These last few weeks have seen a whirlwind of activity as the Summer Reading Challenge workshops start running through their Mythical Mazes and Derbyshire Legends
But there have been other livelinesses as well…
Buxton Art Trail – telling stories surrounded by wonderful artwork in the woods of Grin Low. I was just there to tell stories: so many other people had added so many wonderful creations to the woods: a fleeting moment: 48 hours and they were all gone again. Congratulations to Ruby Moon for holding it all (holding us all!) together
Tiny! our Tiny! adventurers were back for another day of delightful craziness in the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton
Just telling stories: Brownies at Thornbridge Outside near Bakewell (audience over the day of c 150), in the Magic Storytelling Yurt for High peak Community Arts in the Buxton Festival (total audience: c 280)…and today in New Mills
and it is hardly surprising that in the middle of all this, after an exciting day preparing for Hen Harrier Day (10th August – get out there and soar like a Harrier), I subsided into a heap and slept for 24 hours and decided that i would have to forego the pleasures of Druid Camp. Apologies to anyone there who was dreading a Toad workshop. Another time?
Thursday 7th, Ogden Water Country Park: storywalks inspired by butterflies, bumblebees, bimbly-bees and the wild creatures of the woods (they have booked me, and i will be there even if I’m not on the programme!)
“Come and discover works of art along a waymarked trail in Grinlow woods, July 12th and 13th, with storytelling at the end of the trail. A bunch of local creators, dreamers, makers and arty folk have had much fun and frolics dreaming up woodland installations…………”
Grinlow Woods at Poole’s Cavern car park (Fringe Venue 94: on Green Lane in Buxton): 11 Jul 6pm to 10pm, 12 Jul 10am to 10pm, 13 Jul 10am to 6pm. Free
Further information: 07970 868 018
I am there telling stories on the Saturday: tales of tall trees and stone people, stories from the green shadows and the still pools and the dripping caves.
Times: I am due “on” in the story tent at 12, 2 and 4pm but this will be approximate!
Tiny! Wildness: the return of our annual, ever-so-slightly potty Tiny! adventures. Come and find us in Pavilion Gardens: we’ll be the ones sitting under a tree with flags, bunting and lots of bits. This year we’re going for a new set of Tiny! friends: aiming for nothing bigger than our hands. There might be heroic children, dragons, kings, queens and elephants. Who knows? We are sure some Tiny!PIrates will put in an appearanceSunday 13th
Free (and frivolous)
Pavilion Gardens (Fringe venue 33). “Search” for: “Pavilion Gardens, Buxton” and you’ll find us: 13 Jul 10:30am to 12:30pm, 2pm to 4pm Free, Ages 4+
Further information: 07825 177 355
Sunday 27th July
And on this day, I’m telling stories in the High Peak Community Arts Yurt in Pavilion Gardens but at the moment, I don’t know just where or when! Watch for details!
Wild, strange and dangerous days, these dog days of summer…As part of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, I’ve been doing workshops for Nottinghamshire and City of Nottingham Libraries making creepy houses and spooky landscape pop-ups. These have set out to inspire young people to tell us stories and to use the ideas they find in the books they read and apply these in other situations
So last Wednesday saw us creeping in Mansfield Library….
Then Thursday, I was plunging again into our Carboniferous past and leading workshops in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery as part of our Ancient Landscapes project. We were making puppets inspired by the animals of those prehistoric seas that gave us the limestone of the Peaks. A lot of creative license was exercised (not least over time periods and dates) and scientific presumptions challenged (how could anyone possibly know that trilobites were not rainbow patterned?)
