Sunday, 18 September 2016

A crocodile of words

A crocodile of words  
and the 
spinning plate of death
a moment of peace at Chanonry Point
there were bits...

Following on from a woodful of stories, last week dropped me into a whirlpool of schools and groups, classes and bits. Bits and bits and more bits.There were witches and monsters, tales out of old Scotland and relics of Robert the Bruce’s last meal. I have roamed from Auldearn to Strontian with Inverness in-between and have ended up in Dollar.

Inspired by Krindlekrax, in one class we created a crocodile of words:
Midnight and thunder and lightning,
A pebble-dashed log,

A creeping camera flash,
Pointed as needles,
Waiting like a cave.

We got the words down first as the scales then swallowed excitement in colour and shape and set one little group off creating their own crocodile….

We told stories of Old Scotland and made new Lost Tales of Old Scotland with the old woman who defended herself with a plate, with this very plate here, spinning it like a frisbee to slice the heads off her attackers. There were enchanted frogs, wonderful treasures, mysterious rooms and dangerous children…there were even a few aliens who came down and spirited away a whole class

And finally, I spent a day at the Three Lochs Book and Arts Festival in Strontian where stories unfolded between the mountains and the lochs

Thanks and delights to the artists and storymakers of Auldearn Primary, Dalneigh Primary, Balloch Primary, and the Ardnamurchan schools

precision drawing

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A woodful of stories

On tour, 
northern Scotland 
September 2016
a cloth, a drum and a kettle: ingredients for adventure
the terrible tongue fisherman

Down in the woods, on a boat in a pool, an angler hopes for sharks as he dangles his long tongue in the water. His friend launches baited hooks from his two rods, because of course you need two lines when fishing for octopus. 

a watchful tree
But the tree people watch, a dangerous squirrel broods, a unicorn that poohs rainbows canters by and a lone wolf-cub wanders through the woods of Evanton, wondering if she is the really the last wild wolf in Scotland. The situation, escalates: the fisherman's mast topples over, throwing him into the water but striking the matches in his bag setting a forest fire in motion,
causing a general stampede, 
attracting a passing dragon (romance on the horizon),
calling for unicorn rainbow rescues, 
a small twiggy firelog who extinguishes the fire with his eyes  
but that annoys the dragon, 
while the squirrels are peeing on the embers but  (I hope you are following this, there will be a test at some point)
one ember hatches a new, golden, dragon, 
and then the woodland fairies offer wolfhood to anyone who fancies it and the woods erupts into werewolves (or squirrelwolves, and treewolves and barkwolves.....).
So at the end, the fisherman is eaten by tadpoles, the wolf has a fmaily and two dragons fly off into the sunset and there is a party in the wood....
busy puppeteers
I’m back up in the north, telling stories, making puppets and generally leading people astray all over the place. Excitements his week include lots of chidlren in Rosebank Primary School and then two days with Evanton Community Wood: a school storywalk, a teacher-training session and then a day of public events where about 100 people joined us for messy, cheerful, leafy, twiggy, storyful sessions
A pause now on the Black Isle to gather what few wits I’ve ever had and prepare for another week of liveliness - and for the 3 Lochs Festival on Friday
props waiting for stories to unfold around them

Thanks to all the children, teacher,s parents and 
puppeteers of Rosebank and Evanton

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Old images, new photographs

Reimaging the Peaks
revisiting the work of the early travellographers

A Knowledge Seeker Workshop for
Collections in the Landscape
Sunday 9th October, 9am – 5pm
in  Cressbrook, Derbyshire, 

Chee Tor
Over the last few hundred years, The Peak District has become a destination of choice for visitors from Edwardian visitors “taking the waters”, through the days of Victorian empire and right up to the present. Early prints of the Peaks promoted the area as “the Alps of England” and revealed craggy peaks, sheer mountain passes and picnics with dairymaids and wandering cows…In this workshop we’ll start with some of those wonderful prints, working onwards and outwards to visit those sites and capture their 21st Century moments with a 21st Century photographic eye

This workshop is one of a series of Knowledge Seeker workshops being organised as part of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s Collections in the Landscape (CITL) project. With a grant from the Heritage Lottery, the Museum is changing the way people can access the Collections. As well as physical changes to the Museum itself, collections are going on-line and a series of apps will encourage people to connect places with Museum treasures even when they are out walking in the Peaks

This workshop is free but places are limited and need to be booked. 
Rocks in Middleton Dale

The workshop will be led by Chris Gilbert a Peak district photographer with his own distinctive view of our landscapes. 

More about Chris
 “I am a Landscape and Nature Photographer and I live in a small village called Cressbrook, which is in the middle of the Peak District National Park. When it comes to working with the wonderful landscapes of the Peak District there's nowhere better to be.

For as long as I can remember I have been interested in art and have been a keen photographer for over 30 years. I made the move to being a full-time in 2006 and my focus is now very much on the Peak District. As well as pursuing my own interpretation of the landscape around me I also work closely with the Peak District National Park through the
Peak Photography Gallery in Bakewell.

