On Saturday - a hideously rain-lashed Wuthery Heighty sort of a day - we had a splendid launch of my collection of watershed writing: 'The Cloud Appreciation Society's Day Out' in the watershed exhibition at Cliffe Castle. Becky Davies (Bradford Museums' Education Officer) had put on a good spread of grub and drinkies, and everyone tucked in - especially Morgan (the youngest audience member at 6 years old!).
I've done thousands of performances, so was caught by surprise at a sudden attack of nerves! But all the audience was really warm and listened with fabulous attention - thanks v v much to everyone! And I sold loads of books - so that was a great boost.
I am investigating possibilities of touring the watershed exhibition to Hebden Bridge and Littleborough, and if those venues go ahead, I'm sure I will do further performances there, but, if not then - very weirdly - this will be my last watershed event.
It's been an amazing 'gig' - this whole year of meeting fabby watershed people and having fun with them up on the moors, in textile, batik and writing workshops, performances and launches. A HUGE thankyou to all of you who've been involved, and to all those who supported me so much - you're all STARS!!!
I've just run a 2-hour creative writing workshop about the Watershed exhibition at Cliffe Castle, and can genuinely say that the group I worked with are the bravest I've ever met. Only one of them 'came out' as having any creative writing experience - the rest said they were scared of writing, and that it wasn't their 'thing'. And yet they threw themselves into the writing exercises I gave them, and, in the final exercise, many of us were in tears with the beauty, power, poignancy and bravery of the pieces they wrote about watersheds they had faced in their lives. They are SUCH a wonderful, and courageous group that they explored: breakdowns, ill husbands, agrophobia, being victimised, leaving husbands, birth of grand-daughters, the joys of retirement, the sheer number of emotional watersheds you had to face in your life just to get through it... It was one of the most moving workshops I have ever had the pleasure to be part of. So, WELL DONE to all the ladies of the 'Responses To Art' group!: Lillian, Sue, Lesley, Ann, Dinah, Chris, Anni, Sybil, Dania, Joan, Irene, Darryl, Susan, Jenny, Andrea, Marion and Suzanne - you're all STARS!!!
Bradford Museums 'Responses To Art' group - meets every month, to respond - usually through some form of visual art - to a current exhibition at one of Bradford's Art Galleries or Museums. They are a lively, and very welcoming group, and are always keen to have new members. You don't have to be brave - or white - or a woman - to join! For the full programme of events, contact Becky Davies (Education Officer) at Bradford Museums: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is Musarat Raza - the textile artist I am working with to inspire a multi-cultural group from Parkside Community Centre in Bradford about the moors. Today we ran a silk painting and batik workshop at Parkside - using these techniques to explore how to represent the moorland landscapes we saw (and felt and smelt and heard) last week. It was strike day, so all the participants children were off school - so they all came along too which was great. Everyone - after initial apprehension - got stuck in, and everyone produced several textile 'paintings' that represented their feelings about the moors. It was grrrreat to see them all get so absorbed in the task, and Musarat and I had a go too. Here are pic's of Wazika, Dennis (a surprise addition today to what I thought was just a women's group!), Brenda, then one of the kids, busy with their pieces. And then some shots of the work produced in just 2 hours!
Musarat will carry on working with the group over the next fortnight to help them finish off their pieces and get them ready to display in the foyer area of the Watershed exhibition at Cliffe Castle.
Sadly, partly because of breaking my ankle earlier this year, but mainly cos of being pulled onto loads of other Watershed projects, I shan't be able to work with the Parkside group any further. But it was ace to see them experiencing the full blast of the watershed's winds last week, and get sooooo engrossed in their artworks today. I am really looking forward to seeing their finished pieces up in the exhibition - go for it gals (and Dennis!).
It was great to see the Watershed exhibition at Cliffe Castle again yesterday - and to work with it and a fresh group of 'victims'! This was a multi-cultural group of Bradford women who I (and Musarat Raza - an excellent textile artist) then took up onto Rombald's Moor to experience the icy blast of moor wind, the smell of dying heather and sloppy peat, the feel of barbed wire and moss, and the singing songs that the wind made through the huge wireless towers up there - quite magical! Musarat and I will be working with the ladies in Bradford next week to help them respresent their feelings about the moors in writing and textiles. (Only one of them had ever been up on the moors before, and, although it was blooming freeeeeezing, they seemed to really enjoy it! There were women from Pakistan, Algeria, Germany, a Nigerian baby, a Kurdish woman, as well as white British women from Bradford - thanks to you all for withstanding that awful wind!)
It's fab to get the copies of my watershed collection of writing into my hot little hands! Do come to the launch at 1pm on Saturday 3rd December inside the Watershed exhibition at the gorgeous Cliffe Castle Museum. It's a free event, and I'll be performing from the collection, talking about my residency, and answering any questions - and you get to check out the whole Watershed exhibition too! All for FREE!
We made the most of being over in Ilkley in the pouring rain this afternoon, and so dropped in at Cliffe Castle to see the Watershed exhibition. I've been working in Spain, so missed the opening. Anyway, it looks ACE!! Here's some more of Janina's photos of my writing banner, one of the community groups' writing panels, and of one of the films in action. I do hope you're able to get along to see the exhibition cos it looks - and sounds FAB - Angie's artwork is stunning, and it's great to see how all the work has come together.
Really nice audience at this aft's performance from my new watershed collection of poems: 'The Cloud Appreciation Society's Day Off' (TSCADO).
This is an action shot of me making my excellent boss - Becky Davies from Bradford Museums Service - laugh!