Next Creeping Toad wildnesses
5th -16th August: summer residency at the Holly Lodge Centre in Richmond Park, Surrey: closed sessions not open for dropping in
20th August: more Spooky Towers and Creepy Houses: Aspley Library, 10 -12, Bilborough Library, 2- 4, Nottingham. Free, drop-in events – give yourself 45 minutes at least to make your pop-up spookiness
21st August:evencreepier houses, this time in Mansfield Library: 10.30 – 12.30 and 1.30 – 3.30. Again, free, drop in activities but give yourself time to do the making
22nd August, Sherwood Pines Country Park: away with the fairies, goblins and trolls: lively storywalks! Details, booking and prices: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-98FBDY
29th August: Ogden Water Country Park: more faeries, elves, goblins and trolls: telling stories, making up new ones, finding evidence of terrible enchantments and wild adventures and making tiny goblin puppets to take home and upset the neighbours….Details, bookings and prices: http://www.ogdenwater.org.uk/whatson.php
Next Ancient Landscapes events:
Tuesday 6th August: Winnat’s Pass Walk:exploring the millstone grits of the Dark Peak. Meet: Castleton Visitor Centre Car Park, S33 8WP, at 2pm. Walk 2 – 4pm, some steep slopes and off paved footpaths
OurAncient Landscapes project will be there among the Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Botanicals. We’ll be there with fossils to look at and draw, models to handle, people to talk to, a wall to stare at (just in case we can find anything!) and our usual exciting, messy, colourful and engaging creative activities
I’ll be there helping on the Landscapes stall but mostly to tell stories of farms and fields and the plants and animals and stranger inhabitants of the Dales and Moorlands
I’ll be on the Ancient Landscapes team will be at this National Trust event at Ilam Park
Tempting as it is, we won’t be “fossilizing fathers” but we may well invite you to look at some of the fossils we find in the limestone of the area, to make printed fossil cards for Dads, cast your own fossils (for anyone), make trilobite puppets and personal nautiloids….
Our activities are free but car parking charges apply. There are lots of other activities on at Ilam that day – but come and hunt us out!
Shells, fossils, wonders and marvels: join artist and storyteller Gordon MacLellan (that’s me!) and make your own collection of drawings and prints using tiny treasures, wonderful artefacts and fabulous fabrics from around the world
This is a Big Draw event: part of the world’s biggest celebration of drawing. Buxton saw a colourful draw on Saturday 13th in Pavilion Gardens. For our next pencil-driven adventure, come to the Museum on 31st and enjoy the latest exhibitions as well as our event. Look, peer, handle and maybe even sniff objects to handle: from African masks to ancient fossils, Australian seed pods to deep sea shells: a chance to draw, sketch and scribble your own set of pictures of a fascinating world.
Can you draw your way around the world in 10 pictures?
Or span the history of the Earth in 20?
Or why not just pause in a busy day, take up a pencil and relax for a few minutes!
No booking needed: just drop in (but give yourself 30 minutes to work in so don’t arrive right at the end of a session!
Children under 8 years old need to bring a grown-up with them, please
I tend to operate at a gallop most of the time and don’t give myself the time I need – and want – to do more of my own writing and other personal creative pursuits. So, I recognise a degree of envy in recommending to people to go and enjoy these products of other people’s creativity! Never mind! Buy a book, read a poem, visit a blog, regardless of some ol’ toad muttering into his fishtanks!
Three places and ideas to recommend
The Beauty in the Beast
A new book by my lovely hedgehog fried Hugh Warwick. Following A Prickly Affair (his book about a lifetime interest in hedgehogs), he has gone out and talked to people as interested (or as obsessed?) in other animals as he is in urchins. It is a wonderfully unexpected selection of (British) wildlife from solitary bees to otters, dragon flies, and house sparrows to foxes. I’ve hopped in there, too, as an amphibian voice
The Beauty in the Beast by Hugh Warwick, ISBN 978-0-85720-395-3
Ona quieter, and dare I say, more elegant note, why not visit Caroline’s site. Poet and delighter-in-wildlife, Caroline writes beautifully and has just launched this site about her work. The site includes “Peregrine” a poem inspired by the falcons nesting on Derby Cathedral and Highly Commended in the 2012 York Open Poetry Competition
And then I did manage to get some writing done! Hoorah! (well I enjoyed it) and then we had to edit the piece down, so I’m going to post the missing paragraphs below. These were the opening sections for a piece for the Summer edition of an on-line magazine, “Native British Spirituality”
“The purpose of this website is to provide a focus of re-connection with these islands – so that we make the land well, and the land makes us well. Our intention is to share our lived experiences of these islands, their cycles and seasons, the elements, sacred places, spirits of place, and native flora & fauna, defining ‘spirituality’ as ‘connection with Spirit’, or ‘alignment with Nature’.”
My piece is on the Air page and originally was due to start:
“Bright are the willow tops,
Playful the fish in the lake
The wind whistles over the tops of the branches
Nature is superior to learning”
All of a sudden, “getting out there and connecting with nature” seems to be the thing to do. BBC Wildlife is advocating “52 wild things to do this year”, the National Trust has “50 things to do before you’re 11”. Even staid Natural England is trying to get 1 million children out into the countryside (but not all at once). There is also another strand which turns the need to make connections with nature into an intellectual discussion with debates on “nature deficiency disorders” and the problems of environmental disassociation.
