Monday, 7 May 2018

a well-ravelled workshop

 Ravelling a workshop

Ready?

Even after all these years and so many workshops that I lost count several centuries ago*, I am still fascinated by the process of planning and delivering a session. Not so much the practicalities: time it, shape it, structure the process; or the preparation: sharpen the pencils, cut this many pieces of that card, that many pieces of this card. String. What intrigues me is the emotional process that I still put myself through, the knotted trail of ups and downs that goes with every workshop or series of workshops

The moments….
  •     being over prepared - almost aways, too much is better than too little
  •     forgetting to do things: I’ll have said it to myself, it will have been added to the main list, then to the last minute list, I’ll have recited it in the “packing the car reminders to self” list but get to the venue and the owl-whistle will still be sitting on the desk at home, brooding in that way that only owls can
  •     kicking myself: there are always other things that I’ll have decided against and then regret: “O, I won’t need the big bag of story rugs for this session, we’ll be indoors/outdoors/not sitting down for long/in a lovely space anyway,” and, come the moment, I’ll be looking at a bleak floor thinking “a bit of colour would just shift all this into the 'special occasion'” moment
  •     panicking a bit
  •     let out clauses: “if I get stuck in a traffic jam”, the school’s pipes have burst and we all get sent home (has happened), I get half way there and school closes ‘cause of snow ( that has happened too), the school has forgotten, key teacher is off sick, visitor centre forgot to advertise the event, someone else is off sick, general panic…..what are the excuses that run through my head - the let out clauses that say “I was all ready for this but it didn’t happen”…I want an excuse to run away
  •     what if, what if…what if….the doubts are good because I still care: a reflection that what i am doing still matters to me. There is confidence here. I know I can tell this story or that other one. I know that in a moment I can change tale or activity, that i can hold (most) groups and they will join in the adventure, but I still twitch before it all begins
  •     having the confidence to let go and trust the group I am with. That has come with time and experience
  •     breathe and breathe again, take a deep breath, feel the earth beneath my feet. I work barefoot whenever possible: the earth is a reassurance and helps me feel anchored….

Overall, however, I embrace the endless challenge of new people. They are always new people. I can tell the same story 10 times, 100 times, and responses are still surprising. There is a lovely grisly tale from North Uist (look it up on a map) of a heroic girl, a bold cow and a doomed romance where the group suggest endings and even within the parementers of the story (as opposed to suddenly bringing in aliens or, as this week, an anvil) people still come up with solutions that i have not heard in the hundred times I have told the story before. The people are always new. My activities, even my spoken lines, are based on experience but I try not to hold the past against the present: what  one group did may never be repeated, what this group now might offer could be completely new. The formulae used are there to set a process in motion, not to dictate the outcome

That is where the joy lies: in the unexpected creativity of people




A workshop is woven from worries and activities, themes, inspiration, hope and sticky tape. A well-ravelled workshop might unravel as it goes along but that would be part of its own adventure
*no, of course not, but I’m a storyteller. exaggeration goes with the territory

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Springful of toads


A springful of toads


Still pool mirrors sunlight,
Catches clouds, conceals passions,
Toads in mud and hearts.


In June Last year, Creeping Toad started a new project called Toadwords. It has hibernated with its namesakes over the last few months so as we all wake up into spring (I do hope, however, you’re not all sitting in ponds, spawning), I thought I would give it a shake and see if we can’t find a few more poems. There have already been soem wodnerful pieces of writing. If you "search" this blog for "Telling Toads" that should call up thee alrier entries - or that link might have worked as well

So, a challenge: we have just passed National Haiku Day (UK, yesterday). So why not get out there and enjoy some sunshine and write an amphibian Haiku? If you can’t see any of our damp friends, look at the places they love: your overgrown garden, your compost heap, or the places of peril and dread, places that are dessicating deserts for a delicate skin….

Conventionally, Haiku have 3 lines of counted syllables: 5, 7, 5. (traditional Japanese) or 10 - 14 syllables overall (English). But I was advised (by a Zen Buddhist monk) not to be trapped by structure and think of 3 lines that contain 2 observations, a pause and a reflection….take what you will and have a go!

