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
Yesterday, I ran a workshop for the excellent Todmorden U3A Writers' Group - what a SPLENDID set of women they are! Really enthusiastic, talented and lively. It was a joy to be with them, and I really hope they will continue to write more Watershed pieces and send them in for the Cliffe Castle exhibition. Here they are very busy round Glenys dining table (we met at her lovely house rather than me having to haul myself up a couple of flights of steps at their usual venue!).
Then, in the evening, I went to see the very good community choir here in Hebden Bridge - Calder Valley Voices. I am really excited cos they would love to work with me to produce the libretto and music for a choral piece about the Watershed - how great is that?!! It'll make a fabby part of the Cliffe Castle exhibition soundtrack. More on this as it develops...
It's been grrrreat working with Mark Wharton (film-maker) and he's done a superb job of putting together the day I spent up on Ovenden Moor with deaf children from Thorn Park Deaf School. Check it out on YouTube:
We had a lovely time catching up with each other on 5th July at Saddleworth Museum at the opening of our Watershed exhibition. It was great to see the inspirational Sue (who set up Canalside Quilters - one of the groups I've been working with at the museum), the lady quilters, and quite a number of the writers I've worked with. Peter (the SUPERB museum curator) had put on a great spread for us, and done a brilliant job of organising and hanging the whole exhibition. And it was really nice for us all to see members of the public coming in and going round the exhibition - and Intently reading the poems and studying the artwork. Thanks soooo much to Watershed Artsit-in-residence for Year One of the project - Sally Barker - for stepping in with an ace display of photos of her artwork up on the moors. People were completely fascinated with her tiny people!
The highlight of the exhibition for me, was seeing the stunning textile pieces that Sue (above) and Shirley (below) had been inspired to produce as a result of my Watershed workshops with them. WELL DONE both of you!!! Sue and Shirley have also written pieces (a poem and a story) about their needlework - and that's brilliant for me to see too - the interconnection of creative writing and textile. I'm really hoping that other ladies from Canalside Quilters will be inspired to produce pieces for the Cliffe Castle exhibition that starts at the end of September.
Isn't my (usually v v skinny and boney) ankle a delightful heather colour! I don't know quite how I managed to do so much damage (broken ankle and all the tendons ripped out) just coming down awkwardly from a 4-inch-high stone, but there you go - I've obviously got real Injury Talent! Am in plaster for the next 5 weeks at least, and so this is somewhat curtailing my Watershed work.
However, Peter (Saddleworth Museum curator) and I got the Saddleworth Watershed exhibition sorted out, and I am being driven down there tomorrow to hold a celebratory event with the various groups I have been working with there: Oldham Cafe Writers' Group, Saddleworth Arts Festival workshop participants and the Canalside Quilters group who have produced some STUNNING textile pieces for the exhibition. (I'll put up some photos of the exhib later in the week.)
I had to postpone my workshops with the Mytholm Court ladies and Thorn Park deaf school, but went ahead yesterday with the performance for Hebden Bridge Arts Festival to celebrate the work I've been doing with the residents at Mytholm Court and with skateboarders from Hebden Bridge. Despite my ankle and crutches, I did a rap version of a poem the skateboarders and I had created; got the audience doing their own writing - about their thoughts on moorland, and on watersheds in their own lives; showed the fabby DVD of me working with the Thorn Park kids up on Ovenden Moor; shared various sections of the soundtrack that Bill (BBC soundman) and I have produced for the Watershed exhibition; played a lovely soundscape of the Hebden Bridge skatepark with interviews with teenage skaters that Bill and I had recorded; and shared a selection of the poems I have written about the Watershed since starting this project.
These two photos show some of the audience busy with their writing task. It always amazes me that I simply need to tell people that I am a writer, and complete strangers will - at my command - pick up pens and immediately start trying to express themself in writing - great stuff!!
This is a lovely poem that Dave wrote straight off the cuff.
