Tag Archives: Pennine Lancashire

Family History Exploration: Computers and Creativity!

Starting in summer 2013 and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we’ve been helping the local community explore Gawthorpe Hall, through oral history, photography and the creative arts, in a project called Portraits of the Past.   We wanted to capture what the Hall means to the community that surrounds it. Focussing on the heritage of this magnificent 17th century house in Padiham, Lancashire, we looked to encourage local people to engage with its magnificent collections and learn about the fascinating stories of the people who would have lived, worked and used the Hall and its grounds.

To achieve this we’ve organised a series of events and activities and the most recent was on the 4th April, when a group of people interested in exploring their family history joined us for a day. It started with exploring Gawthorpe Hall and the history of the Shuttleworths and then they researched their own ancestry and finally explored the mysteries of creativity!

We started the day at Gawthorpe Hall where Rachael Pollitt de Duran, the Museum Manager, gave us a guided tour along with lots of information about the family that had lived there, the Kay-Shuttleworths.

Some members of the group had not been inside Gawthorpe Hall before and found the building and its history fascinating. In the Long Gallery it was hard work for everyone to obey the instruction not to touch the amazing wallpaper, thank goodness there’s a small sample to touch!

Ughtred James Kay-Shuttleworth - Caricature in Vanity Fair 1904

Ughtred James Kay-Shuttleworth – Caricature in Vanity Fair 1904

Once the tour was completed we headed down to the kitchen where the Lancashire County Council Community Heritage Team gave a presentation on how to begin tracing your own ancestors, using the Shuttleworth family as an example. Lots more was discovered about the family during the presentation, not least some of the more interesting first names. The group was particularly taken with Ughtred!

The team guided the group through the various online sources available for research as well as providing useful tips for getting the most out of searches. Everyone was very pleased to learn that the websites Ancestry and Find My Past are available to use for free through Lancashire Libraries, where you can book up to two hours computer time a day. You can find out more about the online resources available from the county here. As Fiona from the team said, “they’ve paid so you don’t have to”.

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Next everyone headed over to Padiham Town Hall, which also contains Padiham Library. We stopped for lunch, although in fact, the discussions about Gawthorpe Hall and family history continued throughout. After everyone was refreshed the group split into two.

Group One worked with the Community Heritage Team in the library’s computer suite getting to grips with researching via online resources. Group Two worked with artist Cath Ford to discover creative ways to display their family trees, photographs and mementos. Although many of the group were not experienced computer users, the thought of doing ‘art’ seemed much more frightening that using the computers! That didn’t last long though. Cath is very experienced at working with people who think they can’t be creative. It didn’t take her long to get them all experimenting with frames, craft paper, old magazines and other materials to create backdrops for some of the family history artifacts they had collected. Marriage certificates, discharge papers, medals, stamps, maps, adverts and of course photographs were added to flat and box frames to create very thoughtful and personal pieces of art. With the added bonus of being able to put on display some of these wonderful mementos. Nobody finished completely, mainly because they were leaving space for items they had at home, but they left with their frames and a bucket load of materials and ideas.

Halfway through the afternoon Group One and Two swapped over and the feedback was that each had enjoyed both activities. Cath and the Community Heritage Team made a good number of creative and computer converts!

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The final event of the Portraits of the Past project will take place at Gawthorpe Hall on April 26th between 1-4pm. Find out more on our website, but to whet your appetite…

Take a walk through the grounds with storyteller Steve Fairclough; discover the joys of letterpress printing with Print for Love of Wood; explore the strange delights of The Palace of Curiosities and meet Betsy the Victorian scullery maid!

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In Praise of Julie

David Smith reflects on MPA’s relationship with the lovely Julie Hesmondhalgh.

Julie…Julie Hes…Julie Hesmondhalgh….Hayley Cropper…we all loved Hayley and now she’s gone….

I met Julie in the mid eighties.  I was dropping my son Craig off and picking him up each day at a three-week long summer drama course at Moorhead High School in Accrington.  Julie was a part of a friendship group of very talented girls who after A-Level Theatre Studies at Accrington and Rossendale College all went off to drama school in London together.