Of course, none of this is new. A lot of us have never stopped “connecting” with the world around us. Simple test: are you still breathing? Connected! Have you stopped breathing? Still connected. Cynicism aside, of course it is good to encourage people to go out, to get out, to enjoy this beautiful world we live in
And it is so easy. Renewing connections doesn’t need trips to National Trust houses or Natural England Nature Reserves. A garden would do it, or park or even shut a walk along a street….
As “Creeping Toad” a lot of my work is about celebrating the relationships between people and places and encouraging individuals, groups and communities to explore their connections to those places around them. We use activities like these, simple light-hearted adventures to invite people to step back into an awareness of the world
Working with young people, and very young children in particular, teachers, group leaders and other artists often shout about the value of working on large things. While I don’t dispute the excitement of big things and the value of changing scale and perspective, I find that little things have their own special delight and fascination
I think children (and adults, if I do a miniature books, tiny stories or very small treasures workshop) love the intimacy and secrecy of the small. Small activities can call just as much intensity and creativity as something huge and sprawling. It might be less cooperative and communal (but then there is still a sharing of ideas and helpful fingers to hold a fiddly box or fix the undergarments of an awkward pirate…..)
And Tiny! activities can give you Tiny! celebrations – so this year the Stone and Water team are back in Buxton Festival Fringe doing some Tiny! workshops with very small faeries, goblins and trolls. After Tiny! Pirates (2011) and Tiny! Lanterns (2010), who knows what delights, or horrors, some Tiny! Faerie Tales might bring!
A week of hectic workshops pushed African memories to the back of my mind for a while as I need to concentrate on the here and now of slightly mad puppet characters and their evolving stories*.
A whirlwind week with 5 days of workshops since last Monday including three Moorland stories sessions for Borderland Vocies (why not look at and join our Facebook group Moorland Stories), a noisy day making night-time mobiles to carry bats, owl and other excitements into your dreams, a dauntingly quiet day with the woodland Trust (but a chance to meet some excellent Woodland Trust rangers and the delightful Cath Aran, another storyteller )
And to-day, a pleasant workshop at Tittesworth Reservoir and maybe 40 people settling down to make puppet s- some to take away and some for us to keep….gradually accumulating numbers for our Moorland Stories Enchanted World of Puppets at the Just-So Festival
* The old woman who lives in Rock Hall in the Roaches and spends her time counting fossils, the mermaid who lives in Doxey Pool nearby, the Moorlands Bear and his endless quest for more honey, and the puppy who lost his voice – stolen by the frog in his throat……
Two training courses are growing on the Toad horizon just now
Courses like this are aimed at teachers, rangers, environmental education specialists and playworkers and, really, anyone who is looking for activities to deliver to a group of children (or families) along creative environmental themes
Workshops aim to offer participants the chance to experiment, to experience activities for themselves and to talk about resources, workshop patterns and the tricks that make for effective delivery
If you want to find out more about the content of a workshop, you are welcome to contact me, (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to book or make a booking enquiry, please contact the organisers
This workshop will include activities that can be used to help groups of all ages use language to explore, enjoy and celebrate their environment. We will play with words: creating stories, poems, instant adventures and terrible tales.
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
a day finding characters, making characters, turning ourselves into wild and wonderful things: a mixture of working with found and natural materials with alternatives using more traditional materials.
Our activities today will start with some first principles in puppetry, those little tricks that can turn just about anything into a character to send off adventuring, before moving on to improvising with piles of twigs, leaves and mud. As the workshop progresses we will add more intricate ideas, looking at shadow puppet landscapes and movements, at mask forms that lend themselves to a whole ecology of characters and wonderfully strange creatures who can wake up a wall of rocks laughing
The programme will include
first puppets: ideas for instant animation
improvising with natural materials: add string and a lump of clay and we’re off!
straightforward activities to incorporate into other sessions needing few materials
essential shapes and techniques to apply in other situations
more intricate forms of masks, puppets and shadow puppets for more determined workshops or public events
building giants: processes for making both big puppets and mosntrous masks
Families: unless otherwise stated, these events are aimed at family groups – stray adults are welcome to come and join us, too: to listen laugh and make things as suits.
Appropriate ages: If you are 7 years old or less, can you please bring a grown-up with you and don’t lose them during the session.
Stern word: I try to keep things as relaxed and cheerful as possible during sessions but I do reserve the right to ask people to leave if their behaviour disrupts the rest of the group and I generally recommend getting to a drop-in event at least 40 minutes before the scheduled end of the event as I often have to pack up and move somewhere else quite quickly!
