Then mixing observation, deduction and wild imagination, we work to create the original environments that spawned our limestone as installations in crochet, knitting, clay, beads, felt and anything else that takes our artists fancy!
Meanwhile, a new group has taken up the challenge of extending the ancient landscape and a session at Buxton Museum last week, led on to a workshop at Fairfield Community Centre today. Five more sessions will follow and then we’ll see just how our coral garden grows before it unfolds its glories again in the Buxton Art Trail in the summer
Our use of crochet in Ancient Landscapes was inspired by the global Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project (http://crochetcoralreef.org/) whose influence we acknowledge even though we couldn’t afford to sign into their network as a community group.
The connection between those techniques, other artforms and our Peak District landscapes comes from Stone and Water, a Buxton-based community group dedicated to celebrating the creativity of the people and landscapes of the Peaks.
Over the last year, I have been one of a team editing a book that has now been released. The Wanton Green is an exciting collection of essays from (mostly) British pagans exploring their relations to places
From the main Press Release:
From the lost magics and holy waters of London to bleak Staffordshire Moorlands; from childhood adventures in Rochdale to faeries in Devon and Cumbria, a new book, The Wanton Green, offers readers a different perspective on landscape
As our relationship with the world unravels and needs to take new form, or maybe to reconnect with an older pattern, The Wanton Green presents a collection of inspiring, provoking and engaging essays by modern pagans talking about their own deep and passionate relationships with the Earth. With contributions from 20 authors that range from Druids to Heathens, from Chaos Magicians to Witches, Shamans and Voudou Mambo, Wanton Green brings voices from the diverse and growing Pagan community of Britain to the environmental debate and promises food for thought and inspiration for the spirit
Contributors include Emma Restall Orr, Runic John, Robert Wallsi, Jenny Blain, Melissa Harrington, Graham Harvey, Maria van Daalen, Susan Greenwood and Susan Cross
a) direct from me £ 11.99 a copy, + £2.00 P&P for first copy and £1 per copy after that (cheques to Creeping Toad, or I can invoice you – address: 51-d West Rd, Buxton, SK17 6HQ
A few days working with Foundation Stage children at Annesley Primary School, Nottinghamshire.
With a theme “Children in other countries”, we set off on expeditions to make new friends:
We could fly in a ‘plane
We could drive in a car
We could ride on a donkey
Or hang onto a motorbike
We could sail in a boat
Or gallop in a horse
We could squeeze all of us onto one elephant
Or have an elephant each
Or we could sit on a flying carpet
Children went off exploring, finding other adventures, other animals, other children
One group went to cold places and made a tent and a campfire. They cuddled up with polar bears at night to keep warm. They met wolves and bears and many friendly animals
In Africa. another group saw lions, but were not afraid, although on person was scared of elephant noises
Working in the school garden, we made those tents, built those shelters, found homes for monkeys, frogs and crabs, assembled that picnic ( nuts, apples, leaf-ice-cream), photographing and drawing the results. Eventually we made friends with other children and recorded our adventures on pop-up cards with grown-ups doing the writing because when you are 4 years old it’s useful to have minions to do those sort of things….
And Jack (3 years old) said: The eagle and the owl are friends,
I am even more elusive than usual just now for people looking for workshops for adults or professional training sessions. (You can always set up your own training course and book me for that!). Most of the following events are still being finalised so come back to this page to find out more or drop me an email and I can let you know details as they confirm
Workshops in the diary just now for the next few months include:
Lights, Words and Inspiring Places, 4 – 6 November, near Dunkeld, Perthshire. Drawing ideas out of the November weather and from mountains, moors, stream, wood and stone to give us words, to shape poems, spin stories, making quick puppets and holding the essence of autumn in tiny lanterns, printed tissue and leaf-lightcages.
Wild Words: planned for early December, a one day workshop down in the West Country: playing with words, making stories, building books. Details to be confirmed – contact Gordon for more information
Institute for Outdoor Learning, March 2012, Hollowford Centre: probable workshops on this exciting event
Southend Educational Trust, Essex, (tentative) April 2012, a day working with school grounds and finding ways of inspiring literacy through playgrounds, playing fields, flowerbeds and vegetable plots. Details to be confirmed
2 weeks in South Africa, old friends, new friends, new workshops and an exciting new centre to work with
The Re-imagining festival in Grahamstown was part of the annual National Arts Festival exploring new perspectives on the environment and social change in South Africa. I always find when I visit this beautiful country that people are full of new ideas, new ways of looking at issues. Visiting RSA challenges me to look at what I bring to sessions and inspires me to find my own new perspectives and gives me new things to think about
Re-imagining addressed sustainability education by opening up spaces for discussion, space to listen think, talk and share.
My role: to work with local children on building stories, not with serious outcomes but to help children (and anyone who wanted to join in) to let their imaginations go, to find a degree of imaginative freedom and confidence in their own value as thinking creative people
So we used our immediate environment for inspiration and shaped new stories, made animals with our fingers, shaped characters out of leaves and scrap card and found adventures everywhere from the centre’s leaf-shaped pool to the caves of a rockery and a recess in a wall
and in the quiet spaces between sessions, and between shows and exhibitons in the wider festival, I let my own imagination wander
draw inspiration from Townenely Hall in Burnley, add a sense of place from Geraldine Pilgrim’s Not Forgotten exhibition, stir in some exciting wintry weather and season with the unfettered imaginations of local schoolchildren.
Blend well and simmer backwards for some 440 years to uncover the adventures of the large Towneley family from the late 1500s…
From November 2010 through to March 2011, I am working in Burnley, Accrington and surrounding areas to distil stories from the experiences of children living in the wonderful Towneley Hall in Burnley in the late 1500s. Trying to describe what is going on feeds in almost too many explanations- the Prince’s Foundation, Mid-Pennine Arts, the Kicking Leaves Festival….. so I’ll link them in for visitors to pursue for themselves
Most important are the stories that are unfolding: madcap capers on snowy paths with Elizabethan sledges, naughty children swinging on chandeliers, naughty children being punished by polishing those same chandeliers, climbing out of windows on ropes made out of their sheets. The ghostly knight who was killed while on guard duty and who still stands guarding the Hall, atching the world from that little window there…..
Some examples of work arising are attached and hopefully more will follow!
a storymaking residency for Mid-Pennine Arts as part of the Kicking Leaves Festival, supported by the Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts
a collective set of stories from Broadfield School
Environmental storytelling, art and celebration – Education, Training & Workshops