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Julie kept in touch with Craig whilst they were both in London and recommended him for a job acting and writing for theatre with the West Yorkshire based Company Impact.  At that time Craig tipped us off to go to see Julie at the Royal Exchange in Much Ado About Nothing where she was performing alongside her great friend Joseph Alessi son of an Accrington tailor..  She had two small roles: a maid and a soldier night watchman.  It was here that she was spotted by a casting director from Coronation Street and you know what happened from there…

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In 2001 Mid Pennine Arts was working on a major environmental arts community engagement programme called Land.  It was supporting the iconic Panopticons project.  A part of the programme was a project called Trees for Babies.  In partnership with Trees for Burnley we created a new woodland at Rowley Country Park recruiting young families from the Edith Watson Maternity Unit in Burnley.  Julie and her partner Ian Kershaw had a young daughter, Martha Mo.  When asked if she would come to a celebratory event to meet the families involved and present them with a special memento of their involvement not only did she agree without hesitation, and refuse to accept a fee, but she brought two month old Martha Mo with her!  It was an evening to remember. The clue to Julie’s feeling for people was the way she engaged with the young children who came along, making time to speak to each one as they came up with their family to receive a hand-made book:  Trees for Babies…and of course we planted a tree in the new woodland for Martha Mo.

Did you know that Julie asked her fellow cast members not to buy her a present on leaving ‘the Street’?  She asked them to make a donation instead to a charity in Accrington: possibly ‘Maundy Relief’ for which she is a patron.

….and back to the drama course at Moorhead High School in the mid eighties…who set up and managed the project?  Mid Pennine Arts, of course! Have you heard the theory about the importance of the eco structure that exists in the arts, supporting and developing early signs of talent…?  Mid Pennine’s role here is a small example of how it works.  That course was important for me too.  I was so impressed by the school that I went on to work there as Deputy Head for 13 years and then came to Mid Pennine Arts having seen at first hand what it can create and deliver for the communities it serves.

…and what of Julie?  Go to see her at the Royal Exchange in February in Simon Stephen’s new play Blindsided.  Then you might return to see her astonishing performance in Black Roses: the killing of Sophie Lancaster.  Julie is a terrific actress who has never forgotten her roots in Pennine Lancashire .

Yes, we all love Julie…

A Volunteer’s Progress

Dominique Dunand-Clarke reflects on her time with MPA (so far)!

On a warm April morning in 2011 I crossed the park and climbed the steep hill to Clitheroe Castle, I was going to take part in an arts project which I knew involved the Castle, a composer and a recording of my voice as I hummed a song. As somebody who has never listed singing as one of my talents I was a little apprehensive. I soon realised I needn’t have been when I met Rebecca Alexander and Lucy Green, two members of the Mid Pennine Arts team, who were very friendly and put me at my ease as well as assuring me that however bad my singing was the talented compositional skills of Ailís Ní Ríain would transform the sound!

My first day at MPA

The project was called Taken and Ailís did indeed create a beautiful sound installation from the donated hums of the local people who took part, which was played in the castle keep for a year and transformed the space. While I was at the castle I plucked up the courage to ask Lucy and Rebecca if I would be able to volunteer for Mid Pennine Arts to gain some experience while I was at university.

I am glad I did because three years later and I’m still here and have gained experience in an extremely wide variety of areas including: assisting artists with research to dressing as an Elizabethan Lady of the Manor; updating MPA’s website to hanging photographs outdoors in the rain, on a windy day in Burnley’s town centre, which as most people who work in the arts will know, is a very useful skill to master.

A windy day in Burnley.

While volunteering for MPA I have had the opportunity to gain training such as being qualified to deliver the bronze and silver arts awards as well as learning about marketing and project management. After I graduated from university and was looking for employment within the arts it was invaluable to be volunteering for an organisation with so many contacts within the arts community and my work with MPA certainly enabled me to apply for my current job in arts management.

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Volunteering has been a hot topic recently with questions raised about how helpful it is to volunteer as an unemployed young person. I would say that if you volunteer for the right organisation you get back what you put in. Mid Pennine Arts has certainly been the right organisation for me and I am still enjoying my varied role here, the best part of it being that I am never bored!

If you would like the opportunity to find out more about volunteering with Mid Pennine Arts, do not hesitate to email me. I am normally in the office every Friday however I will be out of the office on Friday 17th and Friday 24th of January.