Dave (pictured above) was born and bred on the Kent marshes and is clearly still coming to terms with being married to a Yorkshirewoman (shown v busy on the right!) and living up amongst our strange language!:
I am a flatlander
barely above the sea
who left the low places
and high thinking
(and perhaps long drinking).
The cry of the curlew
now the shriek of the moorland.
The murmured words,
lost glottal stops and
now the flűd
(flood rhymes with food?!?)
of broader, higher words.
A longer view,
not of the sky,
but from the sky
but still that curlew cry
calls me back.
Well done Dave! And a big thank you to all the audience, and to Rebecca from the HB Arts Fest who looked after me so well - and to my very long-suffering partner Janina who had to zoom back home cos I'd forgotten the paper and pens....how on earth can I call myself a writer?!!
This morning I met Charlotte Weightman who works for the RSPB's 'Twite Recovery Project' as their Habitat Intervention Officer - fabby title! She is an UTTERLY splendid human being: incredibly knowledgeable, enthusiastic and open to all sorts of ideas, completely committed to working with a vast range of audiences, and having a MASSIVE range of skills from all forms and styles of communication right through to soil science and grass identification expertise. As you can tell - I thought she was truly inspirational.
Charlotte completely converted me to carrying a banner for the tiny maiden-aunt-ish Twite - a chubby little brown bird whose numbers have fallen by 90% in the last 14 years. It is just clinging on here in the South Pennines - with only 100 breeding pairs left.
I will be trying my best to come up with some sound-files and creative writing that Charlotte can use in her campaigns with schoolchildren and farmers to get the message across about how important it is to preserve, conserve, manage and increase our hay meadows that border onto the moors. They are lovely fields - I walk through several of them on my way from my house to the moors. And the Pennine Finch (the local name for the Twite) is incredibly conservative in its eating habits - it only ever eats seeds, but it likes to nest in bracken and bilberry cover on the moors and then nip down to the nearest hay fields to have a seed nosh. More on this later - must get off and put up my Watershed exhibition at Saddleworth Museum!
p.s. sorry about the lack of photos in these last few posts - as you can tell, I had got behind with my blog and so wanted to just let you know wot's been happening.
It was ACE to get to see the exhibition launch of Andrew McMillan and Sally Barker - writer and artist-in-residence for Year 1 of the Watershed project. It was launched on Sunday, and I loved seeing Sally's photos and sculpture in their true size (I have been an avid follower of her Watershed blog), and also to hear and see Andrew's poems.
This afternoon, I am driving over the moors to Saddleworth to set up my own Watershed exhibition at the museum there, so it was great to be inspired by Sally and Andrew's work.
I've been trying to find a way to get local skateboarders interested in the Watershed project - and to do a trip to the moors and do some writing about it - for months now. No joy. Very unsurprisingly, the guys want to stay right there and play with their brand new skatepark. So, I've been going to them - to see what it is about their completely artificial environment that they love so much, and to gather some of the wonderful names of all the skate moves and tricks to see if I can produce some poetry that captures the feel of the skatepark.
I've also been recording interviews with the skaters, and with some of the BMXers at the park, and I took Bill - my pal the BBC sound recordist - on my latest trip to see them last Friday.
It's pretty bloomin' intimidating for an ancient old woman like me to approach all these teenage lads having a great time clashing and spinning and zooming up and down all the concrete ramps, half-pipes, blocks and rails (see, I am getting some of the lingo!), but they have all been incredibly nice to me and very up for being interviewed about what makes them tick as skaters. They are a great bunch, and I look forward to capturing more of their thoughts over the next few weeks and stitching it into my wild moorland stuff - the interweaving of artificial environment with (allegedly) wild natural environment.
Bill captured loads of brilliant sound effects as some of the guys clattered to and fro doing their best tricks for us. And we also recorded masses of great comments from them - including that they loved going up on the moors only when the reservoirs were emptied for maintenance...cos the concrete spillways and the sloping faces of the dams made such fantastic skateparks!!
This really is some project - that has me working with such a huge range of people in such a variety of ways. I am loving it!
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