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.
Last week I had an intense technical meeting with Bradford Council staff all about projectors, sound systems, size of exhibition boards, acoustics, listening posts, and all the logistics that go into a big exhibition - a bit daunting, but also v exciting!
Although Angie Rogers (artist-in-residence for the Watershed) and my residency actually run through till the end of March next year, the exhibition of our work - and the work of all the different groups we've been working with - will be up at Cliffe Castle from 24 Sept this year right through till mid-Jan next year.
So, now we are being bombarded with deadlines for our work so that designers and printers, film-makers, sound engineers and lighting people can all make sure they get it ready in time.
Having my broken ankle (it's out of plaster but still v wobbly and sore!) has meant I've been forced to sit still for longer than I have done in years, so I have been able to polish up a set of 17 poems, and also write a short story ready for the exhibition.
The story came to me as a result of interviewing a Netto lorry driver called Malc one day when I was driving back over the moors from running a workshop at Saddleworth Museum. Malc was having his statutory 45min break at Windy Hill - just off J22 of the M62, and saw me taking loads of photographs of the patterns of windswept moor grasses, and leaned out of his cab (6 feet off the ground) and asked me what on earth I was on at!
I do hope you will come to the exhibition - where you can see (and hear) not only my own writing, but also lots of the work that has been produced by all the different groups I have been working with. And, of course, Angie's amazing concertina woodcut prints, and her huge drawings of her beloved reservoirs
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