Opportunities for accomplished project managers at Mid Pennine Arts

Mid Pennine Arts is recruiting.   We need additional support to help us maintain and extend our busy portfolio of creative learning and community engagement projects.  We are therefore seeking one or more experienced, versatile project managers, initially on short term agreements, but with the opportunity to develop longer term relationships.  If you have a strong track record of developing and delivering high quality, project-based work, and would like to contribute to the work of our team, we would love to hear from you.

About Us

MPA is the commissioning agency based in Pennine Lancashire and developing projects across Lancashire and beyond.  We commission high quality creative work through a variety of collaborations and in response to the distinctive contexts of our natural, built and social environments.  Our projects interrogate and celebrate what is unique about our area, our heritage and our communities.  We aim to originate exciting creative work that has lasting impact for participants, audiences and our project partners.  MPA brings art, people and places together to transform perceptions and change lives.

MPA was established in 1966 and has a long and proud track record of working in our communities.  Our work is centred on contemporary visual arts but uses a broad creative palette.  MPA has developed specialisms in commissioning work in landscape and public spaces and in heritage settings.  Our portfolio of recent work has included the Panopticons contemporary landmarks and the Contemporary Heritage series of major new commissions in heritage locations.  All of our projects include dimensions of engagement and learning for young people and adults.

Over many years we have built up a reputation for high quality work especially with schools and young people.  MPA works with some 60 schools each year.  In 2013 our creative learning team have made advisory visits to 90 schools, working in partnership with the ACE Bridge Organisation, Curious Minds, as cultural advocates for Lancashire.

Key partners for MPA projects have recently included local authorities, Lancashire Museums, environmental agencies and our fellow arts organisations.  We believe strongly in collaboration and all of our work is developed through a variety of partnerships.

MPA attracts funding from a variety of sources, including Arts Council England, Lancashire County Council and lottery distributors.  With less revenue funding now available, we generate funds project by project, from multiple sources, to help sustain our organisation.  All our team contribute to this effort, which is vital to our future.

Our Team

MPA maintains a multidisciplinary team to originate, curate and project manage our busy programme.  In autumn 2013 a number of circumstances will be reducing this team, but MPA’s programme will be busier than ever.  So we are seeking additional support.

We have a number of projects already in progress and further exciting projects in development.  So we want to reinforce our team as soon as we can.  We are therefore seeking experienced, versatile individuals who might be available at relatively short notice to contribute to our team over the next few months.

Our Programme

Projects already confirmed include these:

  • Portraits of the Past – an extended engagement programme built around our Contemporary Heritage commission at Gawthorpe Hall and celebrating the place of this Jacobean gem in the life of the local community.
  • Youth Music – Two new projects resourced by this lottery fund and engaging groups of young people and early years children.
  • Creative Communities – A programme of structured volunteering for young adults, funded by Awards for All, providing opportunities to work with us on a variety of exciting projects.
  • Burnley Rivers – Partnership work with the Urban Rivers Enhancement Scheme to celebrate the Brun and the Calder.

In addition a number of projects in development are likely to add to our workload in the near future:

  • Contemporary HeritageMajor new commissions for 2014 and beyond, and engagement programmes to support them.
  • Spodden Valley Revealed – Creatively interpreting the ancient and modern heritage of the area around Whitworth.
  • The Three Towers – A strategic partnership programme to celebrate the heritage and realise the destination potential of the West Pennine Moors.
  • Super Wet Way – Participation in a major new partnership programme themed around the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, with Canal & River Trust, our fellow arts organisations and others.
  • Truce – An engagement programme for Accrington throughout 2014, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

We will also be continuing to originate projects and develop partnerships.

The Opportunity

We would like to identify probably two individuals to join our team on a part-time, short term, contract basis.  Initially we are able to offer a term of around three months, but we are looking to identify contributors with whom we can establish a relationship for the longer term.  In the future, we anticipate maintaining a more flexible workforce that can adapt swiftly to changing circumstance, so we are keen to build a group of regular associates.

Terms are flexible according to experience, but as a guide we envisage basing the remuneration on a full time salary of £20,000 to £23,000 (pro rata) for a commitment of around 2.5 to 3 days per week over three months.  This is open to negotiation for the self-employed and for exceptional candidates.  Proven capacity to help generate further income may be an influential factor.

