Category Archives: Literature

Writing with a Mission (via the Rebel Pen Club)

Our Radicals research team have been electrified by the story of the great Ethel Carnie.  Project leader Janet Swan considers Ethel’s brief time in London, and how we are now inspired to rename the Pendle Radicals blog in her honour…

Writing with a Mission – One We Can Continue?

Thanks to Pendle Radicals, I have learnt about the amazing Ethel Carnie Holdsworth.  I have also had the opportunity to become involved in groups reading her work, and work with song writers who have taken her poems and turned them into songs. When the personal stories start to flow* as a result of this further work, it makes me feel glad that we may be continuing something that was very important to Ethel.

You will find the rest of Janet’s blog at our Rebel Pen Club blogsite.

Ethel Carnie Holdsworth

A Vote for Ethel

ethel1_from-hbrown-1As part of the our Pendle Radicals programme we have the opportunity to put forward a poem by Ethel Carnie Holdsworth for inclusion into the National Archive.  Ethel is one of the Radicals our volunteer team have been researching, and she has certainly caught their imagination.  We would like you to vote on your favourite poem of hers, from the following. You can vote either on our Facebook page, by typing the name of your favourite poem in the comments beneath the post about this, or by emailing the name of the poem to Faye@midpenninearts.org.uk

You can download a PDF of the information on this page HERE.

 

Life                         https://archive.org/details/voicesofwomanhoo00carn/page/n13

Why?                    https://archive.org/details/voicesofwomanhoo00carn/page/12

The New Commandment    https://archive.org/details/voicesofwomanhoo00carn/page/16

His Books             https://archive.org/details/voicesofwomanhoo00carn/page/18

Unknown            https://archive.org/details/voicesofwomanhoo00carn/page/50

Three                    https://archive.org/details/voicesofwomanhoo00carn/page/100

A Lament             https://archive.org/details/voicesofwomanhoo00carn/page/132

Possession          https://archive.org/details/songsoffactorygi00carn/page/48

Earth’s Song to Her Children     https://archive.org/details/songsoffactorygi00carn/page/30

Cloud Mountains                          https://archive.org/details/songsoffactorygi00carn/page/16

The Bookworm http://www.working-class-women-writing.co.uk/the-bookworm-by-ethel-carnie.html

Poem - Reveille - Jpeg

Poem - The Carnival of State - Jpeg (Apologies for the lack of clarity on images of the following poem.)

 

Poem - The Rich & Poor - page 1 - Jpeg

 

 

Poem - The Rich & Poor - page 2 - Jpeg

 

Our Maxine…at the Royal Exchange

Maxine Peake as Hamlet

The good will for Maxine Peake amongst a northern audience at Manchester’s Royal Exchange this autumn was palpable. We love her as one of our own.

Hamlet at the Royal Exchange was a rare treat. Despite the advance hype about Hamlet being played by a woman, within moments I found myself gender blind. Maxine’s first appearance is visually stunning: her short, beautifully cut blond hair, her blue North Korean styled trouser suit. She stands out as she should, as being different from the rest of the Court; set apart.

What is different about this production is the deliberate choice to play it as a domestic tragedy. Something is lost in cutting the menacing outside presence of the threat of war, invasion and the contrast with another Prince who has lost his father. But let’s judge this production on what is presented…

John Shranel playing Claudius the King, Hamlet’s step-father, is great. He is totally convincing in his authority, menacing and strong enough to take drastic action when he realises the degree of threat that Hamlet presents to send him to his death in England…or so he thinks. Gertrude is an elegant queen, out of her depth in understanding what is going on around her.

We are gender blind too, to the roles of other ‘male’ characters being played by women. Claire Benedict’s Player King is as good as I have seen (this is my fifth Hamlet) and Michelle Butterly’s gravedigger brings an immediate freshness to the role with her scouse wit.

The stagecraft at the Royal Exchange is always interesting because of the demands it places on director and cast in engaging the whole of the audience – in the round and on three levels. Sarah Francom deals with it brilliantly. I loved the bareness of the set simply because it makes you concentrate on the language. It makes us all in the audience work hard so that we feel a part of the production.

Maxine Peake provides us with a slow-burning opening Hamlet, gathering power and convincing authority especially on her return to Denmark from England. Although at times her voice lacked power, Hamlet’s intelligence, the strength of her emotional commitment, her disgust at the reach of corruption to the highest levels is never questioned. A Hamlet to be remembered.

A film version of this production will be available in cinemas in March 2015.  Find out more here.

David Smith

 

When did you last go to Cleveleys?