Email them through, please! toadwords@btinternet.com

 Or just feel amphibian and be inspired!

Walking a long road
Toadman.
Todman.
Toad Whisperer.
Frayed boots on a hard road,
Fingerless gloves and a long coat,
Black hat shades darker eyes.
A measured step, 
An ageless amphibian patience,
And a bag of toadbones in his pocket,
The Toadman will tell
The secrets you hid,
The treasure you lost,
The love you hunger for.
He’ll tell, he’ll always tell,
Your tale to the toads.
But bribe him well,
Pay him with coin,
With food,
With favours,
Never to let the frogs know.


The original project outline is here, but below is part of it…

In this, the Froglife Year of the Toad, here at Creeping Toad, I am inviting people to add their own creative ideas to a collection of Toad (and frog and tree frog,) stories and poems.  Initially, we will aim to encourage people to share these beyond the blog where they will appear, to read them aloud, to tell stories, declaim poems by ponds and generally celebrate Toads and their cousins.


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. The decision to launch a Year of the Toad campaign grew out of the research presented in a Froglife paper: http://www.froglife.org/2016/10/06/goodbye-mr-toad/ while the wonderful (and not always sad) book In Search of Lost Frogs by Robin Moore is a great way of connecting to the issues confronting individual species across the Earth. Robin’s book is reviewed on this blog, here

Monday, 16 April 2018

Stories everywhere and other adventures


optimistic toad

Stories, masks, monsters and puppets

Creeping Toad training courses this summer


This blog has been quiet for a while but now with spring on the horizon and toads in the ponds, it’s is time to start posting events for y’all to join in with - maybe

There are two training courses are growing on the Toad horizon just now
Courses like this are aimed at teachers, rangers, environmental education specialists, 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, (creepingtoad@btinternet.com) if you want to book or make a booking enquiry, please contact the organisers.

If you are interested in hosting something similar in your own area, 
contact me at the creepingtoad address

collecting a knight's tale

Stories Everywhere
4th July 2018, Dartington Estate, Totnes
Organiser: Wildwise: http://wildwise.co.uk/training+.php?nID=18&n_start=0
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.
found objects and treasures map an adventure

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
Rates:
£80 | £95 | £120 *
* rates for individuals / voluntary-charitable organisations / businesses


finger creatures and head animals

Puppets, masks and monsters
5th July 2018, Dartington Estate, Totnes
Organiser: Wildwise: http://wildwise.co.uk/training+.php?nID=18&n_start=0
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.

boggarts will keep an eye on our making
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
Rates:
£80 | £95 | £120 *
* rates for individuals / voluntary-charitable organisations / businesses

toads adrift in a village pond

Sunday, 25 February 2018

A gleaming stone

A wyrm uncoils and Grendel's Mum sighs...

Adlington Primary School

Fallibroome Creativity Week

 We started with Grendel, a good place to start, unravelling the mystery of the dweller in the swamp, alliterating the patterns of his life and his mother, and weaving our own heroic adventures.


on the outskirts of Jotunheim, in a wild wood where dark shadows moved,
slimy samon surfaced in the shallow river where wombats wobble in the wicker weeds




In a deep, dark forest,
Tall trees tower in a wailing wind
While the wolf wove his path through the blackness






And through a cave where strange creatures crept in sinister shadows
Spiders spun stunning webs while waiting to snare slimy slugs
And have them for their terriic tea




A river rushing, racing, raging over round rocks dashing down, down, down into
the deepest darkest swamps where savage snakes are joyfully jogging and jumping

A crumbling castle on a crumbling crag where
Wandering werewolves wailed and terrorized the trembling townsfolk

We moved onto artefacts, choosing treasures from my hoard: shells, brass shoes, horns, a goblet, a chest, a tankard made of pewter, another of horn, the dark glass of a necklace salvaged from the windswept wreckage of a viking longship


It’s a masterpiece from a mermaid who paints. It was given to me by the mermaid herself on a journey through a mystical ocean. Gold fish with delicate tails are painted onto the blackness of the wondrous sea stone with grace, care and skill. The gleaming fish are a glittering gold and look lke queens in the blackness. And when I hold it the centre shines like the sun as it sinks below the horizon.


the beginning of a wonderful wolfskin story
 
With many thanks to the teachers and artists of Adlington, and to all the schools I visited in  Creativity Week. i took lot of photos which my camera seems to have  eaten them!
 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

How many mermaids


How many mermaids?