Person Specification

The individuals we seek will be able to evidence certain core skills:

  • Substantial experience of managing complex or extended projects.
  • Experience of working with a wide variety of people.
  • Accustomed to building partnerships and working collaboratively.
  • Excellent written communication skills, and ability to produce convincing funding proposals and project reports.
  • Highly organised, capable of multi-tasking and prioritising a busy workload.
  • A self-starter able to identify opportunities and realise them.
  • A team player who will enjoy working collaboratively within the MPA team.
  • An understanding of our geographical area (social-economic context) or of comparable communities.

In addition, you should have one or more specialism(s) that will be particularly relevant to our programme of work:

  • Creative learning work, with an understanding of the National Curriculum and experience of key programmes like Arts Awards and Artsmark.
  • Contemporary visual arts, with experience of curating work outside of the gallery setting.
  • Experience of work in landscape, the natural environment and rural contexts.
  • Community engagement, with a range of resources for effectively involving groups and individuals in creative projects.
  • A focus on heritage and the rich fund of creative possibilities that it offers.
  • Issues around sense of place, destination and local identity.

How to Apply

If this sounds like you, we would love to hear from you.

Please apply, using our standard job application form (downloadable from our website) to highlight your most relevant experience and your reasons for wanting to work with MPA.  You should attach an up to date CV, and a covering letter if you wish.  Please submit by email only to:

melanie@midpenninearts.org.uk

Please submit your application by Friday 30 August.  There is no formal timetable for recruitment, but we aim to act without delay.  We will acknowledge all applicants.  If you are shortlisted, we will invite you for interview as soon as can be arranged.

To find out more about us and our projects look at our website, Facebook page and Vimeo channel.  If you have any questions about our work or this opportunity, please contact Melanie Diggle, MPA Finance & Admin Director, as above, or on 01282 421986.

Five Children in Wycoller

 Five Children is a wonderful response to a reading of the narrative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in Wycoller Country Park.  The project involved 27 children across all ages from Roughlee Primary School and 27 children from a Year 2 class at Whitefield Infants in Nelson.  It reveals a real understanding of how alliteration works, the picaresque tradition in literature and a high quality response to the original.  It was created collaboratively by children working with their teachers, artist Gordon MacLellan, musician Hannah Jones and artist Ruth Evans.

It is long… but persevere, because it is a high quality piece of work which deserves to be read. Gawain  - Roughlee

Five Children

Part 1: The adventure begins

A cloudy, rainy, stormy morning

When only ducks and slugs are out,

Dripping rain, dripping children

Soaking through their shoes;

But on this day that hopes for rainbows,

Five children are walking to the village

Cheeky children who love

Chips and chicken and cheese.

Helpful and chatty,

They are bold, brave beggars,

Orphans looking for friends and family.

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 and the

Muddy stink of swamp.

At the edge of the village

Two big bloodhounds dribble,

Drooling onto the floor

Barking wildly, deeply, menacing. 

Part 2: The village

Families in the village

Hunting in the forest,

Cooking rabbit stew,

Tending the sheep,

Herding the cows,

Selling the milk,

Bending the bows,

Shooting the arrows,

Fighting the wolves,

Hiding in tree-houses.

But one woman stands quietly

Looking at her one precious thing,

A brooch Gawain gave her

When he was young and loved her

But the children run

Down to the river

That races and rushes and ripples,

Rolling over stones and sand,

Running over the ford and

Under the bridges

Full of fish,

And fishermen;

A broad broken bow of a bridge

Over the babbling water

A path to the forest

But guarded

 

Part 3: The Knuckleheaded Knights

Knucklehead knights

Strong and brave with sword and spear and shield,

Mighty, magnificent men-at-arms

With mace and mail and morning star,

With monkeys or mammoths on their shields,

Quiet as moths and mice and

Mean as midges,

They serve the King and Queen of the Woods,

And are not very bright.

“Halt!” they say.

“Stop!” they cry.

“There!” the children shout, pointing

“There! Gold! Gold!”

Sunlight on the sparkling river

Looks like gold to the treasure hunter,

Treasure-hungry soldier.

One knight leans, to look

a little too far and the children push!

He topples!

He falls!

He splashes!

His friend swings round to help him,

Reaching down,

A hand outstretched

Reach further, a little more,

A little more and

He overbalances and joins his friend in the pool

Naked, the knuckleheads leave their armour out to dry

And head home,

Sad and soggy,

Dripping all the way.

 

Part 4: Into the Woods 

Over the bridge,

The children run,

And across the grass,

And up the stairs.