I’ve not been to Cleveleys since I was I was seven.  Sixty years later I had this illogical urge to eat fish and chips on the sea front.  On a cold sunny morning I arrived on the promenade.   It is new, all of it!  Part of an improved sea defence scheme to prevent the town being flooded.  It is magnificent; not just a pile of concrete but an art inspired design called The Wave.  It literally flows along the sea shore and you can imagine in a storm how the water will swirl and be channeled back into the sea.

June 14 blog - image 5

Search for seashells and you will find Mary’s Shell standing on the shore.  It’s a four metre high sculpture designed by Stephen Broadbent.  Children were climbing on it, sliding down it , hiding within it and dancing around it.

June 14 blog - image 4

On the same sandy beach they raced over to touch the Sea Ogre standing in silvery sea foam: 12 tonnes of polished and unpolished limestone carved by Adrian Wright.

June 14 blog - image 8And what else?  Explore the Sea Swallows – aluminiumJune 14 blog - image 7 beacons standing high above the promenade or our dear friend John Merrill’s nine metre long wooden Paddle. You will remember John, who has worked closely with Mid Pennine Arts, for his White Lightning on the Padiham Greenway.

The inspirational thread for this artwork is an illustrated children’s story: The Sea Swallow by Gareth Thompson, illustrated by Hannah Megee.  I remember poring over a copy brought into the Office by Steph Hawke.  It had originated in the Lancaster Literature Festival.  It too is worth a look.

And the fish and chips? ….try ‘Kay’s Fish and Chips’ just opposite the promenade.

DAVID SMITH

Cleveley’s Sea Defence and Promenade Scheme – Wyre Borough Council

Mythic Coast Artwork Trail – Visit Lancashire

Photographs courtesy of Aran Smithson (Evoke Photographic) & Alan Cookson

 

Gawain and the Green Knight – Evaluation

From the 23 May to 16 July 2013 the Gawain and the Green Knight project took place, partly funded by the Clore Foundation.  Below are extracts from David Smith’s evaluation.

“I feel I enjoyed every bit of the experience.”   Dylan

Two Lancashire schools were involved in the programme supported by three creative practitioners, storyteller Creeping Toad, musician Hannah Jones, artist Ruth Evans and Mid Pennine Arts.

–          Roughlee, a rural primary school with 27 pupils in the whole school.  All the children were included in the programme. 2 teachers + 2 classroom assistants.

–          Whitefield, an urban infant school with 100% of pupils of south asian heritage.  1 teacher + 3 classroom assistants and 27 Year 2 pupils

Process:

David  attended planning meetings with staff from both schools in which it was agreed on the kind of art forms to be used in the programme and a lead arts practitioner.  After a planning meeting with Gordon MacLellan from Creeping Toad, it was agreed to employ two further practitioners: musician Hannah Jones and artist Ruth Evans.  Further planning meetings took place between the practitioners.  Gordon MacLellan, lead artist, liaised with the project manager, David Smith, and both schools.

Five preparation days were shared between the practitioners.  Eleven practitioner days were spent in school workshops or working with children in the country park at Wycoller.   The project concluded with a celebration day in the Park where children retold the narrative through storytelling, poetry, song and tapestry.

Reflection:

Aim 1: to widen children’s experience of reading and understanding of alliterative verse; offer development of vocabulary and language in their writing and speaking and listening skills 

“I’ve learnt to be more imaginative about storytelling.  I’ve had more ideas for my stories.”      Melissa 

The practitioners were briefed from the beginning of the project that the development of children’s language was to underpin the programme.  This was particularly necessary for the children from Whitefield for whom English is a second language.  Children were meeting the narrative poem Gawain and the Green Knight for the first time – an experience of literature of the highest quality.

Evidence of success can be found in the alternative Gawain poem created collaboratively by the children.  Its heroes are five children on a quest to find their parents frozen by the wicked witch, Victoria.  This alternative poem reveals a real understanding of how alliteration works, the picaresque tradition in literature and a high quality response to the original:

She becomes

A wild wicked witch turning water into ice

Freezing the splashing stream

So that carriages skid and people plunge

And in the ice

They freeze. 

There is also evidence of a feeling for how rhythm works in poetry which is seen in their rhetorical use of repetition.  These are quite sophisticated techniques for young children to have grasped: 

But when they tried to break it, it wouldn’t crack.

When they tried to smash it, it wouldn’t budge.

And when they tried to roast it whole

It bounced back out of the fire again.

In and out,

In and out,

In and out! 

Teachers were introduced to new ways of presenting literature and strategies for creative writing in their own classrooms; techniques which they agreed they will be able replicate in future terms applying them to other work.

Teachers planned and delivered the programme in an effective partnership with the practitioners.  They saw how a storyteller was able to abridge and rework more difficult parts of the text.  They worked with him to check children’s understanding with children working collaboratively to dramatise pieces of text.  Our musician showed how simple percussion instruments – all available in school – could be used to evoke the mood and rhythm of the poem with the children composing which sounds were most appropriate for the moment.  She also showed how the understanding of alliteration could be reinforced through the composition of new songs.