I feel very strongly that I have developed my own style and approach to Landscape Photography and I bring this into my coaching. In the last few years I've met and worked with a lot of great people and simultaneously introducing them to both photography and the wonderful landscape of the Peak District has been a privilege and a pleasure. Seeing how their work improves after they have worked with me is incredibly satisfying and for me is a great validation of my methods.
In recent years I have featured regularly in the shortlisting stages of national level photography competitions. I was shortlisted for the Take-a-View Landscape Photographer Of The Year award in 2009. In 2012 I had two pictures shortlisted for the National Parks Organisation 'Beautiful Britain' competition and I was also 'Commended' in Take-a-View, featuring in the publication for 2012's competition. In 2015 I was shortlisted for Outdoor Photographer Of The Year. My work has also been published by National Geographic.”
Ashwood Dale

Friday, 26 August 2016

Hoards and Secrets

Hoards and secrets,

beasts and beauties

Dove black.
Dove holes.
Dove Dale.
Old sockets in a mountain skull,
Moss grown and lichen edged,
Drip, dripping, lime-sodden water, and
Water-sodden stone.
From “The Hills are waiting” 

Dovedale has long been a place for secrets. These limestone hills with their deep dales and water-worn caves are ideal places to slip away and set to rest those treasures you would keep safe from invaders or marauders or family perhaps or friends….who knows why someone buried a bundle of 26 coins in that cave high in the wall of the dale nearly 2,000 years ago. Since then, who knows how many thousands of visitors trekked up the path, and under the arch and into Reynard’s Kitchen Cave. Despite all those feet, all those inquisitive eyes, all those weary souls slumping on the floor for a rest, this fox cave* kept its hoard secret and safe until only two years ago.

And then there was us! On a stunning summer’s day with visitors streaming up the path from the carpark to the Stepping Stones, armed with picnic baskets and blankets and inflatable canoes and fishing nets and buckets and excitement, we were there. A pop-up museum and a supply of treasure chests and time to talk.

Hoards and Secrets was a day about discovery: encouraging people to look at Dovedale as that place of secrets: what would you hide? What do you value so much you would make sure none of the above could make off with it? Where would you hide it? 

My colleague Sarah and I were there as part of the outreach events side of the Collections project while Joe Perry and Laura Waters from Buxton’s Museum’s Collections in the Landscape museum-based team were braving the Dale with some “real” treasures (relatively speaking): crinoid fossils, a bison’s tooth, black Ashford Marble plate, pottery sherds, a Blue John egg….

ephemeral treasures, lasting delights
A day for talking and holding and turning things over and getting fingers covered in lustrous pink paint. While some folk talked treasure, we were making treasure chests and sending people off to peer and poke and think and wonder and decide what they called treasure (without becoming a force for the violent erosion of the dale)

some treasures were more alarming than others

Earlier this week, I had another day outside: in the rain this time. A day for Building Beasts and Beauties as part of Ness Garden’s Family Sculpture Week. There, in the shelter of the trees, we shaped leaf strings and leaf roses, and laughed our way into woodland characters that no-one had ever met before. There were swarms of twig-spiders, some cheerful cone-hogs, a giant leaf-python,  a Wood-witch with a most impressive nose and more….

Summer holidays: fun, frivolity and and a chance for some gently cheerful family learning….  

*just a few miles up the dale is Foxhole Cave, another place for secrets and mysteries that I visited back in April. 

Many thanks to the National Trust for allowing us to creatively provoke their visitors in Dovedale

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

what shape would your dragon take?

Dragon Days

Tuesday 9th August 


The Green Man Gallery, Buxton

breathing fire and biting....

This dragon,
That dragon,
My dragon,
Your dragon
From winged wyverns to
Creeping orms,
From pearlescent wyrms
To occasional cockatrices
And the flapping, flying, ferocious splendour
Of a Dragon Queen

What shape will your dragon take?

Join me on a storytelling journey to discover the last dragons of Derbyshire with stories and puppet-making.
Make your own little dragon with its own nest or cave and collection of treasure.

Time: 11am-1pm

Ages: 8-12 (Ages 6-7 welcome with an adult - we will need some dragon food!).


Please book a place:
01298 937375

Green Man Gallery

they might have wings
Facebook link:

Part of the Buxton Family Festival, download a programme for the whole festival here

the beauty of a legless wyrm, the wonder of an adder

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Where will your dragon live?

Dragon Days
Tuesday 9th August
Green Man Gallery

model cave for a dragon's lair

This dragon,
That dragon,
My dragon,
Your dragon.
From treasure caves in mountain hearts,
To ruined castles with crumbling keeps.
From towering cliffs where the seabirds scream,
To dark woods where wolves still howl.
From hot, sand-blown, shifting dune deserts,
To the frozen wastes of the Polar Bear King.

Where will our dragons live?

a dragon in a palace?
Join me on a storytelling journey to discover the last dragons of Derbyshire with stories and puppet-making.
Make your own little dragon with its own nest or cave and collection of treasure.
Time: 11am-1pm

Ages: 8-12 (Ages 6-7 welcome with an adult).

Please book a place:
01298 937375

Fee: £6.00

Venue: Green Man Gallery

Facebook link:
Part of the Buxton Family Festival, download a programme for the whole festival here
Family Festival prog
there was a dragon whol lived by a waterfall...


Friday, 29 July 2016

The dragons are coming!, 1

dragon skin as rough as rocks?
Dragon Days 
Tuesday 9th August
The Green Man Gallery 

dragon hearts as green as leaves?

This dragon,

That dragon,
My dragon,
Your dragon.
From sunrise golden to
Midnight black,
From submarine shimmer to
Pondslime green,

What will your dragon look like?
dragon scales as gold as autumn leaves?
Join me on a storytelling journey to discover the last dragons of Derbyshire with stories and puppet-making. 

Make your own little dragon with its own nest or cave and collection of treasure.

Time: 11am-1pm
Ages: 8-12 (Ages 6-7 welcome with an adult).
Price: £6

Please book a place: 01298 937375
Fee: £6.00

Part of the Buxton Family Festival, download a programme for the whole festival here

The Green Man Gallery