The steep stairs,

Steep stairs,

Climbing those slow stairs,

Squashing slugs as they go.

Half-way up is a stone seat

Where queens and goblins rest

Up, and

Up, and

Up

Up to the seven slabstone, gravestone walls

And into the deep woods

Tall trees grow in these woods,

Towering, toppling, tumbling trees,

A tangle of leaves and branches and bark,

Old, old trees and new saplings

A world of green and brown

Gawain rode here once

Looking for the gallant Green Knight,

He is long gone

But his horse’ hoofprints are cut into the stones.

Now, there are children in those trees

They hid in the leaves

Under the leaves,

For so long, for too long

And they became green

And as secret and silent

As the trees themselves.

The woods are full of wildlife,

Beavers, bears, boars and badgers,

Slugs slide and snails slither,

Rabbits, raging rats and reindeer

Hairy horses, hares and hiccuping hedgehogs.

But there are bears too, and

Dark spotted jaguars.

A wise goblin lives

In a cave,

Where twisted twirly twigs

Are wrapped round rough rocks.

Red-eyes goggle in Gooby’s

Green skin and

Yellow teeth smile.

As tall, he is

As he is wide, and

He tells them a terrible tale

That fills them with hope.

Down in the ruins

On the edge of the woods

Where the water runs fast and quiet and deep

Under the bridges and over the stones

Is a square stone house

And a little old lady.

By day she is a kind and lovely Grandmother

But at night,

Victoria changes.

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.

She collects her petrified people at Pepper Hill Barn.

Ice servants to attend her or

Ice statues to decorate the highest ruins.

Ice forever, solid ice, always cold, never melting,

No thaw, no fire, no summer sun can save them.

And Gooby thinks, he knows, he’s not sure

But the children’s family

Their lost parents

Might stand in that frozen company

Unable to move, to speak, to think,

All they can do is dream,

Waiting for the people who can set them free.

But how to set the frozen free?

The Queen might know,

Beautiful Quire might help

And her Rainbow Mirror breaks magic

Ends spells and sorceries.

Part 5: The Dragon! 

So boldly the children set off through the wood

To find the Queen

But the path is long and they are hungry so

When they find an egg,

They stop to make a campfire and cook it.

What an egg! As big as a ball

As big as a bowl,

As big as a head.

A feast for all five of them,

All in one shell.

Crack it, shake it, scramble it, fry it!

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!

With their shouting

The children missed the slither at first

Hissing through the grass,

Sliding across bark,

Slipping along the path,

An angry dragon mother

Come for her egg.

Spears and spikes and a long pointed tail

No legs, no wings,

Just a smile wide enough to swallow

A child or two.

And angry as fire.

The children ran

Through the woods,

No horse could gallop

No cheetah could run

As fast as them.

But the dragon was faster.

She was

A charging rhino breaking trees,

An angry jaguar roaring like the wind;

She was a tornado.

Closer.

Closer!

Mouth wide.

Teeth waiting,

Tongue curling.

The trees ended suddenly

In a long falling slope

And the children fell,

Toppling and tumbling,

Slipping and sliding,

Through the grass,

All the way down

To splash into water

And sink into a smelly swamp,

Leaving the dragon disappointed

At the top of the hill.

Safe!

But sinking.

Part 6: The Swamp 

Slimy and stinking

The swamp was like a giant smelly, sweaty sock

And the children were

Shouting, screaming, yelling for help

And drowning deep,

Squelchy, soggy

And stuck

Their cries woke an unexpected friend

Who shook his head and unfolded his wings.

Willow-green and magnificent,

The Green Horse reared.

The amazing creature flew

As fast as a falcon to the smelly swamp

Not a moment too late

For just a minute more and

They’d have gone under

Sucked into the smelly, stinking, mouldy mud.

Down he swooped

He grasped and grabbed but slime-slippery children slid

From his teeth and hooves

And he could only carry them

One by one to safety

And the others waited

Mud-swimming, swamp-surfing,

Struggling while they waited their turn.

Then, dripping mud,

Cold and wet and miserable

The children stood

On the edge of a stream

Where one long stone crossed the river.

One long rock over

A waterfall like a mountain,

Deep, dirty and dark

Dashing down into danger

Part 7: Victoria 

One by one, over the bridge

And there is a bright door,

In a dark wall!