Our textile artist showed how a simple felt tapestry with moveable figures could be used as a storyboarding technique.  Teachers grasped how this was relevant both for checking understanding of the narrative but also as a tool for the development of ideas for creative writing.

 

Aim 2: to stimulate children’s creative imagination by working in      exciting outdoor settings

Taking the children to a country park with a ruined hall was inspirational for the generation of enthusiasm, the creation of ideas and the development of language.

“The visits to Wycoller were brilliant!   We heard magic sounds, saw creepy ruins and smelled different smells which made me feel that the story we made was real.”    Imogen 

Children were encouraged to see the visits as an exploration, as an adventure, as a journey just like the one taken by Gawain!

“I felt amazed when we went to Wycoller because we were able to go in the ruins, up to the forest, over a “one slab of stone” bridge and walked under the willow arch.  Working with Toad I’ve learnt to make better characters for my stories.”         Francesca

There are pieces of the children’s poem which allow you to identify exactly where in Wycoller the ideas have come from.  A clear description of the clapper bridge over the river: 

On the edge of a stream

Where one long stone crossed the river

One long rock over

A waterfall like a mountain.             

The following all relate directly to things the children experienced in the country park:

A delicate duckling with a sore leg limped ahead of them

 

(she) …stretches her fingers, with nails

Like knives, like thorns….

 

Even the trees are mean,

Watching with fiery yellow eyes,

And grabbing at the children as they pass,

Scratching and scraping with twigs like claws

On branches as strong as a giant’s arms.

  

As they walk,

They hear water crashing against the rocks,

A big black slug slithers through the long grass,

A heron circles overhead.

Ducks are paddling and quacking in the stream,

Buttercups, dandelions and wild purple onions flower,

And they can smell

Tall grass by the stream 

Yet, at the same time, the children’s home experience was valued in the collection of ideas:

And a pie, their favourite pie

Chicken, cheese and chips

With apple pie for afters

Aim 3: to establish a model of good practice for teaching and      learning in school.

Teachers agreed that they had worked with a good model of sustainable practice which had the following ingredients:

–          accepting and building on children’s ideas

–          using an outdoor journey to emphasise a sensuous response: observation, smell, movement, touch…

–          accepting and developing probing questioning as a means of developing ideas

–          developing collaborative learning as a ‘practice’ for children to develop, expand and test ideas and try out newly acquired language.

–          using quite different art forms to find new approaches to literature and creative writing: storytelling, drama, drawing & painting, song and music composition, collage, textiles….

Evidence of impact of the project on  children participating

“I think the Sir Gawain Project has helped me to be more confident and has made me more responsible in what I do.”   Lilly

The programme offered children from totally different backgrounds the opportunity not only to mix socially as they picnicked together but to work together in a number of collaborative and constructive ways.

“The Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Project has made me read aloud more.   The next time when I do a project I’ll be really confident at reading to other people.”  Luke

They created new stories, shared and tested ideas through discussion, drama, music-making.  Teachers reported increased motivation for learning as they encountered new practitioners and new strategies for learning. Evidence for this is found not only in the quality of the work produced, the high quality support provided by teachers at the end of a long hot term but in the children wanting their families to make the journey to attend the final celebration in the country park.

“I learnt lots of interesting things from the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Project –  about musical instruments that sounded like creatures, instruments I hadn’t heard before.  I’m more confident now I have done all the things we did together.”    George.

Evidence  of the impact of the project on the whole school

Most productive was the school’s introduction to different ways of working.  Working closely in planning and delivery with another school was a new and valued experience for both:

“The project helped me take part with other schools.”   Skye

Teachers in both schools were impressed by what can be achieved through partnership working: teachers and practitioner planning and delivering activity together.  They valued the involvement of a project manager and a lead artist to take some of the administrative burden away from them:  researching artists, contracting, negotiating and booking venues and transport, budget management, evaluation etc….

The programme was constructed so that teachers can introduce many of its components into the school curriculum in the future.  The musician and artist showed how a story board of composed songs or a tapestry recording of the children’s response to literature can test their understanding of text; provide a catalyst for creative writing as well as a legacy for future work.

The project also allowed both schools to use valuable resources outside the school grounds for learning:  Wycoller Country Park with its dedicated educational facilities, Lancashire County Council’s Countryside Services and in particular, access to park rangers.

In the autumn term both schools will report back to their whole staff and to the individual school networks they belong to describing the success and impact of the work.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a great story.   I enjoyed making music.  

When we visited Wycoller I enjoyed exploring the ruins. 

It was like being in a castle.”  Isabella