Unfinished Poems and

 a make your own mermaid event 

 

Doxey Pool (c/o Adrian Lambert)

From the beautiful but dangerous maid in deep, cold Blakemere on Morridge to the golden-haired temptress guarding her treasures in the Kinder Downfall, to the more recent and more sinister tales from Doxey Pool on the Roaches, we have a rich legacy of watery people here in the hills. Flowing out of the hills and onto the Cheshire plains and here are stories of a waterspirit in Redesmere and tales of the Asrai, a tribe of water people in the waters of Cheshire and Staffordshire.

At Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, we have a dramatically something mermaid. Beautiful say some, hideous say other, less tactful, visitors, fascinating say a few but always worth stopping and having a good stare at…

Our mermaid is a Victorian fancy: a construction of wood and wire, human hair, seashells, bone, leather and fish skin, the years have not treated her well but she still intrigues and provokes

Find out more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-17038668

Over the last few months, among other activities at the musuem, i was running an "Unfinished Poems" project which has unfinished itself for now - we hope to revive it again - and I am slowly working my way through the 50 poems that came in. (some have already been published on this blog, go questing....)

Visitors could pick up one (or more!) of 8 postcards with a drawing and two lines to start a poem about a particular aspect of the museum display. Their poem could use those two lines as a launching point, or they could ignore it completely...We wanted to over people a different challenge,  different way of looking at and thinking about the collection.

Here are a mermaid set…

1. Travelling wonder, a sideshow delight

In fish and bone and monkey leather,

My path links the underground rivers and pools of the Peak,

I’m the mermaid of the heather

2. Travelling wonder, a sideshow delight

In fish and bone and monkey leather,

This is a creature you must not miss,

Like modern mermaids, all artifice.
(Susan Crane)

3. Travelling wonder, a sideshow delight

In fish and bone and monkey leather,

Her partner’s a merman but keeps out of sight

So pooling their resources whatever the weather
(John Goodwin, 1/11/17)
 
4. Travelling wonder, a sideshow delight

In fish and bone and monkey leather,

It will be out tonight

But only if clear weather


And just to keep your mermaid appetites well-whetted, we are having a Make your own mermaid (or seamonster) activity 
at the Museum. 
Thursday 22nd February 2018

10am - 12 noon

Free, no booking needed, just dive in 
and make your own sea-person to swim away with


5. Travelling wonder, a sideshow delight
In fish and bone and monkey leather,
A bewildering sight

With many thanks to all our poets, named or anonymous!


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

stories the bones told me

Tales of the Wonders

a world of cave bears and shadows

booklet £5.00 (includes UK P&P)

from creepingtoad@btinternet.com


During 2017, I was one of a team of artists working on an Arts Council England funded project at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. “Collection of the Artists” invited us to respond to the museum’s collection creatively, exploring different themes through the artefacts in the museum and the local landscapes they came from

COTA has drawn to a close now and the finished works can be seen in the museum or accessed through its digital platforms (see list below).  I joined the COTA team as a storyteller and poet and had cheerful times talking to visitors, working with schools and other groups and simply sitting with bits of the Collection or wandering across hills and hiding in holes to listen to the stories the bones were telling me….

The resulting work from me can be seen in the Museum, accessed through the digital platforms (see the Wonders of the Peak app) or you can get your own copy of the collection either direct from me or from the Museum
As a taster, here is one of the pomes from Tales, for the stories you need to get the whole booklet!

Revealing
Time gently and untidily shelves
The memory of
Barrows and tunnels,
Treasures and tollroads,
Until all that is left
Are the bones and bits,
We sift from the debris of centuries
And the ghosts of facts,
And the stories we tell .