And a friendly old woman meets them.

Victoria welcomes them in,

Passes them socks and towels

And a pie, their favourite pie

Chicken, cheese and chips

With apple pie for afters

And the children sink to sleep

In her cosy, comfy treehouse.

But a noise wakes them.

In the dark middle of the night when

Bears and badgers and bats are out.

And Victoria is changing!

Her ears sink into her head.

Her nose stretches out, longer, pointier,

Dripping dirt.

Her skin grows green,

As green as grass and leaves and lizards

As crickets, chameleons and cucumbers.

Spots sprout on her hideous face:

Two, big and juicy as raspberries,

And smaller ones, as many and as red

As cherries on a tree.

Over her sensible, friendly skirt and blouse,

She wraps a long black cloak,

And stretches her fingers, with nails

Like knives, like thorns….

“Oh, no!” said the children

“Oh, no!

We’ll be dinner

And breakfast

And lunch

And picnics

And birthday cake.

Throw a stone!

Over there! Over there!”

Victoria looks, peering into the darkness

And the children creep away

And into the dark and dangerous night 

Part 8: The duckling and the swan 

Wearily the children wandered,

Wondering if their quest was hopeless,

Would they find their parents?

Would they find a family again?

Following the windy path from the witch’s house,

A tiny toad was dead, pancake squashed onto

The dusty, dirty stones.

A delicate duckling with a sore leg limped ahead of them

But they collected him into their caring hands

And carried him gently.

They climbed the path

Until bright buttercups stopped them,

Shining as bright as the stars

Twinkling in the sky above them,

The yellow flowers surrounded a

Comfortable, cosy cottage,

Made of piled branches it looked like

A beautiful bird’s nest,

Tiny in the massive, magnificent forest.

The wooden door opened,

Quietly creaking wide.

A sleek and slender swan stood there!

Her white wings guided the children into

The warmth of her home where

They laid the duckling to rest on soft, smooth sheets

By the fire, knowing he would be safe.

They stayed the rest of the long night with the swan

Snug as swanlings in a nest.

In the morning after fond farewells,

They stepped out into a

Morning full of new adventures

Part 9: The perilous forest

On into the forest,

Full of fear,

For this forest is different,

There are no friendly goblins here,

Or green children in the leaves.

Here,

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.

The children hear,

Dry rustling leaves,

And claws sharpened on tree trunks.

They hear

The roars of jaguars

And the snores of bears.

Trapped in cages to guard the path.

The animals see the children

And break free.

They shake their heads.

They stretch their claws.

They charge.

The children run

Pounding footsteps follow them,

Heavy feet drumming on the ground,

Giant feet following them.

Run! Run!

And then stop

And hide.

Curled up under their cloaks and under

Leaves and mud

The children wait

As the angry animals rush by.

Then along the path

Sneaking.

And there is the Palace at the Heart of the Wood!

Part 10: The Queen’s Palace

Deep in the woods,

There is a wonderful palace.

A wild, woven willow hall

With windows looking out onto the world,

Decorated with jewels and gems,

Beside a swamp where

The tadpoles wriggle and spotted frogs jump.

There is a magical throne there

Where the King and Queen of the Forest sit.

The stories tell us that

King Qasim is bad and Queen Quire is good;            

That he is bad-tempered

With brown beady eyes,

Hungry for treasure, looking always for new riches.

He will rob, and steal, and cheat.

He will pick your pocket, or

Break your home or

Destroy your castle for the sake of your gold.

But Quire with green glistening eyes,

Has never given up on her husband,

Where he is mean she is gentle,

Where he is cruel she is kind,

Where he steals, she gives.

Boldly the children walk forward,

Sure of a good welcome,

But some old enemies are waiting.

The Knucklehead Knights

Guard the door.

Their cloaks are deep sky blue

Or night sky black

Or green as soft mossy trees,

And their axes are sharp.

“This time,” they growl,

“This time, we’ll chop you,

We’ll snip you,

We’ll slice you.

This time,

We will kill you.”

“Oh, no!

Oh, no!

Look we have brought

You a present to say we’re sorry!”

An apple!

A shining beautiful apple

Quietly stolen from Victoria’s house.

But growling stops the conversation!

The hungry woodland horrors have found them!

Jaguars and bears come growling down the path.

Gawain with a sword

A knight on his horse with a lance

Might have helped.