I had just got the first proof of TCASDO back from my publishers, so I was able to take it along
How very fitting that, the day after I manage my first moor walk (after breaking my ankle back in July), I finish my manuscript of poems (and one short story) and send it off to my lovely publisher - Ronnie of Indigo Dreams. He is working furiously to get the pamphlet collection - entitled: 'The Cloud Appreciation Society's Day Out' out for December when I'll be launching it in the amazingly stunning Watershed Exhibition at Cliffe Castle. Hope you'll be there to cheer me on!
Yesterday I spent the whole day with the fabby Mark Wharton who is film-maker for the Watershed project. He is an ace guy - really easy to get on with, very professional, keen to try all sorts of things to get the best result, and always amazingly unobtrusive while filming. He's also a fanatical fell-runner, so he has a deep love of mud and the moors!
We worked all morning sorting through stills photos of all the groups I've worked with and all the shots I (and my partner Janina) have taken while out on Watershed walks - and figuring out a good set of short soundtracks and explanations to go with these. I wasn't at my most awake, having had a bad migraine the previous night, so I really hope Mark is able to edit some good nuggets from my drivvel!
Then I chose 6 of my Watershed poems - that seemed most relevant to the material we were working with - to read onto camera. We are both really hoping that the resultant series of short films will be like a chain of beads on a Watershed necklace - taking the exhibition audience into a deeper understanding of the moors, and how a writer like me works with both landscape and metaphor.
Then we went off down to the skatepark to capture images of skateboarders in action - they are one of the many groups I have been working with. Sadly there was only one skateboarder there, but the place was packed with a younger generation of BMXers and scooters who were all delighted to do their dare-devil stuff for Mark to capture!
Working at the skatepark has been the biggest eye-opener for me in the whole project - at first I found myself really nervous approaching all these very tall, late-teenagers who were so ultra-cool... wot on earth would they think of this white-haired 50-year-old woman coming up to them and asking them about the moors?!!! But how wrong could I be? They were a delight to work with - always polite, keen to help, interested and very interesting, and happy to share with doddery old me all the secrets of their skate-craft! Together we came up with the following rap - which sounds ace with them all chanting it together!
The language of wanting to fly
Inward heel flip
Fakie tail stall
Gap to tail
Fakie front Smith
And back for more
After filming at the skatepark, Mark and I 'hit' Mytholm Court - the sheltered housing scheme that I have been working with. Only 6, out of the usual 16, ladies were available cos of hols and hospital appts, but they were as delightful and feisty as ever - all asking which their best side was, and telling Mark that he had to airbrush them so they looked great!
So, exhausted, and with my poor ankle throbbing like it had been run over, Mark and I parted at 5pm, and he's now got a long editing process to go through to create that dreamed-for Watershed bead necklace!
This is a twite - will YOU be able to recognise it when u r next out on them thar hills?!
If you've been reading this blog, you'll probably remember my great excitement at meeting the splendid Charlotte Weightman who is busy with the Twite Recovery Project on the Pennine moors. We hit it off big time, so, since then, I have been busy working on a poem about her beloved Twite (singular and plural are both Twite).
I sent her the result late yesterday, and this is the delightful reply she's just sent me:
Just this moment read this, Char! How absolutely wonderful! It made me smile, laugh out loud, feel deeply nostalgic and tug at my heart with a great tenderness for this little bird's bravery.
I will so look forward to hearing it read aloud.
I'm quite sure that never before has this bird had a whole poem written about it. I, on the Twite's behalf, feel deeply honoured. I was intrigued as to where you'd got the associations from - many I recognised from our discussion, many were self explanatory when you know
about the bird, many were just....lovely!
Fab, many thanks. I'll let you know where it goes to!
I always love getting feedback from my readers - and when it's as joyful as this, it's utterly FAB!
Charlotte inspired me to write it in the structure I have chosen because she gave me such a wonderful mass of info about the bird's habitat, nesting and eating habits, migration, origins, etc etc, and clearly was soooo passionate about it. Until then, I had just considered it yet another smallbrownjob that I would never be able to identify! Anyway, I love being triggered off by someone else's passion - whether it is for making the perfect artifical hip joints (I worked with Thackray engineers capturing their stories about this), or collecting stamps on letters that have been brought up from wrecked ships (a friend of mine is the world expert on this!). So, when Charlotte said she was thinking of asking people to come up with the best collective noun for twite, I was hooked.
If (when!) you come to the Cliffe Castle exhibition, you will be able to hear me reading the twite poem - intercut (hopefully) with the delightful 'zwai-eeeet' chattering of the twite themselves. But since I know you just can't possibly last that long without bursting in anticipation (!), here it is:
An A to Z of twite
A seed pod
A Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz – for even
smallbrownjobs have to sleep sometimes
This is NOT a twite!
I stalked this poor little bird for about 5 min's (with a long lens) on a hay meadow up from my house, then proudly sent the photo of my 'twite' to Charlotte who said (very nicely!): "It's a meadow pipit - easily confused."
The photos at the top and bottom of this blog-post are by the excellent photographer Tim Melling who works on the Twite Recovery Project - you can see loads of his gorgeous photos on Flickr. Thanks for letting me use these shots, Tim - otherwise readers could have been waiting a VERY long time b4 I got a shot of a dear wee twite!
This IS a twite - eating one of its fav foods - dandelion seeds.
Char March - I'm a freelance writer and tutor. I am Writer-in-Residence for the Pennine Watershed Project, and this blog takes you through some of the work I've done in that role