Last minute bookings: I still have odd days here and there (some are very strange!) if you would like a session for your site or your own group. Contact me at email@example.com or 07791 096857 to find out more
Light up the woods
Plas Power Woods, Wrexham
Mixing lanterns, with woodland storytelling, campfire warmth and the thrill of wandering through a wood at night. You will find me deep in the woods, on a log by a stream telling stories of enchanted owls, tree-magic and occasional bears. This event is becoming a hugely popular annual event. Tickets are limited and advance booking is needed!
Another regular feature and another annual delight. Join us for an afternoon of delicious apples, orchards, stories, art, and baking apples and potatoes in the fire. Bring your own apples and you can scrunch them into the juice – bring your own chutneys and swap them or their recipes. I am here to tell stories and lead some Museum moments: we’re collecting apple thoughts and orchard stories.
Get inspired by the landscape of Cromford Mills and High Peak Junction and sketch, scribble or draw your favourite bits onto our big drawing. Using a variety of materials, we’ll work together to create an amazing picture, 20 metres or more long, that tells the story of this special place: the birthplace of the factory system in the valley that changed the world. Part of Derwent Valley Mills Discovery Days.
Calacas: make your own tiny Day of the Dead characters
In the final days before Hallowe’en, join me for an afternoon with tiny skeletal people. Inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead ideas, we’ll make little skeletal people doing everyday thigns…there may be skeleton footballers, musicians, ladies in ball gowns, gentlemen in tophats and tails – or ladies in tophats and gentlemen in ballgowns…who knows what way the bones will inspire us!
Green Man Gallery, Buxton (Hardwick Square south, , SK17 6PY
Cost £6.00 (accompanying adult free – but adults could always book a place and make their own Calacas!)
Drop in in person, or call: 01298 937375 (card payment).
And if you survive that, you might like to call in for
Boggarts and Freetings: spooky stories for Hallowe’en week
Still at the Green Man Gallery, between 5 and 6pm (more or less), £3 a ticket and stories for laughter, shock, delight and dismay and a nice shiver or two for the arrival of winter!
Wednesday 26th October
Explore the secrets of the skulls, learn to read the clues hidden in eyesockets, teeth and the bony curves of zygomatic arches and sagittal crests. Meet some skulls, draw some bones, take your own bone-folder home. (Bring your own mystery bones with you, if you like to baffle us – only nothing too drippy and messy, thank you!)
Buxton Museum’s Pop-up Museum will be there to, so come and see some of the Treasures of the Peak and talk to museum experts…
I’ll be there at the bony end of things!
A free family day
National Trust, Ilam
11am – 3pm. Free event but car parking charges may apply
Draw, colour, collage, etch and sketch your way around Pavilion Gardens as we celebrate the Big Draw in Buxton. Collect some materials from us by the Pavilion, then get exploring around the gardens and see what inspires your artwork. If it’s raining, there’s plenty to do and draw inside – from the wonderful winter garden to the bustle of the cafe and gallery.
Creeping Toad activities are tailored to suit your individual needs rather than chosen from a set menu of options. But, here are some examples of recent (2013 – 2015) creative adventures that might whet your appetite and give you some suggestions to shout at the Toad about…
pirates: environmentally-inspired pirates, finding nature’s treasures, writing pirate books, making maps, giant lantern pirate ships, parrots, puppets and lots of wildness: the Tiny! Pirates have appeared several times (working with Buxton community group Stone and Water), a judging panel of mermaids supervised sailing in Mottram St Andrew, pirate treasures inspired new stories… More pirate workshops »
challenging assumptions: ethics in environmental education session at Losehill Hall, Peak National Park
some fishy moments: in 2014 and 2015, with musician Steve Brown, I worked on a whole series of lovely river sessions with schools involved in the Ribble Rivers Trust’s “River in the Classroom” project, hatching trout for release back into local rivers. In September 2015, I was busy making pop-up rivers and finger-puppet river creatures at Scotland’s Salmon Festival
Festival of Outdoor Learning,Hollowford, Castleton: and msot eyars I’ll be at this lively weekend doing workshops that might be anything from making tiny books to spinning stories out of weather and wood..
homes: living in caves and castles: working with props, drama and sheer imagination: cave people in search of new homes, Stone Age lives, spooky houses and mysterious castles as part of the Summer Reading Challenge in 2013
adventures everywhere: using the school for inspiration to build a class adventure, finding stories everywhere, anywhere, out of anything
touring Scotland: I’m usually up in the Highlands twice a year, telling stories, making puppets, and enjoying the wild ideas and wonderful imaginations of children in schools and everyone on public events