But without looking twice

Those Knuckleheads Knights drop their axes,

And the knives from their pockets

And run into the Palace,

To guard the Royal Toy Cupboard,

From the inside.

The children run in too

But they shut the door

And outside,

The animals slip away to live in the wild wood

And never be trapped in cages again.

Queen Quire is there

In shimmering silver

And bright blue

With pretty princesses about her

And her rose-pink frog in her hand

Bow!

Bow!

Remember to bow. Nudge!

“Will you help us?

May we borrow your rainbow mirror?”

“No”

“Please?”

“No”

“Look, we have this wonderful apple.

One nibble, one slice will take you

Like a flying carpet to

Anywhere you want to go…”

(They don’t know if it will do this!

But our cheerful children are cheats, too

And will spin a story out of spiderwebs

And silver moonbeams!)

“No.”

Or.

“Maybe.”

“For this apple you could borrow my mirror

From now at sunset

Until sunrise and no more.

Then it must return

Or my Noble Knights

Will hunt you down.”

The children grabbed the mirror

And grabbed it again

As tall as someone’s Dad

And as wide as two children

It took 3 of them to carry it

But now they were ready.

And this path would take them to

Victoria’s Witch-house

 

Part 11: In the ruins 

The rugged rocky ruins,

Once happy, now a haunted house

Old, ancient and rough,

Thin windows, huge fireplace

That will hold

A whole company warm

Or roasting

Gawain rode here once

Hunting the Green Knight’s home,

He fought and feasted here

Before it was abandoned…

Carefully creeping, up precarious stairs,

Sneaking slowly past

Giant cobwebs and giant spiders,

And through

Smells of rotten eggs and old fish,

Blood and death.

It is cold.

Cold as ice on an Arctic winter’s day,

The children’s breath steams in misty clouds

Whispering, “Where’s the witch?”

No sign.

Just silence.

A red cat watches and leads the way

The children follow,

Up the stairs again

Higher and higher

“Don’t drop the mirror!”

Arms are aching

Hands are hurting

“Your turn!”

“It’s very heavy!”

“It’s not my turn!”

“Shhhhh!”

At the top of the stairs they stop

Before a door.

They push the smallest brother forward

And he stumbles

Into a ruined room where black rooks rustle

And a witch watches silently.

There are pots and pens and pennies,

Bottles for potions and lotions and poisons,

Skulls on shelves and bones in the biscuit tin,

A red pot for mixing blood drinks.

There is a copper kettle for carrot tea

And bowls of dead fish,

And pine cone toothbrushes,

And a stone bottle with stone water

There is a horn that blows silently and summons bats,

Ice diamonds, spelling crystals to freeze thieves,

A golden bracelet for trapping arms, squeezing tight, crushing bones.

Gathering anger,

Gathering spells,

Fingers flexing and filling with fierceness,

Victoria the Witch stands up,

Enchantments crackling and sparking

From hair and nose and fingertips.

But the children turn the mirror

And pull off its cover

A rainbow shines

And for the first time ever,

Victoria sees her own reflection,

Sees her own ghastly face looking back,

Sees the long nose and the red eyes,

Sees the spots and the broken teeth,

She smiles a terrible smile

How beautiful she is!

How wonderfully wicked!

How magnificently monstrous!

She sends spells like snakes, shooting across the room

The children hide!

Diving for cover under tables and chairs

Behind curtains and cloaks

There is an exciting explosion!

A thrilling thunder!

Clouds of dust and smoke!

And the rainbow mirror reflects

Victoria’s savage spells back on herself.

Freezing her.

And now she is ice.

A snow-witch.

And the mirror’s rainbow shines

Melting all the other ice

And all over the ruins people wake

Released at last from

Their perilous prisons.

The children find their parents!

The families in the village find lost friends!

Trolls find their children

And bears find their babies!

There is a feast in the woodland palace

and even Queen Quire and King Qasim

And the Knucklehead Knights are happy

But Wycoller’s watchful rooks

See and spy and sit on a cold shoulder

Telling stories to an old  ice-witch in a hidden room.

Changes afoot!

MPA Creative Director Nick Hunt reports on some big changes ahead for our busy Creative Learning team.

