Yesterday I was working again with Thorn Park School for Deaf Pupils in Bradford - getting to know Joy and Jeanette (the teachers I'll be working with) and some of their pupils. We even had a little game of fottie together!
My signing is rusty, but it started coming back to me with a vengeance when some of the cheekier lads started signing various dubious stuff at me!! They're a great set, and I'm soooo loking forward to taking them out onto Ovenden Moor where I've found a whole set of really interesting features and views that I hope will trigger off their imaginations.
I'll have a film-maker and soundman with me to document the experience, and we'll be flying kites, making up sign-poems, exploring the world of the Giants who sleep under the moor, and trying not to get blown away while we're there!
I'm still trying to get in contact with the Hebden Bridge teenage skateboarders who I'll be working with, and I've had another two sessions with the wonderful Saddleworth quilters - gathering their impressions of the high moors on a digital audio recorder and editing these down for the exhibition's soundtrack. They came up with some fabulous imagery and memories!
I'll also be working with an Asian women's group from Keighley later in the year, and elderly people who are residents at Mytholm Meadows - it'll be great to compare and contrast all these different individuals' and groups' experiences/ideas/feelings about the Watershed.
I've been busy gathering various 'treasures' off the moor - tiny pinches of peat and ground-down millstone grit; a burnt chunk of rushes (we've already had some very nasty morrland fires round my way); trumpet lichen and flowering bog cotton. I have these all over my desk as inspiration - bringing the moors right into my working space! And have been working on a series of Watershed poems - just first drafts as yet - since the workshop I attended run by last year's Watershed writer, Andrew McMillan.
I've also been taking masses of photos because I want to try to capture spring as it creeps up onto the moors - it's always weeks and weeks behind spring in the valleys, and currently the moors are still in their winter 'coat'.
I am loving going for walks across different parts of the Watershed as I grow my knowledge of the area, and also learning to tune in my ears, eyes and feet to really hear, see and feel the landscape - eg I can now recognise a twite at 100 paces - previously just an anonymous Small Brown Job! I can distinguish between curlew, grouse, lapwing and skylark really easily now - and am writing a poem using metaphors for their 'voices'. I am dredging up my old Environmental Sciences degree know-how about lichens and mosses, and the contents of sheep and rabbit poo, and enjoying getting right down to the eye-level of the rather lovely beetles that live under the heather!
Has anyone else noticed the sheer SIZE of bumblebees this year - they're jinormous! I think they've bulked up in a bid for moor domination! And have you all seen the glorious vermillion of the fruiting trumpet lichen this month - stunning! If not, here's a flavour:
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