“Tales of the Wonders” is a 24 page A5 booklet including a selection of stories and poems inspired mostly by the prehistoric sections of the collection. My theme was “home”, wondering how people made new connections to places as wandering mesolithic peoples settled into our Peak District landscape as farmers and hunters, leaving marks on the landscape that we can still find and visit today. How did the Peaks become “home”?

Here is a story of the fox cubs who first found closed-in Fox Hole Cave as a sanctuary. Here is the last day of the people of Fin Cop and a Neolithic lullaby from Liff’s Low. There are poems from the waters of the Buxton and the old woman wandering the Gardens here who has been prehistoric healer, Roman goddess and Edwardian well-woman. Here are cave bears and compasses and walking away from the wandering herds….
Doxey Pool and storyteller, photo by Adrian Lambert


The COTA team

  • Potter Caroline Chouler bound bone from Fin Cop into bowls 
  • Richard and Amanda from Kidology, played the dreams of cave lions and landscapes and captured the precision of crystals
  • Textile artist Seiko Kineshito has hung the colours and textures of the peaks in a cabinet
  • Metalworker Simon Watson shaped ideas into bronze
  • I was there as a storyteller and poet
  • and photographer Adrian Lambert had the challenge of catching us doing all of the above!





Monday, 11 December 2017

Lanterns in a Cheshire twilight


Twilight Walk,

Rudheath and Witton,

2nd December 2017

There was willow, and glue and children wrapped in wet tissue (accidentally!). Stained glass glowing blue in tall windows inspired echoing shapes in spired lanterns. There were arches for imagination and carvings, and presents and snowmen. There were reindeer and there was more glue and permanent pens and the delicate flicker of a tiny light


We were making lanterns. Looking for the shapes and structures of Rudheath in winter, for the excitements of Witton, for the sense of “what makes the middle of winter special for you”. Starting with an open day in St helen’s Church in Witton, we went on to work with nearly 300 people in local schools (family sessions brought parents, grandparents and carers in to join the making) and at the garden project at Grozone.

Our lantern walk day began with rain and a waterlogged field. We lost a musician to illness (just for the day, nothing permanent!). We nearly lost our route to a locked gate. But the rain stopped, the wind settled and a glorious full moon burned the clouds silver and the shadows of church, cemetery and river-side willow trees took us and at least 100 visitors out into the night

We recited poems, wandered, told stories, wandered a bit more, made up new stories (the ghostly Lantern Parade of Rudheath, the stout iron fences that hold the bramble creatures off the paths) and we had a beautiful evening of lanterns and laughter in the twilight. And at the end, Grozone received us with a burning brazier and welcome hot chocolate


Thank you! Thank you to the schools who hosted us and to St Helens Church who offered space to work in and a meeting point to gather at. Thank you to Grozone for taking us into their moonlit garden. Thank you to our artists and volunteers who smiled their way through willow-bend and tissue slap. Most of all, thank you to our makers and walkers, to the people of Rudheath and Witton who came and made their lanterns and to those who braved an uncertain evening with such enthusiasm.



This was the last major public event out the Creeping Toad Do It Together project for Rudheath and Witton Together. There might be other activities next year (we are still in discussions) but probably not in the same format as this year. Another Lantern Walk? O, yes please! We would nred to find some new funding for this but I would certainly be prepared to help organise a proejct and help the hunt for that funding, so any Rudheath or Witton people or community group who might like to be involved, let me know!  Contact Gordon on creepingtoad@btinternet.com
ready for a Twilight wander


Thanks to our friends in the lantern walk:
Grozone
Rudheath Primary Academy
St Helen’s Church, Witton
Victoria Rd Primary School
Witton Church Walk CE Primary School
and of course
Rudheath and Witton Together
who made it all happen!

Photos
All these photographs are c Simon Birdsey for Rudheath and Witton Together. People in individual shots are included in our photo permissions file but if you are one of those individuals and would like the images removed, please contact me directly: creepingtoad@btinternet.com






the company assembled