Change is in the air!  And change is good, of course, but sometimes it takes a little bit of getting used to.  At MPA our team is grappling with the implications of a quick-fire sequence of news items about individuals who have made themselves very important to us…

StephFirst, we would like to announce that our Programme Manager for Creative Learning, Dr Stephanie Hawke, will be moving on in September to a new, strategic role with our partners at Curious Minds.  Curious Minds is the Arts Council’s bridge organisation for the North West region, responsible for connecting young people with the arts.  Our team work regularly with them, delivering advisory and consultancy work, and this is a natural progression for Steph, and a new dimension for that partnership.  It’s a terrific opportunity and we are delighted for her.

Steph has spent three and a half years on the MPA team, but the connection goes back much further, to a work experience stint as a 16 year old!  Since our teenage volunteer reappeared she has made a vital contribution to our work.  Her academic background in museum education, and her doctoral specialisms in sense of place and the notion of the ecomuseum have brought new dimensions to our work and have underpinned some lovely projects.  We are glad Steph will still be just down the hill, and we are plotting to ensure that MPA continues to benefit from some of that arcane wisdom.

DavidAnd then there is David.  There has always been David, or so it seems to most of us.  But shortly after Steph’s news, David Smith let us know that he is ready to take the work out of the work/life balance.  Our Creative Learning Coordinator will be retiring at the end of October, and MPA will have to learn to get by without our spiritual guide.

David arrived in 1999 as our lottery funded Education Officer.  MPA’s work with schools took off, and developed exponentially.  Over 13 years he has built up an unmatched range of contacts with schools and teachers, and delivered some wonderful, inspirational creative projects.  Two years ago, David swapped jobs with Steph, in one of those rare examples of turkeys voting for Christmas.  Now he is taking the next step, and he will be very much missed.

This is a busy time for MPA, with a number of new projects in progress and in development.  Portraits of the Past will be connecting many young people with Gawthorpe Hall.  New music projects have been developed for young women of mixed cultures and early years pupils.  Our structured volunteering programme will signpost opportunities for Arts Awards and other qualifications.  Pennine Lancashire’s new canal partnership will add rich possibilities, as will our developing Contemporary Heritage series over the next couple of years.  Learning and engagement will be vital dimensions of all our projects, and so we will be recruiting shortly to renew our team’s skillset.  We are working now with our trustees on plans for that.

Meanwhile we will be saying bye and thanks to two brilliant contributors to MPA.  If you are one of the many people who have worked with David over the years, ask us for news of how we will be marking his departure.  Just don’t tell David!

Emma Booth, 15, reflects on her week of work experience with MPA.

I must say, my time spent here at Mid Pennine Arts has been a huge eye-opener to the massive range of art and artists out there. Being a teen on work experience, I knew there was more to art than pencil, paint and paper, but I have never really considered art beyond my own passions.

By delving deep into the heart of what MPA is about, I discovered knowledge about their past projects and the impact they have had on people who visit them. For example, the Contemporary Heritage projects have taught me that there is more to art than what it looks like. Of course, the aesthetics of a physical piece are important, but projects such as Not Forgotten have shown me that the story behind a piece of artwork is of an even greater importance, and when one reads deeper into that story, the beauty that was originally there shines brighter and illuminates the site.

As well as the many stand-alone projects that have been created, I have also learned about the heaps of work that MPA does with children and young people. Researching Creative Learning projects such as Padiham Greenway and Historical Tea Parties has made me smile widely, especially after reading about the work MPA has done with children with learning or behavioural difficulties. Right now, thinking about the massive impact MPA’s work must have had on these children, attempting to put it into words is proving a difficult task.

Being at MPA has not only given me an insight into the many forms and meanings of art in the world, but has also given me a taste of what the world of work is like. I remember sitting outside the office back at my primary school, waiting for my mum to finish in the teachers’ meetings that were held, itching to burst inside and share my thoughts and ideas. Well, MPA has given me that opportunity, and with each meeting I was a part of, I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonderful future projects being discussed that held so much potential. Of course, the world of work is not all fun and games, but even sorting through artists’ applications and data has taught me about the vast variety of art forms.

I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time at MPA, and I am absolutely certain that my experience will come in handy at some point in the future. I would like to say a big, big thank you to all the colleagues at MPA, whose friendly natures made me feel comfortable and welcome in the new atmosphere. And for all the coffee!

Emma Booth
Work Experience Volunteer

Photo of Emma Booth for blog compressed